Anyone who follows Kevin Mathers, a.k.a. “Kevmath”, on Twitter knows that he has sort of a long-running tradition of asking “Who’s excited?” about the World Series of Poker. Most are Tweeted in earnest hype build, while others are Tweeted in jest (or perhaps fatigue), but if there’s one thing that the WSOP is synonymous with, it’s excitement.

While there’s of course plenty going on in the poker world right now, the WSOP is undoubtedly not far from everybody’s minds at this point of the year. Booking travel, selecting which events on the schedule to play, and perhaps even fantasizing how many bracelets you intend to win and what you’ll be doing with all that sweet prize money… it’s all part of the buildup to the biggest event of the year.

As I begin charting out my own plans for the summer, there are five things in particular that get me excited when I sit in restless anticipation for the annual WSOP.

1. The Planning

As with anything one looks forward to, part and parcel of one’s excitement lies in the planning. I spend a lot of time online shopping for the best deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars. I ask around among my circle of friends to see who else might be contemplating a trip out to Las Vegas. I make lists of new places I’d like to visit around Las Vegas, people I want to meet up with, players I want to interview, events I might want to play in, and ideas for articles I’d like to write.

wsop event schedule

Having a intended course of action set out for yourself for the summer serves to stir up the emotions of even the most toughened, experienced poker players. Moreover, while there’s something to be said for spontaneity, having at least tentative plans tends to be more optimal than playing things by the seat of your pants. Sure, sometimes the plans you make for yourself won’t work out, that doesn’t dampen the excitement of planning in the first place.

2. The Throngs

Like summer camp, a grand convention, or perhaps an “ingathering of exiles” – nothing brings poker lovers together like the World Series of Poker. The cavernous hallways of the Rio are filled to capacity, brimming with professionals and recreational poker alike from all corners of the globe. Everywhere you turn, you’ll bump into someone who enjoys the game just as much as you do.

Everyone’s making their pilgrimage to poker’s Mecca, and just being there amongst the throngs is exciting in it of itself. Some poker lovers are there to play, while others are perfectly content to watch from the sidelines, perhaps purchase some WSOP-branded merchandise, and capture memories on their mobile devices.

WSOP hallways

3. The Stars

It’s not just the recreational players, home game heroes, and “run of the mill” professional poker players at the WSOP. The game’s biggest stars show up in full force. Practically every big name player who you’ve watched play poker on TV over the years will turn up for at least part of the World Series of Poker.

You might find some of them seated across from you at the tables. Others you might just notice passing through the hallways. Still others will be seated at the feature table, where you’ll be able to rail them from up close and perhaps ask for an autograph during tournament break. No other competitive event allows fans the opportunity to get so close to the game’s biggest stars; the WSOP is a one-of-a-kind festival.

Hellmuth Negreanu WSOP
Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth take a moment to pose for fan pictures at the WSOP.

4. The Stories

Tens of thousands of people attending the summer’s biggest poker event means that there are hundreds of thousands of stories unfolding. Some people are attending for the first time or playing in their first bracelet event. Some people will have satellited their way in online and have traveled to Las Vegas from a far flung location. A senior citizen might make a deep run in the Colossus and teach 20,000+ young whippersnappers a thing or two. Some newly-minted 21-year-old may make a big splash and cause the poker world to start taking notice for the first time. Some unfortunate poker soul may run card dead all summer long only to have their entire series salvaged with a once-in-a-lifetime run to the Main Event final table.

The poker media corps is out in full force during the WSOP, doing its darndest to capture all these stories. Whether in written, podcast, picture, video, or other form, the needles in the haystacks that emerge and the stories that get told will be the ones that sit in our collective memories, forever a part of poker lore.

5. The Freedom

Thus far, when I’ve attended the WSOP, I’ve done so alone, without my wife and children. While I hope that some day they’ll be able to join me during my weeks spent in Las Vegas (it’s certainly not easy being away from them for weeks at a time), I certainly do enjoy and try to make the most of the freedom that the excursion provides me with. Being alone in Las Vegas with poker available around the clock is quite the contrast to my regular family life and daily routine here in Israel.

William Wallace freedom

I imagine that while not necessarily fully comparable, many people can identify with what I’ve expressed above. Over the years, Las Vegas has become synonymous with unbridled freedom to do as you please. When you love poker, having it pretty much available at your fingertips anytime you please is a tantalizing concept to say the least. In other words, “exciting” is an understatement.

What gets you excited when you think about the upcoming 2018 WSOP? Let us know in the comments below.

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