Curious about what goes on at a gaming conference?
I was too, until I had the chance to finally cross “attending a gaming conference” off my bucket list (yeah, I know, I lead a super exciting life) as I flew into Las Vegas this past week to attend Global Gaming Expo, otherwise known as G2E.
The Global Gaming Expo (G2E) is billed as a little bit of everything, from informational and educational seminars, to new products to peruse, sample, or even purchase, as well as offering the greatest networking opportunity of the year.
As I prepared for the trip I wanted to accomplish two things at G2E:
- Meet and interact with several of my peers and several industry executives;
- Try to get a finger on the pulse of the industry’s future so I can pump out some informative and thoughtful content going forward.
I also planned on putting in some serious hours of casino poker for the first time in quite some time, but you’ll hear more about that in Part 2. For now, let’s stick to G2E.
My first Day at G2E
Walking into the Sands Expo Center it’s really hard know what to expect. The bottom floor/lobby is all but empty, which somewhat conceals the pandemonium that is just an escalator ride away.
I arrived pretty early on Tuesday (well before the showroom floor was open and the previously mentioned pandemonium begins) which gave me a chance to casually scope out where the seminars I wanted to attend would be held.
I even (unsuccessfully) tried to sneak into the showroom about an hour before it was scheduled to open at 10 AM by following closely behind some exhibitors as they went in to setup. Alas, the sharp eyed security guard realized my credentials were turned around to hide the yellow stripe indicating I was press and not an exhibitor, and this happened:
As 10 AM approached the entire Expo Center steadily increased in energy, with the buzz continually growing until it resembled the cacophony one encounters when you attempt to enter a concert or sporting event.
When it’s in full swing, it’s almost impossible to make it through the throngs of people without turning sideways, sidestepping, or saying excuse me, which is not ideal for someone who abhors crowds of unaware people – get your head out of your phone and follow the foot traffic rules of the [email protected]%#!&#!
Fortunately, the area where the seminars were held was generally quiet, as all the action takes place on the other side of the twin hallways and on the showroom floor – this was my refuge and allowed me to recharge when I needed to. I feel bad for the people stuck on the showroom floor all day with no reprieve.
I attended the first seminar alone, but bumped into Chris Grove, Marco Valerio, and John Pappas while waiting for the Market Research: The Ideal Online Gambler seminar to start.
I also happened to be sitting next to an analytics guy named Mike Aponte and we struck up an impromptu conversation. I later learned Mike was one of the original MIT Blackjack players and an all around interesting guy. On Wednesday, I attended Mike’s seminar on cheating in house – and player – banked games.
After the Market Research seminar I spent some time talking with Chris, Marco, and John (this is one of the great things about G2E in my opinion, the candid talks with highly intelligent and plugged-in people) which led to one of only a handful of selfies you’ll ever see of me (Grove is freaking tall!):
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) September 30, 2014
This pic was followed by Marco’s attempt to get Chris and myself to loosen up for a more candid pic – which he finally accomplished by nearly pushing Chris over while flashing what I’ll have to assume were Italian gang symbols and gestures:
— Marco Valerio (@Agentmarco) September 30, 2014
As Day 1 was winding down, I happened upon Nolan Dalla in the hallway, and after a quick introduction he talked me into attending what turned out to be a great seminar on Advancing Advocacy and creating a solid pro-gaming message. From there it was on to Steve Wynn’s keynote, which you can read about here.
Nolan is exactly as I imagined; engaging, energetic, funny, and intelligent, with a worldly knowledge on a lot of different topics. A fascinating guy to say the least.
In between seminars and wandering the expo floor (which is so big I literally got lost for a good 15 minutes and couldn’t find my way out, and I mean literally in a literal way), I also had a great sit down talk with Eric Hollresiser of PokerStars.
There were also some unexpected encounters, such as waiting in the taxi line with New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement’s Eric Weiss, who remembered me from this interview. This is yet another great aspect of G2E.
Day 2 of G2E
Going into Day 2 I had a much better understanding of what to expect.
I also had a much more relaxed schedule and planned on spending a good deal of time exploring the showroom floor.
But my day first started out with me trying to track down Amaya Gaming CEO David Baazov for a potential future interview. Baazov was part of a 9 AM keynote panel, so I strategically started staking out the area around 9:55, but no luck, he must have slipped out a side door.
So I decided to stalk try to find him over by the Cadillac Jacks booth.
But then my luck changed, as on my way to the showroom floor I found him talking to someone I already knew, Eric Hollresiser! I also got lucky in that another person interrupted their conversation (saved me the trouble), allowing me to make a quick introduction – whether the interview comes about we shall see, but I was happy to meet the man who is likely to land in the #1 spot on next year’s Bluff Power 20.
My plan to head to Cadillac Jacks would have worked though as I later saw him at their booth.
I then spent the next hour or so in the showroom collecting all the Gaming and iGaming magazines (the ones that are super expensive and whose online content is behind a paywall) I could find. This mission was a great success as I collected GGB, iGaming Player, and Gaming Intelligence among others.
I even happened upon a vendor with a bag I was willing to carry all my new magazines around in – the others were like so convention it hurt. So, thanks Copag Cards – because as I quickly learned, carrying five magazines when you’re 38 and out of shape is actually challenging.
From there it was on to lunch and some intelligent conversation with Chris Grove, followed by a visit to the Z4 Gaming booth (Z4 is partnered with Siena Casinos in Nevada and could be one of the next online poker products launched) for a chat with Matt Kaufman whom I’ve only spoken to online.
Day 2 at G2E ended with the seminar on House- and Player-Banked Cheating and the grand finale… Sheldon Adelson’s keynote address, which you can read about here.
What I learned
I was unprepared to report what was happening in real time, or even in immediate aftermath time. Not only was I a bit overwhelmed (it was my first time at G2E or a gaming conference after all) but I was also unprepared, as I learned real-time reporting at a gaming conference requires two key things:
- The right equipment
- Good scheduling
My Samsung tablet and Bluetooth keyboard was totally inadequate, and I suck at typing on a phone so it became readily apparent that live tweeting wasn’t really a consideration. So when I got home the first thing I did was take the money from my back-to-back winning sessions in the Aria $9/$18 12-game mix and buy a new 2-in-1 laptop that will make my next conference experience easier and make me more productive – and provide a nice tax write-off to boot.
I’ll probably never be much a live tweeter (Chris Grove has that pretty well covered anyway), but I do take good notes, so at my next conference I will make sure I set aside some time in between seminars and meetings to tweet out the highlights from the previous one.
This time around my takeaways came in the form of a column, which you can read here.