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WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2009, Day 3
CEO "Rocket Boy" 12.16.2009

Short Stack Torture
If you haven't chipped up halfway through a 6 day tournament, you're in big trouble. The weaker players (if there were any) are gone and the big stacks are putting on the pressure. So the short stacks need to make things happen or die trying.

And die they did. Only the top 27 out of 329 get paid, and if you're not going to make it to the money, why waste an extra day or two nursing a short stack and praying? Play started with 130 runners at 12 noon and ended with 36 left at 9pm.

Tough table: Kristy Gazes, Andy Bloch, Chris Ferguson, and Scotty Nguyen (Esfandiari in red headband at table to left)

Doyle Brunson busted mid-afternoon, and I was sorry to see him go. Some day he's going to win the tournament named after him. Other name player bustouts included Barry Greenstein, Gavin Smith, Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, John Phan, Erik Seidel, Mike Matusow, Andy Bloch, Kristy Gazes, and Sorel Mizzi, among others.

Amanda Leatherman interviews Andy Bloch

Scotty Nguyen, for some reason, started steaming after he was forced to fold a particular hand. Next hand, he called a raise preflop, then called all-in on the flop for more than 500K, which at the time was more than the average stack. He showed 7h 4h, the board was Kh 7s 3h, and his opponent showed Ac Ah. Scotty had shipped it with top pair no kicker plus a small flush draw. The turn was a blank, but Scotty spiked the 7c on the river for trip 7s to win.

Scotty apparently launched at least one f-bomb at the player whose aces he had just cracked. The poor guy had done nothing to him, but somehow had triggered Scotty's wrath. Scotty was given a 10 minute penalty, and finished the day with just under 1 million.

Chip leader at the end of day 4 was Daniel Alaei, with nearly 1.7 million, or more than 3 times the average stack. Tomorrow and Friday may be relatively short days, but who knows how long the TV table will take.

Mike Matusow just after busting, with aspiring pro Andrew Tan

Tall Building Torture
Just next door to Bellagio, the world's most expensive privately funded construction project grabbed the headlines again. As old-school landmarks such as the Sahara, Circus Circus, and Binion's announce closures and cutbacks, City Center has put huge pressure on the rest of Vegas' properties. Aria has opened and there are suddenly more than 4,000 new hotel rooms center Strip. Its per-night rates run from medium to ultra-high, so there's something for everyone at Aria except the low-rollers.

Fireworks herald the grand opening of Aria in City Center

We've seen literal and figurative implosions before, as Vegas evolves and grows. Old yields to new for the sake of progress (and bigger profits) in this town. And in any city, really. So while Aria's grand opening marks the start of a new and somewhat uncertain future for MGM Mirage and the City Center complex, it does not predict Vegas' future. City Center will likely stand alone as the only mega-project of its kind in Vegas for many years.

Aria as seen from the Monte Carlo tram stop

Planning and construction of the massive City Center complex took so long that the world has changed drastically since the project was started. Just a few years ago it seemed inevitable that The Strip would ultimately be lined with massive self-contained mini-cities, as corporate mergers and economies of scale relentlessly advanced. Vegas corporations aimed higher, hoping to raise the average room rate of their properties, or the average money earned per square foot, or whatever metrics they'd plugged into their spreadsheets. And a great way to do that was to build a world class super-resort right on The Strip.

The Aria porte cochère with its multi-colored fountain and lights

It was as though oil-rich Dubai investors were trying to give Vegas a taste of their opulent standard of living, to attract even more of the world's jet-setters. But the level of financial risk involved in a project this size may no longer be appropriate. It hasn't been necessary to build entire mini-cities to make billions in Vegas in the past. And it probably won't be necessary in the future either.

The Baccarat Lounge: a great place for a cigar and cocktail

All you need for success are a really nice casino, a really nice hotel, a good range of bars and restaurants, plus entertainment, recreation, and spa facilities. And slow, manageable growth over time has been the proven way to accumulate those assets. Caesar's has gradually expanded, over a 40 year period, to fill its property edge-to-edge. Bellagio has subtly grown as well, and Wynn has cloned itself with Encore. Until now, nobody had tried to fill an entire city block with skyscrapers all at once.


City Center is, of course, the best and newest property on The Strip. But maybe it's not necessary (or even possible) for the next major casino to be better than City Center, to be the "new best thing" in town. Isn't it enough to just be the newest thing in town? I expect the replacements for the Sahara and others to be far smaller than City Center. And I expect them to be better for it.


Tomorrow: WPT day 4 action...

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