The Empire Strikes Back
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Nothing divides poker player opinion like a bad beat jackpot, but love ’em or hate ’em, they’re going off like crazy down at the Empire, where the third has now been paid out in as many months. Casino Manager at the Empire Colin Hunt responds to the message board critics.
How does the jackpot work exactly?
Basically, the Bad Beat Jackpot idea is one we have taken from some of our sister casinos in the States, where it has run successfully for many years.
In simple terms, we rake an additional £1 from each eligible pot in all cash games. From this, we fund all the Bad Beat Jackpot prizes and other prizes at various times, such as daily spot prizes, which have included WSOPE seats around the time of the last tournament. We also retain part of the fund to maintain a rolling jackpot reserve to ensure there is always money available to re-seed the jackpot at a reasonable level immediately after it’s been won. The casino also takes a 15% admin fee, but the bottom line is, once this fee is taken out, everything else gets returned to the players.
The first Bad Beat ran for a long time and went really high but it’s since been won twice in quick succession. Why the recent change in the qualifying hand criteria?
Obviously we have no control of when the Bad Beat Jackpot will be triggered, but we did feel that, because the initial criteria of quads ran for such a long time, players would appreciate a reduction in the qualifying bad beat, so we lowered it to full house, aces over kings, and it’s now gone off twice in quick succession.
There’s been quite some heated discussion on message boards about the Bad Beat Jackpot. Are you aware of this?
Yes, we are. It is true that some players don’t like the Bad Beat, but the overwhelming majority have told us they are massively in favour, and it has been very well received.
As to the criticism, we are a very busy and popular casino. It is natural that, from time to time, people will have comments and criticisms about our operation. We genuinely welcome any observations and try to use them to ensure our service delivery is of the highest standard of fairness.
At the end of the day, a casino wants a busy card room and happy players, and you get that by listening to what your customers want. Ours like the Bad Beat Jackpot.
Do you have a response to accusations regarding the rake and Empire’s allocation of the jackpot money?
Firstly, we are a licensed and highly regulated operator. We work very closely with our regulator, the Gambling Commission, and we operate strictly in accordance with the objectives of the Gambling Act 2005. Secondly, when such comments are made online, in blogs and forums, it’s difficult to verify the seriousness, integrity or intent of the comments. It could be a competitor, it could be a person with an axe to grind, we just don’t know. Because of this, as a matter of general policy, we simply will not respond online to observations or questions raised or join in debates about the way we do business.
Finally, we are obliged by the regulator to provide our customers with a dispute resolution and complaints mechanism and we abide by a corporate Code of Commitment which includes a promise about the way we treat our customers. Any complaints or comments about us or the way we provide service should be made in the first instance to myself, the director of the casino. We will always respond in detail to an individual’s complaint.
What is the 15% admin fee used for?
It does actually take a lot of resource to manage the Bad Beat Jackpot programme. There is a stack of paperwork involved, to be honest, not least with the auditing and reconciliation process and the management of the prize payouts to the players.
We originally set a 20% admin fee, but we reduced it to 15% once we got a good handle on the amount of resource it took. We realised we could actually return more of it into the prize pool, and therefore back to the players.
What is the benefit to poker players in having a Bad Beat Jackpot?
It basically makes playing that £1 or £2 cash game a little bit more exciting. You have the chance to walk away with a decent chunk of change just by being in the room, but if you happen to be the person that takes it down, you could be into some serious money.
It’s also the ultimate bittersweet moment. You’re involved in a hand that you’re feeling pretty confident about, the percentages are in your favour, and then the very last card you want to see comes out. It usually takes a beat or two, then the penny drops and suddenly that’s the best card in the world and you’ve taken the Bad Beat.
The ultimate is when it goes to the river and everyone in the room is either holding their breath, or in the case of our first win, chanting and cheering for the king, knowing that not only are they about to see a pretty rare beat but they’re quids in if it comes.