Low-key gaming industry convention ends with some high-stakes Texas Hold 'Em, high jinks, and high drama.
Millions of people fly into Las Vegas each year with the hopes of winning some green on the casino floor. Hundreds of thousands fly into Sin City for business conventions and the opportunity to do a little networking with like minds in their industries.
BioWare/Pandemic Studios doesn't see any reason why people can't do both at the same time. Closing out the D.I.C.E. Convention this year (a friendly golf tournament began things on Wednesday) was the D.I.C.E. Celebrity Poker Tournament, hosted by the studio that will release Mercenaries 2 and Mass Effect later this year.
Seating was done randomly, and each chair was accompanied by a BioWare/Pandemic-branded cup and a deck of oddly-shaped cards. As players sat down and waited for the game to begin, pleasantries and business cards were exchanged, accompanied with basic work-related ice-breaker-type questions.
The randomness of the seating provided a mixed bag of talent at each table. At my table alone was a representative from Sony who works with third-party developers, an executive producer from motion-capture specialists House of Moves based in Los Angeles, a gentleman working on the new AmbiEx technology at Phillips, D.I.C.E. presenter and Mind Candy CEO Michael Smith, and Randy Pitchford (pictured, above right with his favorite poker hand), president of Gearbox Software (Brothers in Arms, the upcoming Alien FPS).
Buy-in was $200 for each of the 65 players, and it was pretty easy to tell who knew the game and who didn't fairly quickly. Most of the laughs came early as contestants shook off nerves, and, aided by a few drinks, pushed all-in within the first few hands. As tables were consolidated and the field shrunk, players found themselves with a fresh new set of faces to play against--but pleasantries were replaced with table talk as most eyes were on the top prize.
I was fortunate enough to hold off a string of awful cards (I saw what seemed like an endless streak of 10-6 off-suit for a majority of the tournament) and survive to the top 20, but was ultimately beaten on a lucky draw on the river (isn't that how it always works out?), and finished in 18th, eight places out of the money.
As the final table was set, the crowd, including AIAS president Joseph Olin, gathered around to watch the remainders vie for better and better cash payouts. In the end, the winner was a D.I.C.E. staff member, who agreed to chop the pot 2:1 with second place (the player who busted me out) to avoid a marathon one-on-one gaming session. His take was a cool $4,500...not bad for a few hours of work.
The poker tournament summed up what D.I.C.E. was about--a laid-back meeting of industry peers that is equal parts business and fun. If all business got done this way, Mondays wouldn't be so harrowing. I've already started reading Doyle Brunson's Super System in anticipation of next year.
Left to right: Mercenaries' Mattias and Mass Effect's Commander Shepard look on, Michael Smith of Mind Cancy (center, grey top) and Scott Gagain of House of Moves (right, black jacket) lose money, the official payout list
Left to right: the winner's circle, a pink shirt and sunglasses were good enough to finish in the money, the final table draws a crowd.