Paul and I are very excited to be back in the thick of WSOP action after a two-year break. We are spending the month of October in Las Vegas playing a few WSOP events along with some tournaments at other card rooms around town. We arrived on Friday and immediately traveled to the Rio for our vaccine status clearance and to buy into the much-anticipated Reunion event.

Registration for The Reunion was an odyssey of its own. At the beginning of the first WSOP in two years, the staff was understandably a bit confused. Every time we asked a staff member a question (such as where do we get our vaccination confirmation slips), we got a different answer. We finally found a very experienced woman at the Rewards Card desk who had all the answers.

Then we found the registration line. Pro Tip 1: as long as you have completed the CLEAR app registration, you need not stand in any other line before you buy-in. At 7 pm in the evening of the first registration day (so Flight A is closed and B and C are still to come), we waited for 2 hours to get our seat cards. Rumors have it that players waited up to 6 hours the previous day when all cages were not yet open. Pro Tip 2 (not one we did): if you want to plan for multiple flights (or multiple separate events), you can buy them all at once, and then if you did bag-and-tag on Day 1, you can get the other flights/events refunded (of course before they start).

Excited to get seated the next morning, we arrived at the Rio 20 minutes early. Tournament room doors were all closed. We quickly learned that play in the Reunion started half an hour late on Day 1A. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 15 minutes past 10 to hear that magical phrase “shuffle up and deal!” and we were underway!

For a tournament that starts with 50,000 chips and enjoys 30 minute blind levels, (a dream for amateur cardroom players), the Reunion moved fast. This was partly because the big blind ante started at Level 1. Another factor was the omnipresence of pros and serious amateur players which led to some fairly aggressive play from those unafraid to rebuy. Serious players, from Dan Shak to Qui Nguyen, Barry Greenstein, and Matt Berkey were heavily sprinkled throughout the room. If you sat down at a table and thought you recognized someone poker famous, you probably did.

It was about 12 hours from the tournament start to the money bubble, and more than 15 to the end of Day 1. That is a looong time to sit in a very uncomfortable chair and play poker. The exhaustion, however, was tempered by numerous breaks (and strategic mid-level trips to the restroom, avoiding the crowds). And, of course, the excitement of playing in a 4,400 player tournament field with pros, semi-pros, and excellent amateurs.

Sadly, I went out about an hour and 200 people before the money. Paul, however, with some strong coaching by Steve Blay, made it to the money at around 10:30 in the evening. He did not last into Day 2, but recovered most of both our buy-ins. Most importantly, we both got to experience the excitement of a WSOP bracelet event. Seeing the childlike excitement of first-time WSOP players once the bubble burst alone was worth it.

The Reunion event overall appears to be a smashing success, with 12,975 entrants over the three flights. Day 2 (today) will see the 638 survivors (a shade under 5% of the field).

Hopefully, this is the first of several bracelet events we play this month. We look forward to sharing our experiences with the APT community.