There’s always something unexpected and under the radar at the World Series of Poker, where the poker comes in all flavors. There’s the Main Event and all the other bracelet events, both live and online. There are satellites and daily tourneys and cash games, and even more than that. There are little gatherings and get-togethers of all sorts, from the annual media freeroll to last year’s special champagne-brand launch party featuring former NBA star Tony Parker. And for the last couple of years, Yale University alumni have held a private poker gathering as well.
Enter Yale grad and current Caesars employee Gene Lee, who in 2022 and 2023 has put together a small, fun gathering for Yale alums from anywhere, though both years it’s been a two-table affair. It costs real money to play, too, with a whopping $50 entry fee, $20 of which goes to cover dealer and staff expenses, while the other $30 is earmarked for the day’s food and drink.
The bonus twist is that the Yale World Series of Poker, hosted by the Yale Club of Nevada, is running in the Paris Ballroom, right in the middle of the bustle of the first Main Event. With one table’s worth of buffer space, the Yale gathering of 15 players found itself surrounded on three sides by players in today’s Event #77, the $777 “Lucky Sevens” tourney, while most of the opposite of the Paris Ballroom was occupied by part of Day 2D action in the WSOP Main Event itself.
That’s actually how the WSOP usually rolls, from the big time to the “I didn’t know this existed” events. And it’s a real tourney, too, despite its hyper-speed pace; organizer Lee and Caesars gaming officials had to register the event with the Nevada Gaming Commission because, with fees paid, it is categorized as a real-money event.
As Lee describes it, the Yale World Series of Poker is a social event designed to bring Yale alumni in the region together for “a little fun, a little poker” amid the bright lights of the WSOP. “Most of us live in Vegas,” Lee adds, but this year’s 15-player event brings in players from Nevada, California, and Arizona.
And there’s no doubt it’s a fun gathering. Beverages are flowing freely, and players who don’t bust don’t go anywhere; they just move back into extra seats and remain socializing with the group as play continues. “We also have a suite with drinks and food upstairs,” Lee adds, and the winner receives a small bracelet commemorating the occasion.
Such an event like this harkans back to the WSOP’s early days. The Yale alums are playing under bright lights, but there’s no crowd at the rail. Yet it’s also every bit a part of the WSOP, which in many ways really does offer something for everyone.