Last year was the year of the freebie at the World Series of Poker. Unfortunately, for players and onlookers at the Rio, 2007 has been practically swag free.
You can blame much of this on Congress. After passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act last year, Harrah's disassociated itself from the online poker sites still doing business with U.S. customers - hence the lack of suites occupied by the likes of Full Tilt Poker , Bodog and Doyle's Room this year.
And that's a shame. Last year, players could stop in the Doyle's Room suite for free snacks during breaks and all attendees were given bags of various swag. Bodog offered free drinks and computers to play the site online while in the suite. Full Tilt had a display of its pros' WSOP bracelets and circuit rings and took a photo that superimposed visitors into a photo surrounded by the FTP pros. PokerStars and Doyle's Room both offered free seminars from the great poker minds like David Sklansky and Mike Caro.
Caps, visors, pens, satchels, magazines, mints and practically everything else but the kitchen sink were given to visitors as a token of appreciation and advertising.
The absence of all of these things takes a little life out of the entire WSOP experience.
By all accounts, the gaming life expo was also very flat this year. With the absence of the online poker sites, the convention room was barely half full with vendors this year. This year there were no pillow fights with lingerie clad ladies courtesy of Bodog; no autograph session with Pamela Anderson at the Doyle's Room both; no poker hands dealt at the Party Poker booth for prizes; no chip sets given out by random drawings by Paradise Poker.
It's not just the lack of online sites either. Harrah's and Milwaukee's Best Light seem to have gotten a bit stingier as well. Last year, participants in the main event were given seat cushions with the WSOP logo for a little extra comfort. This year they get nothing. But don't worry, those who love for their butts to rest in comfort can buy an official WSOP seat cushion from the official WSOP store for the low price of $18.86 (and that's at a 30 percent discounted rate).
Players in 2006 also received an "All-In" chip that served a nice souvenir. On one side it said "All In" and on the other it said "Championship Event 2006." Players could toss the chip into the pot to signify they wanted to go all in (though they got to keep the chip if they busted). Apparently due to confusion caused by the chip in its application last year, tournament organizers decided to remove it from the competition in 2007. It seems like they could have still provided a souvenir card cover that said "Championship Event 2007" and leave the all-in application of it out of the equation.
On the other hand, players are receiving a small Milwaukee's Best Light key chain that also serves as a laser pointer. When pointed at the wall it shows the WSOP logo. It's not much, but a little swag is better than no swag.