It started when WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart took the podium and asked players if they liked free money.
There was a second of silence followed by a few big bangs as $10,000 in single-dollar bills rained from the ceiling of the Brasilia room.
There was another small pause as players and spectators stared at the monetary precipitation in confusion. Then they dove.
It was a minute-long free-for-all as people crawled and scrubbed the floor for any and all dollar bills they could get their hands on.
“This year we gotta be able to have fun,” said Stewart. “Bring a good vibe to this place. I think [the money drop] did it.”
Stewart said he had the money drop planned for more than a month and alluded to it by mentioning that the forecast was cloudy and there could be rain in the Rio. There’ll be more hints and fun this summer too.
“There’s some more surprises coming,” Stewart said, but wouldn’t go into further detail. He went to go play poker instead.
Stewart switched his white suit for a WSOP jacket, a baseball cap and a stack of chips in the $500 Casino Employees event this afternoon.
Since this will be Stewart’s only event, he’s maximizing his gamble. Stewart has a last-longer bet with reigning Casino Employees event champion, Chad Holloway.
The stakes are high: dinner at the new Hash House a Go Go restaurant in the Rio.
“I’ve been out to dinner with [Stewart] before and he orders the entire menu,” Holloway said. “So it’s not a bill I want to front.”
Some of the dollar bills could’ve helped, but Holloway played it cool.
“I didn’t go nuts, I just sat there,” Holloway said. “One guy at the table went nuts and got like $30. He was the first one out too.”
Holloway, a poker reporter, bested a field of 898 players last year and won $84,915, plus a genuine WSOP bracelet.
“It’s nice to be the defending champ. I get a lot of people asking questions and it keeps things social,” Holloway said.
Social Atmosphere in Casino Event Event Unique at WSOP
The social aspect of WSOP's first tournament of the summer, Holloway says, sets it apart from others he’s played.
“People are a lot more relaxed, a lot more talkative.” Holloway said.
“Everyone’s still excited because it’s the first event of the series. So even the staff, the players, nobody’s been worn out from taking bad beats or grinding every day. So it’s high enthusiasm and the structure is fast-paced so there’s a lot of action.”
Although Holloway is hoping for a repeat of last year, his main goal is to have a good time before he starts his summer grind covering the WSOP.
“I’d just like to have some fun. I’m going to be working almost every day of the summer so this is my one chance to relax and have fun,” Holloway said. “So if I can get a full day of poker in, have fun with some of the players, that’ll be worth the buy-in.”
Last year, the bracelet gave Holloway fuel for the whole summer but there are still some things he’s about excited this year.
“I’m really looking forward to the Big One for One Drop being back. I’m covering that again for the second year. It’s always an exciting time,” Holloway said.
“I’m also excited about fantasy poker taking off. I’ve always been really big into that. I started writing about that and that’s how I got started out in the industry.
“I’m looking forward to playing that, trying to rack up some points, have some competitions and working hard in the live updates.”