When the WSOP first moved to the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino the hallways around the Amazon Room were mostly filled with players and a cloud of nicotine.
WSOP staff quickly learned there was an opportunity there to sell space to vendors hawking their wares to the masses instead of risking the life of their players.
The pre-UIGEA golden days at the Rio featured VIP rooms from all the big online poker rooms, spaces where players could pick up free swag, free drinks and rub elbows with site pros.
Those days are gone and options are now limited to book sales, clothing lines and anyone willing to put up the money to push their products.
Bikinis Out, iPads In
Where there were once bikini-clad girls trying to attract players to their strip clubs, now we have smart-dressed young women with iPads signing players up to the WSOP online poker site.
Instead of major poker rooms setting up extravagant rooms you'll find a small booth set up by the folks at Ivey Poker. Player instruction videos run non-stop while a lone attendant attempts to register the occasional gawker.
There once was a bar midway down the hallway at the crowded intersection of the Brasilia Room, Pavilion and Poker Kitchen. It was a popular post-tournament gathering area but it has since moved into the Poker Kitchen and been replaced by huge WSOP signage.
Several clothing vendors are still around and mostly feature Ed Hardy-type shirts of thin cloth and bold designs. Most learned their lesson last year and stocked hoodies for those complaining about the frigid room conditions.
Much has been made about the aggression of certain booths as there is one group selling phone charging cases and they really would very, very much like to sell you one. They will continue to tell you this even after you pick up the pace to get away.
Book Vendor Overlooked *Sad Trumpet Sounds*
The short-lived Oxygen Bar experiment has since been moved to the casino but was replaced with magical Negative ION bracelets. Not to be confused with the equally special Magnetic Balance bracelets.
Their aggressive moves are tempered by the attractive sales girls but few people want to wear the device, stand on one leg, and let a small woman attempt to knock them over.
Sadly the most overlooked booth, which should have more traffic than the rest, is the book vendor. Offered up for sale are some of the best poker books ever written, ranging from strategy to stories.
There are hits and misses in the Rio hallways but all can agree on one thing. The worst vendor is better than those old packed hallways before the smoking ban.