Tournament poker series are a strange beast; you look in one direction and the same schedule over and over again seems to work for some venues, while many players want a little variety so things don’t get too stagnant. “Take it or leave it” might work in tournament starved areas but for the most part; players want bang for their buck and that’s not really negotiable with so many options out there.
Key points and issues that have been hashed out include: opportunity to satellite in, variety and above all, the bigger the buy-ins should see the rake start to go down as always using 10% just isn’t reasonable at the higher buy-ins – especially if the structure isn’t adding a bunch of additional days.
Last but not least; finding the balance is also important, big chip stacks are only important if levels are properly designed to provide plenty of play in the money and longer is not always better, particularly in the case of smaller buy-ins or main events designed around unrealistic entry numbers – the bottom line is hotels, meals etc. All equate to expenses or “overhead” and the basic expectation is to come out ahead if you play well enough to make the money.
With that in mind, gone are the days of “over promising and under delivering” with inflated estimated prize-pools – the Deerfoot Inn and Casino is leading the charge with putting “their money where there mouth is” and setting guarantees for most events, allowing players to see just how much they can expect to playing for as a minimum. This is very important to those grinders traveling in from out of town, for obvious reasons.
Players knowing that they are taking some risk every tournament and as customers it’s nice to see the venues stick their own necks out a little when setting their guarantees – basically, find that number you are 100% confident in promising, then take it up another notch for continual improvement.
“Competition is good in my eyes” said poker manger Robert Bowers. “It forces us to always try to strive to be a little bit better. I want comparable guarantees to be reasonably higher than the next guy, or why should they play with us?”
“In the past we heard from players that they wanted more play; it adds labor costs, but we’ve also had enough feedback that extra rake to compensate won’t cut it. We want our players happy and so you can see in our $1,400 + $100 Main Event over the Summer Super Stack Series we’ve made a significant cut according; that doesn’t change the amount of play though, players are getting 30,000 starting chips with 60 minute levels which we believe everybody will love. We also tried a $550 MegaStack with an extra long structure already in 2014, but players actually found it too long, so we’ve dialed it back only enough to try to find that balance.”
Robert continued, “Our Casino/Operations Manager Robin Featherstone has been very supportive in helping me find what players like from events around Alberta and North America’s most popular; adapting structures from the most popular series to fit here at home, giving me leave to personally deal every form of live poker at the World Series of Poker in both cash games and tournaments, allowing to truly experience what players in those games expect from myself and our poker staff, as well as some insight on what the world’s largest poker event organizers do that makes them succeed.”
“We know today’s players want variety and we are looking to give them that. Our “5 Barrel” event with 3 hour levels that plays much like a cash game is an adaptation of a really popular event from Montana for example. We’ve been hosting one of the only live Heads Up events in the world for years now and adjusted the buy-in to keep it popular, even adding a $25,000 guarantee to give it a strong push to hit the 64 player cap. The 2 day $550 HU works for players today, many events that used to be $10,000 on the world circuit have dropped to $3,300, so making it more accessible while still keeping the prestige of a Heads Up title only makes sense. With the popularity of bounty events, we’ve also put together some that are both Pot Limit Omaha and No Limit Hold’em. Lastly, you don’t see many unlimited re-buys anymore and while they aren’t for everybody, we want to cater to those that aren’t timid to really get some action going as well. We’ve even thrown in a Team Event, a perfect way for a few buddies or a couple to have a day at the tables. On top of all this, Super Satellites allow players a good chance at a cheaper way in, with 1 in 7 winning packages and you choose the events you play as they award tournament dollars”
Scheduling seemed to be one factor Bowers had put much thought into; “As much as we’ve heard that players want variety, we still understand not everybody likes all the variations of the game – it’s tough to stick around with travel expenses if there are big gaps between the most popular tournaments players really want to play. With that in mind we were really careful in laying out the Summer Super Stack Series schedule to group these together where possible, and allow both end of the week as well as weekend access to those players who can’t or don’t want to take off work to compete.”
As for cash games we can expect to be running, plenty of $1/$2 and $2/$5 No Limit Hold’em are a given, but Robert tells us “the $5/$5 PLO with a $200 min buy (no max) has run every night since January and while you never know where the $10/$25 game will be, we’ve been hosting it for the last few weeks solid.”
Add some trophies up for grabs, a $5,000 WPT Montreal package for the Player of The Series points race, special room rates, as well as feeding players in some events and it’s clear that the Deerfoot Inn & Casino is very serious about becoming one of your premiere tournament poker destinations.