The Gaming Expo is bigger than anything I had ever expected or imagined. Filling a massive room at the Rio convention center, this is where every company that has anything to do with poker - large or small - descends for a week during the WSOP to attract potential customers and investors. All of the online poker rooms you know and love (and a few that you definitely haven't heard of) have set up massive displays to impress their loyal and prospective fan base.
Everything from Scotty Nguyen bobble heads to chip trick how-to DVDs to personalized card-holders to nifty dealer button/timers are being promoted and sold. Everything from sunglasses to baseballs to super glue to trips to outer space (on Virgin Galactic - not kidding) are being given away for free. It's a circus.
While poker is the main attraction at this carnival, if all you're selling is poker, you definitely haven't been selling much. If you want anyone to take notice of your product, it doesn't matter if you're giving away a free chip set or a free Caribbean cruise, if you don't have a woman with a big chest and booty shorts hawking it for you, it isn't being hawked at all.
"Booth Babes" have been around this year's WSOP since day one. Milwaukee's Best, Full Tilt Poker, DoylesRoom.com and Bodog.com have all had booth babes roaming the halls from the start. But with the addition of around 100 other competitors at this convention, the stakes have been significantly raised, and everyone is doing whatever is in their means to get a slice of the poker groupie pie.
Hollywood Poker has a slender 5'2" girl with extreme Hollywood boobs to pose with for photo ops, and a fleet of a dozen other girls in tight red shorts to bring the guys in. Paradise Poker has sent a swarm of at least 25 twenty-year-olds onto the convention floor, all decked out in light blue shorts, knee high socks, and on roller-skates. StinkyFishPoker.com (a site that actually doesn't even work yet) has a topless girl in a thong painted like a fish to take photos with.
But Bodog.com, not to be outdone, takes the cake for most sexy/least poker-related ploy at the entire convention. On the second floor of their two-story poker penthouse, men lined up to sit on a bed surrounded by women in lingerie, and have their picture taken as the girls had a pillow fight behind him and on him.
The poker companies know their audience, and they know it well. It's a man-centric sport (unlike, um, no other sports), and they are bringing the men in with the only guaranteed way to do it - sex. Now I'm a dude, and I'm down with the opposite sex. But that being said, I find the whole concept of using sex to sell poker absolutely repulsive. Unlike cars, underwear and cologne, there is absolutely nothing sexy about poker. Sitting at a computer screen is not hot and neither is sitting in a chair. Yet since it's mostly men doing the sitting, sex was bound to slip in there somehow.
It's a shame, because the buzz surrounding the Main Event right now is enough to make you drunk. It's an exciting time, and it's an exciting convention. But if I see another lower back tattoo (which are apparently being handed out to booth babes at birth like circumcisions) I'm going to effing flip. I love poker, and I'm having a blast at the WSOP, but I really can't stand the objectification of women. Because of the male dominance of poker it makes sense to sex the entire thing up, but that's a fact that I refuse to embrace, and will always be ashamed of.