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Bobby's Room booms at Bellagio
The $25,000 WPT Championship may be in town this week, but the real high-stakes action in Las Vegas is going on inside Bobby's Room.
Named for 1978 Bobby Baldwin, the frosted glass encased space at the back of the Bellagio poker room has always played host to the highest-stakes games in the world.
"It's not just [trying to attract new players]," said Bobby's Room veteran Barry Greenstein.
"Most of us have less disposable cash than we had before. Before the poker boom, we didn't have investments and all these websites and different things. A lot of us have lost money in the stock market and real estate.
"Several years ago nobody played $4,000/$8,000 so we would all play against the same five people. And actually, I can't even afford to play $4,000/$8,000 anymore and neither can a few of the other players."
"It depends who is around in town," he said. "There are certain limits for each player. Sometimes you get big players that want to play higher.
"We play here almost every day, so we start with a small limit, which is huge itself. It starts at $2,000/$4,000, but sometimes big players come into town and they want to play $4,000/$8,000."
On Day 1a of the WPT Championship Saturday, Greenstein said the game was $2,000/$4,000.
A day earlier they were playing $1,500/$3,000.
"Occasionally there's been a game as big as $4,000/$8,000, but the average has been about $2,000/$4,000," he said.
The lower limits have done the trick in attracting some new blood to the game, where Greenstein, Brunson and Farha are usually joined by Phil Ivey, Eli Elezra, David Benyamine, Chau Giang and often Gus Hansen.
"We have had some players [this week] who haven't played in the past," Greenstein explained.
"A lot of the younger players have stepped out and played some of the mixed games and I think it has helped that on PokerStars there's a new 8-Game format that has gotten some people indoctrinated.
"I also think some of the people have been practicing the games to get ready for the $50k H.O.R.S.E. at the World Series and the $10k Mixed Game Championship."
The 8-Game Mix on PokerStars includes Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, Limit Hold'em, Limit Omaha Eight or Better (Hi/Lo), Razz, Limit Seven Card Stud, Limit Stud Eight or Better (Hi/Lo), No Limit Hold'em, and Pot Limit Omaha.
Farha said they'll play all these games in Bobby's Room and although his game of choice is Pot Limit Omaha, he's game for just about anything.
"To me, poker is all the same," he said.
Greenstein said he's just happy to see a good mix.
"Over the past few years it has just been No-Limit Hold 'em and Pot-Limit Omaha because that's what a lot of the young players have been playing online," he said.
"These days we see them playing some new games. They're realizing it's more interesting to play more games and also if you learn the games before some other people it gives you an edge.
"We play five or six different games and it varies depending on who's in it. I always want to play as many games as possible because I play all the games reasonably well and the more games there are, the more likely it is that some will have some games that they really don't like at all."
There are six days left in the WPT Championship and Greenstein expects the big game to keep running all the way through to its conclusion.
"Frankly, things are usually pretty dead in Vegas except during the big tournaments," he said.
"So until the end of this tournament there will be a game every night, and during the World Series there'll be a game practically every day.
"As long as I'm winning I'll keep playing and I'm hoping that other people will be there."
With a total of 337 entrants in the $25k WPT Championship this year, they are playing for a $2,143,655 first-place prize - the kind of money Bobby's Room players could win or lose in just a few sessions, even at the lowered limits.
A testament to the action was the fact Brunson was in Bobby's Room all weekend, skipping the event.
PokerListings coverage of the WPT Championship continues with Day 2 starting at 12 p.m. Monday on our Live Tournaments page.