Opinion; Medium Limit Tournament Poker in Ontario – Is It The Fallsview Classic or Nothing?


At the onset of 2012, this writer was very excited for those poker players living in the Ontario area, things seemed to really be looking up with Casino Brantford and the Great Blue Heron Charity Casino upping the ante with bigger buy-in tournaments added to their schedules.

For years we’ve bantered back and forth on the forums how players out west are simply more poker privileged when it comes to availability of these types of events and that any national player leader boards or points type ranking systems would forever remained skewed until those in charge of poker rooms in Ontario step up their game.

This year I believe they did, with more $550, $1,100 tournaments, even a $2,100 buy-in, than I can personally remember seeing available to the poker playing masses of southern Ontario…what doesn’t seem to have gotten any bigger is player attendance.

Demographically and looking at the line ups for the one “big series” a year, it just doesn’t seem to make sense and for that reason alone, it seems an appropriate time to ask our readers and those poker patrons in the area the simple question of “Why?”

Isn’t this the direction we want poker in Ontario heading?

The recent turn-outs at the GBH Island Series peaked my curiosity enough to make some phone calls, tweets and e-mails to those that did support the event, as well as those at Brantford and ask their opinions. I would have almost bet the farm that with six months of satellites and only one other $2000+ Ontario tournament was going to sell-out it’s 120 seats weeks before the event, but it didn’t even come close. When the announcement was made at the start of 2012, it seemed very well received, so why the shortfall in attendance?

First and foremost, after reaching out, not one complaint was made about the venues, the structures or the events themselves, only suggestions and opinions on what might have helped. It must be stated that I can agree with all of these thoughts from a player perspective, but believe I also understand at least partially the reason things are being done the way they are; at the very least I hope to learn just a little bit more from the responses to this article.

Time to get to the thick of things and really only three challenges come to mind…

  • Satellites and bigger buy-in events should be held on weekends.

For the part and recreational player, this statement couldn’t be more true, but many of the popular and best monthly Deepstacks happen to fall on weekdays. I know I’ve personally sold tickets won as part of a nightly prize-pool simply because I didn’t want to gamble a days wages as well.

However, it’s the reason for holding these types of events on weekdays has been explained to me as such “when it comes to big buy-in events and the players who are most likely to play them, everyday is weekend if you want it to be.” Even for those that aren’t pro, if taking a day or two off and the buy-in are going to mean a serious chunk of the bankroll or finances, it’s probably best to sit it out. Regulators who give approvals to raise the stakes also want to be socially responsible and in this way they are indirectly ensuring that those that can afford the risk are the ones playing. It’s not convenient for many, there is no doubt there.

There is also the fact that the majority of recreational players are going to want to play regular stakes on the weekend and may not be interested in satellites or a big buy-in and ended up irritated and going home without playing. Not everybody phones ahead to see what is on the schedule or drops in regularly enough to know what’s on the schedule, while the grinders are there all week, so they will plan accordingly and most likely participate.

We have to take into consideration that poker room managers need to look after the interest of the business as well and taking a double-gamble is not going to fly when answering to their own bosses; risking losing the regular weekend peak in the hopes a satellite will pack the house can just be long of odds to justify.

  • Even at sell-outs, the fields and prize-pools just aren’t big enough to justify risking the overhead and size of buy-in. The potential maximum ROI isn’t big enough on 100-120 player fields.

This is a tough one and there are certainly challenges in the size of the facilities. Here again, it’s a classic Catch Twenty Two situation; how does one sell to ownership that they need more space if they aren’t filling what they have? Only packed tournament fields with plenty of cash games filling as tables break are going to make this happen, business is business. Get excited, support the events and these things just fall into place.

  • Lack of awareness or Marketing.

Here again, serious players need to a little work to ensure their livelihood thrives. No, it’s not your event and your probably only going see profits from your efforts through your skills on the felts. The more fish in the sea however, the bigger the chance your net will be overflowing when that does happen.

Most tournaments charge about a 10% administration fee. It’s not hard to see ow tight the budgets are for putting on what players are asking for; Using the GBH $2,100 as an example, best case scenario we would have been looking at $240,000 prize-pool. This means roughly $24,000 to cover labour, and we would need 11-12 dealers to start, plus a cashier and tournament director as a minimum. Tables will break and we can send a few dealers home, while others will need to cover ring games or start on the second shift as good structures will take a tournament past a regular work day. Generally any given room doesn’t have an over abundance of dealers and will want use their best to ensure a good player experience, so Over-Time can also start to eat up profits. Food and beverage, slots or tables games undoubtedly boost their bottom line, but here again the poker room usually doesn’t see they credit they may deserve for those increases over events. It helps, but it doesn’t show up on the room’s ring-outs and very hard to quantify.

Long story short, there just isn’t much wiggle room in the budgets, so cheaper yet effective word of mouth, fliers in the room and social media have to make do. A retweet, share or picking up a schedule to bring to your weekly home game can really help the word spread And build YOUR events ad prize-pools. Don’t look at it as giving them a free ride, instead caulk it up to developing your own “customer base” more staking a claim.

So is it the “Fallsview Poker Classic or Nothing” in terms of events worthy of attracting country wide attention? Let’s hope not and that operators don’t get discouraged, because Ontario has definitely got the population, skill and potential to be so much bigger on our own national poker circuit scene.

Your feedback, thoughts and opinions in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter and of course in our forum would be greatly appreciated.




  1. very well writen article lots of true facts as i am only a weekend player even a early moring saturday tournemnt at brantford would be a good start since the sunday ones allways fill up days before know matter the buyin 550 and under loving the seep stacks though way more play!


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