For two weeks, I've been coming to the Rio and pushing my way through crowds to get a glimpse of the final table. Why didn't it ever occur to me to walk up those steps before? I honestly don't know. Maybe it's because there is always a sea of people hanging over the rails, looking down at me, beer in hand, having such a good time. They should realize that I'm here to work, and I can't hang out on the observation and party - or can I?
Today was different. I was walking through the Amazon room, and it was fairly early in the day. The aisles were empty, there weren't any final tables in progress, I only saw about two cash games going, and I was able to navigate my way through the room with ease. Along the way, I decided to make a pit stop. I ascended the stairs, the observation deck was empty, I plopped down at a table and was treated to a completely new experience. The view was spectacular.
I've always been a big fan of watching the world from an elevated level; this is probably the reason I go skydiving on a regular basis. From where I was sitting, I had a perfect view of the Final Table. I could clearly see all of the tables in the poker room, and behind me the plasma screens were in my direct site showing me the cards on the felt. The bar was about two feet from me. Where have I been?? The No-Limit Lounge is a not-so-hidden gem, and I'm glad I finally stumbled upon it.
Once I gained my composure, I realized that I wasn't alone. A very sweet guy behind the bar, Mike Herrera, asked me if I wanted a drink and I took him up on that offer! "This is the only place you can get any peace and quiet" he said, and I completely understood what he meant. "I can't believe it took me two whole weeks to walk up these stairs!!" I exclaimed, and he laughed along with me.
Mike is originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been working for the Rio for six years as a banquet bartender. This isn't his first year working at the Milwaukee's Best bar for the WSOP. Last year, they were outside melting in the desert heat in a tent. The traffic flow was completely different because a lot of people didn't know they were there. The signs on the doors leading outside said "Emergency Exit Only," and most of the people believed those signs.
I remember that! I was one of the spectators sitting in the bleachers at the final table of the HORSE Event. I also recall heading out those doors, worried that the alarm might sound, but not caring because I had to have "The Beast". The tent last year not only served beer but food too. This year, there is a kitchen for the food and the No-Limit Lounge serves refreshments only. I hope you like Milwaukee's Best Light because that's the only beer you'll find up those stairs.
I think the sacrifice in beer choices is worth the view you get from sitting in the No-Limit Lounge, not to mention the charisma, personality and all around great customer service you will receive from Mike. Hanging out with the beautiful Milwaukee's Best girls is always a plus too. Hands down making the trip up those stairs has been the highlight of my Sunday.
A few hours later when the $5k HORSE Event #26 finally got down to eight players, they moved over to the Final Table and I made it a point to sprint up the steps and scored a nice spot against the rail. I quickly noticed that there were empty seats in the bleachers, and I could easily move down below. If I moved to a seat, the plasma TV screens would have blocked my view of the Final Table and I wasn't about to let that happen. From this vantage point, I had a great view of the eight remaining players.
Never one to be shy, I quickly made friends with the guys all around me. On the left there was a nice guy from Boston, waiting for his wife while he watched his first live final table! He had no idea what the letters in HORSE stood for, but that didn't stop him from having a beer and cheering on the players. Over to my right was a cutie from Florida. He know what all the letters in HORSE stood for and was happy to share his knowledge with everyone around. They both made me smile, especially when one of them accidentally took a picture of Phil Ivey with the flash on his camera and security came over to scold him.
After a few short minutes, the guy from Boston left to have dinner with his wife. He gave me first dibs on the seat, and I quickly snatched it up. Behind me I heard a sea of cheers and then some oooohs and aaahhhs. I swiveled around on my stool and watched the $1.5k NLH Event #27 in action.
Wow! I can't imagine that there is a better seat in the house. Directly in front of me I can watch Phil Ivey at the HORSE Final Table and then I can spin around watch David Williams playing in the NLH Event. I feel like I've been mining for gold these past few weeks and I've finally found a nugget! Maybe I should keep this treasure to myself.
Next time you are at the Rio, check out the Milwaukee's Best No-Limit Lounge, catch a final table, have a beer with Mike and make sure to turn the flash off that camera!