I've written several times this summer about what a good job Harrah's has done in regards to responding to player complaints and trying to make the overall WSOP experience a better one for everyone involved.
After several years in charge, the biggest casino company in the world has improved many facets of the WSOP. Unfortunately, there's still one important aspect that's been left untouched: the late-night food options.
If you're hungry for a bite to eat during a dinner break (or after an early bust-out) there are more than a handful of options available at the Rio. Seafood, Indian, Chinese, pizza, burgers, Italian - there's really something for everyone. The problem with food options at the Rio doesn't arise until after 11 p.m., when most of the sit-down restaurants have closed their doors.
The Miranda Noodle Kitchen, one of this year's new options in the WSOP area that actually happens to be quite good, shuts down at 10 p.m. The bigger-and-better 2008 Poker Kitchen, located just outside the Amazon Room and not quite as good as Miranda, closes down at 3 a.m.
All of the other restaurants in the Rio close down before then, save the All-American Bar & Grille, which stays open all night. Unfortunately, the menu in that establishment is limited during late-night hours and the dining area itself can't handle the influx of players from the WSOP who have to compete for space with all the other patrons.
This wasn't a problem two years ago, when the relatively nearby Sao Paulo Cafe stayed open late into the night. The WSOP announced before the start of preliminary events that the Cafe would have extended hours throughout the summer, but that hasn't come to fruition as promised; one night you can walk by at 2 a.m. and find it full of patrons, while on other nights it's closed down before 11 p.m.
In the real world, where you can pick up a meal no matter what the time of day, this food situation wouldn't really be a problem. But in this enclosed environment where poker players stay up late on a frequent basis, it's inexcusable.
WSOP events rarely end for the day before 2 a.m., and it's not uncommon for them to go until 5:00, 6:00 or sometimes even 7:00 a.m. So why, then, was there no planning to keep options open for the players who have worked the hardest?
The players who make it the furthest in tournaments are penalized for their accomplishments by being forced to either take the one food option available in the casino or to order expensive room service that can take up to two hours to arrive even during off-peak hours. That seems like a pretty poor way to reward high achievement.
One of the things that WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has consistently worked to do during his tenure is to improve the players' overall experience. He has even made the food options a priority in past years, and we honestly are much better off in general than we were in, say, 2005. But without a doubt, this glaring omission simply has to be fixed in 2009. The players - who, after all, are the reason there is a WSOP in the first place - deserve better than what they've been given.