Dylan Ellis, with visions of straights and tall stacks, is trying to turn those dreams into reality this weekend.
The 24-year-old Winnipegger is in Las Vegas for the 44th annual World Series of Poker event. Making his debut as an active player in the WSOP, Ellis is playing in the Event 60 game at the massive poker extravaganza and was a little frazzled prior to being dealt in.
'Super-excited and super-nervous -- a combination of both'
"Super-excited and super-nervous -- a combination of both," he said in a telephone interview minutes before starting play at the Rio Hotel & Casino. "I'm just going to try and be patient and not make any early mistakes. We'll see what happens."
Ellis, who pulled himself into the game by watching his father, Daryl, play online 10 years ago, earned his seat in Vegas through a satellite tournament hosted by PlayNow.com, the online gaming site hosted by Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries. The tournament had 34 players and Ellis managed to claim one of the two invites to the big table in the desert this weekend.
Event 60, no-limit hold 'em game with a $1,500 buy-in, has upwards of 2,000 players from around the world and could earn the winner a cool $550,000, Ellis said.
"I don't really get a chance to play a lot of live poker, so this will be a little new to me," he said. "Most of my experience is online."
Ellis is one of two Winnipeg players at the WSOP. Clayton Mozdzen is making his sixth trip to the $10,000 main event at the WSOP after qualifying through a PlayNow.com satellite tourney last month.
Francis Salazar, poker manager for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries (MLL), says the arrival of the WSOP on the gambling event calendar usually means a slight spike in action in the poker rooms at Club Regent and the McPhillips Station Casino. He figures the appearance of Ellis and Mozdzen at the WSOP gives the online player a reason to get away from the computer and experience some live action.
"Every single night we're playing, so there's really no reason," he said. "It's a different game live."
Salazar says the games at the casinos are open to the players, with Texas hold 'em (five-card) and Omaha (four-card) the popular picks. The various buy-in values aren't too scary and the blinds are reasonable, so the games are attractive to those either looking to move away from the computer screen or work their strategy under real-game, face-to-face pressure.
Manitoba Gaming Control Commission rules allow the two casinos to set blinds (pre-hand wagers) at $1-$2 up to $50-$100 and everywhere in between. Not many locals are coming down to play the $50-$100 games, Salazar notes, as the maximum buy-in number ($20,000) is a little too rich for the casual player.
MLL couldn't provide any poker traffic numbers for PlayNow.com but Salazar says the online game -- which really came to prominence after Chris Moneymaker, an online player, won the WSOP main event in 2003 -- has provided an interesting spinoff of customers toward the live-action play.
The computer version has helped feed the rooms with curious players, Salazar said.
"It's not as popular as it was before, say 10 years ago when Moneymaker won and several different tournaments were starting to be televised," he said. "But people are always coming in to learn, though. There's always a game."