As the Las Vegas strip was treated to the unusual sight of raindrops today, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) events #56 & 57 kicked off over at the Rio. This means that the WSOP juggernaut is just about to enter its final lap, there is only one event left and when it kicks off in two days time it will cost you $10,000 to enter it and it will last an astonishing 13-days. I am, of course, talking about the WSOP Main Event.

It is doubtful that we will see the attendance figures soar higher than they have been in the past few years, given all of the furor surrounding Black Friday, but Party Poker will have contributed 135 poker fuelled patrons to whatever the attendance may finally be.

For some of those 135 poker players, today marked the first day in what could possibly be the journey of a lifetime. Over a series of two days Party Poker invited all of their players to attend a welcome session in a majestic suite situated on the 48th floor of the fabulous Palazzo hotel.

Tips and advice over a game of pool

It was time for the players to come and meet the Party Poker team, pick up some merchandise, have a drink and also pick up some tips and advice over a game of pool.

The man on hand to dish out the advice was none other than the World Series of Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton.

The Ambassador of Poker not only won a bracelet back in 1989 in the $1,500 Seven Card Stud Split event but also grabbed a 2nd place finish in a similar event this year. Sexton really knows how to plough through tough fields of pros.

The people who marched through the doors of the Palladium Suite were different shapes and sizes with one thing uniting them all and that is hope. They all had it in their eyes and you could smell it on their skin. The hope of emulating Jonathan Duhamel’s achievements of 2010 enveloped them all.

Take Marjo Nikkinen for example, the purchaser from Finland was first introduced to the game by her husband Petri. This is their fourth trip to Las Vegas (three trips primarily to play poker) but it will be the first time they have attended for the WSOP. The reason they have decided to come out for the summer is because Marjo has won a seat in the main event. It is the biggest achievement in her short poker career and you could see how proud Petri was of her achievement.

A few legal eagles have also swooped into the Palladium Suite today. Italy’s Massimo Iucci told me that qualifying for the main event is his greatest ever poker achievement. Iucci will make his mark on Day 1b and registering on the same day will be law student Marcus Balmert. Balmert is studying to be a lawyer and his studies took him as far away from home as Brazil. Balmert has hit the ground running and today he cashed for $13,137 after his [9x][9x] was unfortunate to be busted by the [Ax][3x] of his opponent in #event 54 with only 40 out of 4,576 remaining in the tournament.

Not only did all of the players have plenty of hope, some of them had plenty of fear too. Former dealer Canadian John Bettio was telling us that despite being a former dealer at the Niagara casino he is extremely nervous about making his main event debut at the age of 58.

Cross our fingers and say one time

Another inexperienced player was also from Canada, Samuel Leonard Davies is normally calmness personified as he drives 2,500 tone freight trains around his homeland. The 25-year locomotive engineer veteran was telling me that this will be the first time he has ever played live poker in his life and it is no wonder either because he hardly has the time. Samuel and his wife Tammy currently have six children, one grandchild and between them they have fostered over 150 children in the past ten years.

Spare a thought for Felix Lambertz. The 23-year old from Germany had plenty of fear running through his body when a freak storm meant his plane could not land at McCarran airport and instead had to be diverted to a nearby Army base. Lambertz is still suffering from nearly 24-hours spent living on that plane but is hopeful he will be back in tip top condition in time for day 1b.

Whether or not a Party Poker qualifier will win the big one is for the people who believe in crystal balls. One thing for certain is they all deserve to be exactly where they are today, which is enjoying themselves in one of the greatest cities in the world. Let’s just cross our fingers and say one time!

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