The World Series of Poker (WSOP) Gaming Life Expo is no more. In 2009, the world’s largest poker expo will be re-branded PokerPalooza and debuts at the Rio in Las Vegas on July 2nd, one day before the start of the prestigious $10,000 buy-in Main Event.
Harrah’s officials tout PokerPalooza as being geared towards “everyone from the professional to those who have not yet taken up the game.” Past WSOP bracelet winners and Main Event champions are slated to be on-hand signing autographs and imparting their poker knowledge on PokerPalooza attendees. A special “Bad Beat Bar” will also be set up, in addition to a full food court. The Rio Pavilion, which is around the corner from the Amazon Room at the Las Vegas hotel, will host PokerPalooza.
A variety of non-poker activities can also be found at the event formerly known as the Gaming Life Expo. Guests can try their luck on a mechanical bull, put their nerves to the test in the Richard Petty Driving Experience, don oversized sumo wrestling outfits, and take home prizes in a series of carnival games. Appropriately, Ty Stewart, Marketing Director for the WSOP, commented in a press release distributed by Harrah’s this week, “It’s going to be part trade show, part carnival, all fun.”
Last year, the Gaming Life Expo attracted 50,000 visitors to the Rio. A total of 165 booths could be found over the Pavilion’s 50,000 square feet of space. Exhibitors drumming up sales and awareness included New Balance, Bass Pro Shops, McFadden’s, Gamma-O, and All-In Energy Drinks. The Aussie Millions, a high-stakes poker tournament that takes place every January, even set up shop. In January, its Main Event attracted 681 entrants (down from 780 the year before) and was won by Australian native Stewart Scott. ESPN Radio broadcasted from the Expo; its television arm will air the $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament, the Ante Up for Africa charity festivities, the WSOP Champions Invitational, and the $10,000 buy-in Main Event this year. Television coverage begins on July 28th.
All-In and Poker Pro Magazine were two of a handful of industry publications scurrying around last year’s event to boost readership. Signing autographs were a bevy of poker pros including 10-time WSOP bracelet holder Doyle Brunson, Full Tilt Poker pro Gus Hansen, Celebrity Apprentice runner up Annie Duke, 2008 HORSE Championship winner Scotty Nguyen, 2004 WSOP Main Event Champion Greg Raymer, 2005 WSOP Main Event Champion Joe Hachem, 2007 WSOP Main Event Champion Jerry Yang, and Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari. Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy dispatched its “Fight Girls” to the Rio to teach martial arts to guests.
One of the highlights from 2008 was a “Man vs. Machine” poker competition. The “Machine” in question was from the University of Alberta; it squared off against several brand name poker pros including Nick “Stoxtrader” Grudzien, the face behind the popular training site StoxPoker. According to the Rio’s website, Full Tilt Poker pro Matt Hawrilenko and StoxPoker instructor Jay Palansky also competed against the computerized poker mind. The crowd watching man and machine battle included belly dancers on loan from the Gaylord India Restaurant, which makes its home at the Rio, and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) stars Josh Burkman and Grey Maynard.
Here are the hours of operation for the inaugural PokerPalooza:
Thursday, July 2nd: 11:00am – 8:30pm
Friday, July 3rd: 11:00am – 8:30pm
Saturday, July 4th: 11:00am – 8:30pm
Sunday, July 5th: 11:00am – 6:00pm
Booths run $2,500 each, with a $200 surcharge for a corner space. Vendors can pay using a major credit card. Interested companies are asked to contact Sharon Wayne, the WSOP’s Expo Manager, at (702) 777-2310 for more information. The event is free and open to anyone age 21 and up. (Credit: Poker News Daily)
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