GUKPT Student Poker Championship

GUKPT Student Poker Championship

Monday, 24 March 2014

Organiser Callum Stewart on next month's championship.

Students may be famous for many things – drinking, skiving work, and eating alarming quantities of beans on toast – but something that is rarely acknowledged is their thriving poker culture. Poker societies are springing up at universities all around the country, and students are arguably one of the fastest growing demographics in the game today. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the UK Student Poker Championships (UKSPC), something that is now part of the GUKPT, and its popularity is absolutely through the roof. Students travel down en masse in their societies to play the main event, which boasts a student-friendly buyin of £30+£5. Last year it drew a staggering 480 entries – and this year expects even more.

With the UKSPC coming up soon (running from 8th-13th of April, to be precise), we sit down with St Andrews student and organiser Callum Stewart to get the lowdown on the action.

Hi Callum, thanks for chatting with us. Why do you think the UKSPC is so popular?

If you go with your societies it’s different than if you go to another poker tournament, where you’ll probably travel yourself and meet up with some friends. Last year we integrated a team competition into it a bit more, where everyone cheered on their friends. We got it up to 40 different Unis last semester, and quite a lot are now organising their own varsity events, because they were able to meet up and get some of their own contacts. It’s all about the social side of it, and that’s why the buyin for the Main Event is quite low – so everyone in your poker society can afford to play. For some people £35 will be the biggest tournament they play all year, and for others it’ll be more for the social aspect.

Do you think it’s the first live casino tournament for a lot of people?

Sometimes, yeah. I’ve experienced a few different poker societies and I know it’s a bit of a mix at university. Some will play at the Union, some will play in pubs or clubs, and some will play in their local casino. It all depends. It can be quite difficult at Uni, because people who don’t play will see gambling connotations, which leads to trouble. Some poker societies have been banned. They don’t want to be seen to be affiliated with gambling. Some societies are not allowed to play for money either, so they have to overcome that too – play for prizes or whatever.

It’s your 10 year anniversary – are you doing anything in honour of that?

Yeah, we’ve made quite a few changes based on feedback from students. Last year we began allowing single re-entries, in an effort to mirror what most ‘proper’ tours are doing. It also used to be they just ran the one event and that was it, but now there’s a high roller (£100+£10 buyin), and this year because of demand we’re putting a 6-max and a PLO event in as well. We’re trying to make it exactly like a legitimate, established poker tour, but with a student atmosphere.

However, we still have to bear in mind the cost to students, which is why we're running satellite tournaments to all the events on Satellites are running every Thursday and Sunday night with buy-ins from as little as £2, and players can also buy-in direct and secure their seat for the UKSPC events using their online funds.
Interestingly, for the new 6-max event we will actually play the Day 1 online! The tournament will start on March 30th on, with the final 18 players fighting it out at the live event in April.

Aside from the new events, are you doing anything else to liven things up?

We have a promotion where the chip leader from each Day 1 gets a £100 bar tab for the rest of the week which always goes down well. As well as this, last year we had a ridiculous amount of people wearing stupid hats, so we are going to have a competition on each of the day ones, with each day being a different dress code – e.g. one day would be hats, one day would be shirts, one would be hoodies or something. Things like that make things a lot more fun. We will also have the TV cameras and bloggers there that Grosvenor bring to all of their stops, and the students love that. It gives it a proper main event feel.

This year we have three day ones because of demand, and then a Day 2 and Day 3 for the final table. Usually when people bust out of other poker tournaments, they either head for the bar or head home. But these guys have all booked their accommodation for the week, so they stick around either playing other games or cheering on their mates. It’s such a huge rail, because if there’s someone left in from your university you’re going to stay and support them. Last year there were around 100 people on the final table rail. We streamed it on the TVs in the poker room and on the internet, which was great.

Is there quite a lot of rivalry between universities?

Definitely, especially if there’s too two different Unis going from the same place. What we’re trying to do this year is introduce the different area categories, so for one for Scotland, one for Wales, South-East, North-West, Midlands. We’ll run a leaderboard for all the different Unis, which will be set out much like a WCOOP/SCOOP leaderboard where you earn points for cashing. Last year the University of Central Lancashire won, and they’ve been using that to promote their society this year. They’ve since close to doubled their membership.

Do you think that kind of stuff enhances the whole community vibe?

I think so, yeah. Once people have got that experience of playing, they’re much more likely to persist with higher-level tournaments. There’ll be a lot of people drinking, messing about and having a good time, but the standard of play has definitely gone up over the years too.

So you think that the UKSPC is a good bridge to other casino tournaments?

Definitely. In a society, people will help each other, and teach each other how to play better. We got a couple of people who hadn’t played in a casino before, so we had to teach them etiquette and what to do. There are some people who played last year that are now on the professional circuit. It’s a great stepping stone, and grassroots events like this are really important for that reason.

I guess if anyone knows how to party, it’s students – you have a player party right?

Yep. That’s something we’re working on at the moment, to do something a bit special for the 10th anniversary. We’re trying to see if we can book out a local nightclub for the Saturday, but we’re open to having some sort of different event on each night.

Could you tell me a bit about the 3 year grace period?

Sure. In a nutshell, you are still eligible to play up to 3 years after you graduate. Obviously it’s a student championship, but we found that a lot of people still wanted to come with their poker societies, to catch up and play, even if they’d graduated the year before and were living elsewhere now. It just means that a few more people can come along and have fun, and you’re not limiting it too much. It’s been received really well.

Why would you say students should play at the UKSPC rather than just a regular casino tournament?

I just think it’s a great experience. You’ve got the poker, and the social aspect, and the combination of the two works really well. The main event is great, but a lot of people say some of their best memories are away from the tables. You get to meet other societies from up and down the country, and compete in a very professionally run tournament – for only a £35 buy-in, you get a structure that’s modelled on UKIPT and EPT events. You’re with all your mates, and it’s almost like a holiday. It’s quite a unique market, having 500 students just turn up, and I don’t think anywhere else caters to that at the moment. But Grosvenor recognise the importance of grassroots events, and having things grow from the ground up.


Online qualifiers are running on now.

Tuesday April 8th
£100+£10 High Roller Day 1

Wednesday April 9th
£30+£5 Main Event Day 1A
£100+£10 High Roller Day 2

Thursday April 10th
£30+£5 Main Event Day 1B
£25+£3 Pot limit omaha

Friday April 11th
£30+£5 Main Event Day 1C
£50+£5 6Max NLH (Day 1 online)

Saturday April 12th
Main Event Day 2
£50+£5 6Max NLH Day 2

Sunday April 13th
Main Event Final Table
£25+£3 Deepstack (Open to all)

Tags: GUKPT Student Championship, Callum Stewart, Grosvenor Poker