The Beat

The Beat

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Neil Channing on London, clashes and hard choices.

Clash Wars

I've been writing these columns for longer than I care to remember, and for way longer than many of you have probably been playing poker. It doesn't matter though... I could be writing them until I'm 110, and I'd still be quite often moaning that such and such a venue has clashed with this other venue and put on a big tournament at the same time as each other.

Our first culprit this month is probably PokerStars. It's sometimes tricky to see who has clashed with who, and whose fault it is, but my memory tells me that the WSOP announced the dates of the WSOP Asia Pacific before 'Stars gave us the dates for the EPT events and the London leg that clashes. It isn't totally the fault of 'Stars, though – EPT London is pretty much a fixed date in the calendar, and it wouldn't have been too hard for the WSOP folks to find another date to try and get more players down under... the schedule in Oceana is getting busier, but it's not as packed as it was.

The reason I say that it is PokerStars' fault is that politically it's in their interest to do what they can to scupper the WSOP-AP. They are now very much involved in the running of and branding of the Aussie Millions, which has been the premier event in the Southern Hemisphere for as long as the event has existed. They definitely do not want this long-established event to lose out to the "Johnny-come-lately" WSOP-AP and, being aware that many players are only going to make the journey once a year, they would like that once to be in January.

You might quite rightly say... so what? The subset of people who are thinking about going to both the WSOP-AP and the EPT London and now have a tough decision is pretty tiny. We are talking about a very small group of high stakes pros who play only the biggest events, and who can easily clock up the expenses of travelling around the world to play a few tournaments (including the very high profile 'Stars pros). There might not be more than twenty people in the world who are having to make the decision right now.

One of those poor unfortunate souls who has suffered the torturous, agonizing process of choosing between a ten-hour First Class flight to London to play a £4,000 Main Event and a £10,000 High Roller, or turning left on to a couple of ten-hour flights to play a $10,000 Main Event, a $25,000 event and have a few other shots at bracelet glory, is 'Stars headline pro Daniel Negreanu. He has voted for the trip down under, and who can blame him? Melbourne is amazing, and even as a long-term resident I wouldn't argue for London in October as being the best choice.

If they can't even get their man to say that EPT London is the best event, though, maybe next year they could find a way not to clash.

The Beat 2

London Calling

The London EPT and UKIPT Festival will undoubtedly be the biggest event of the month for UK players looking for action in the £300 to £4,000 range (a pretty broad congregation). I make no apologies to the GUKPT Luton for saying that, although I'm sure just reading those words and realising Luton is fast approaching will be causing some pulses out there to quicken.
I plan to play a few events at the Connaught Rooms this year. The £700 UKIPT Main Event with it's large field of qualifiers, good structure and the feel of playing in a big important event is high on my list, as is the London Cup for £300 with its re-entry policy that lets you spend £1,200. By lowering the Main Event buy-in to £4,000 this year, the EPT must be hoping they can at least arrest the decline in numbers. I quite like that plan, and I think it's really important that there is a decent gap in the size of buy-in between the Main Event and the High Roller. I also approve of £250 being the juice for this one.

The main reason I may not play too many events over the festival is time. I hate to play an event that drags on for days, so I may go for the £2,000 turbo NLH 8-handed, which is done in an evening. I'll also show an interest in the £1,000 NLH with two Day Ones and the chance to re-enter, which runs alongside the Main.

The one thing that might stop me playing too many events is how I am treated at the first one. First impressions count for so much. I gather that I have to register in one place and get a card, then go to another place to buy-in, before trotting to yet another place to play. I totally get that owning lots of casinos is hard for 'Stars, as is gaining licenses to run events away from casinos, "borrowing" other casinos for two weeks, or even finding hotels and conference facilities that are big enough for an event. These things already act as a large barrier to the casual player who is thinking of popping down to play cards on a whim.

What they don't need, on top of these barriers, is to encounter other barriers erected that stop the casual recreational player coming. What I don't get and what I really won't stand for is the corporate takeover of these events. I would like to be treated like a valued customer and not a naughty schoolchild: "You can't use your phone, put your coffee cup here not there, you must sign this form or you'll be disqualified, you can't wear that T-shirt, you can't talk during a hand."

Many people became professional poker players not really by choice, but because they drifted into it and they didn't want to be constrained by society's rules. I may play lots of the events this month, or I may decide it's not as much fun as it ought to be. I think there are lots of players like me out there. I also think that 'Stars should remember that although they have a "captive" audience of players who have qualified and are there for a week to play poker, there are many others in London who have a choice and will make that choice according to how much fun they have and how they are treated. Without that large group of players, these events will not be a success.

The Beat 3

Hard Choices

The London festival of poker, or whatever we call the EPT and UKIPT fortnight, has a nice variety of events. There is certainly plenty to do for the smaller players who want a £300 buy-in rather than a £2,000 one. For these players, though, the highlight of October will definitely be the Grand Prix at Dusk Till Dawn. This one has a massive £250,000 guarantee for just a £100 buy-in. The prizes paid out will include 100 WPT-500 seats which seems a good idea to me – nothing wrong with cross-marketing from one event to the next, and while the seats come from the prizepool, it's a pool with a massive and ambitious guarantee.

The recent Grosvenor Goliath had a £100 buy-in and a £250,000 guarantee, going on to successfully prove that these events are incredibly popular with the generally non-pro fields, some of whom are happy to travel a long way for a few days of poker. The Goliath smashed the guarantee and raised a prize pool of around £340,000, but that is a well-established one-off event which has lots of qualifiers throughout the year.

One thing that might cause Rob Yong and his team to sweat a little about his guarantee is the fact that Grosvenor have scheduled one of their incredibly popular 25/25 events on the weekend of the finals of the Grand Prix. They have also made it at the venue where the 25/25 has seen the biggest fields: the Vic.

I guess it's a little like the Oz/EPT thing, in that not too many people would be stuck deciding between the two events in different parts of the country and with slightly different buy-ins. I guess Grosvenor might say they need to find a space in an increasingly over-crammed diary for a lot of these great 25/25 tournaments, and they don't really have an obligation to worry about Rob's guarantees.

The 'good news' is you can re-enter the Grand Prix on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and if it doesn't work out, you can still bomb down to the Vic and fire a few shots at their £25,000 guarantee (which will probably get smashed by about £50,000).

Whether you are in the £100 Grand Prix, the £4,000 EPT Main Event, or the $25,000 High Roller in Melbourne this month, I hope you still have some money left to play in November.

Tags: The Beat, Neil Channing