BY RUSS SCOTT
JANUARY 27, 2009
GIVE-BACK TIME: RENO TOURNEY ADDS $100K TO PRIZE POOL
If you could travel to the ideal poker tournament, I suspect it would offer:
* Accommodations at a luxury hotel in a popular resort setting for $30 per night, with on-site access to a casino, poker room, nine restaurants, movie theater, bowling alley, concert hall, spa, mall stores, and an indoor golf course.
* A 26-event schedule spread over 18 days presenting a variety of hold’em, Omaha, stud and mixed-game events, with special tournaments for ladies and seniors and most buy-ins at $200 or $300, plus entry fee. For players with larger bankrolls, the lineup would include two $500 events, a $3,000 feature event and a $5,000 championship, all with deep starting stacks.
* $100,000 in added money from the casino, creating a significant prize-pool overlay for players in 15 events, including $50,000 added to the payout in the featured $3,000 tournament.
* A rare 2 percent rake-back in comps for tournament play — for example, a $100 comp for playing in the championship event — plus $2 in comps for every hour of live cash-game action.
* Added betting-structure levels to stretch out play and a veteran tournament staff with World Series of Poker experience.
Sound good? Welcome, then, to the 2009 World Poker Challenge at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nev., starting Feb. 26.
WPC tournament director Jimmy Sommerfeld is pulling out the stops to “give back to the players what they deserve.” He says a sour U.S. economy and an abundance of high-cost tournaments nationwide make his revamp of the Reno tournament the right move at the right time.
“Casinos, television and tournament directors need to look at the direction that poker is headed. If they want to keep the sport alive, they can,” said the affable Sommerfeld, 45, who directs big tournaments across the country and is known for his flair and high energy.
With some notable exceptions such as the WSOP, tournaments in the U.S. have struggled in recent years to maintain the large fields flooding casinos during the “boom” of 2003-2006. Sommerfeld points to “buy-ins growing bigger and bigger” — fueled by television, poker tours and casinos seeking huge prize pools and greater profits — as a factor in declining fields.
“The fans loved it, the casinos loved it, the winners loved it, but the 90 percent of the players who lost hated it. How can poker players survive?” said Sommerfeld.
With so many players’ bankrolls diminished and the nation facing a declining economy, Sommerfeld launched his “give back” mission starting with the WPC, which was part of the televised World Poker Tour until this year.
“The Grand Sierra Resort has heeded the call,” he said. “The casino is adding $100,000 to the prize pool. I don’t know of any land-based casino that has added so much money.”
Will Sommerfeld’s player-friendly ideas beef up WPC’s fields? He’s optimistic, and sees this effort as the start of something bigger.
“I would love to see a huge attendance and I cordially invite every poker player to come to the WPC,” he said. “I would like to use this as a stepping stone for other tournaments. If this is a success, I will go to other casinos and ask that they, too, add money to their prize pools.”
Sommerfeld said he then would approach corporate America for NASCAR-like sponsorships and ask the television industry for contributions to prize pools after enjoying years of deep profits from televising poker players in action.
“Poker can survive and continue to grow if we get serious about giving back to the players,” Sommerfeld said.
The WPC tournament schedule begins Feb. 26 with a $2,000-added, $230 buy-in no-limit hold’em event and concludes with the $5,200 buy-in championship on March 14-15. The feature $3,100 buy-in tournament, with $50,000 cash added, is March 12. Nightly “second-chance” tournaments cost $150. Get details at www.grandsierraresort.com.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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