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Staging a poker tourney

Oct 12, 2004 12:01 AM

With poker blazing across the country in popularity, questions arise as to how gaming venues can become host sites. The most common reply: Sweeten the pot.

"I myself don’t like tourneys, but the demand is so great that we had no choice but to join in," Tim Gustin, manager of the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, told an audience at G2E during a seminar on the subject.

"Commerce is competing with six other major poker venues in the L.A. area," he said. "We were starting to lose customers to places like the Bicycle Club so I had to revise my thinking. We set aside a $15,000 budget and had radio DJs promote the tournaments, which would run three days a week."

Kathy Raymond, director of poker operations at Foxwoods Resort, said that running poker tournaments from a three to six week period is a way to maintain interest and solve the intimidation factor.

"Poker has long been the American pastime, but TV made it the American dream," Raymond said. "At Foxwoods, we have made sure that personnel are highly trained and that our events carry purses ranging from $5,000 to $10,000."

Raymond said that her tournaments are capped at 250 entrants and there is a concerted effort not to overlap with other casinos.

"Tournament directors need to be aware of what is happening around them in the poker world," she stated. "Poker is hot. The time of day and month for holding events is critical. You want to hold an event at the best possible time so that you can draw the top players. That can be accomplished through time, effort and a solid purse."

Gustin said that the large purses helps limit crowd control problems.

"Being located in East L.A., we do run into some difficulties from time to time," Gustin said. "Having the same people show up every week can be a detriment unless they have built a reputation and can draw better players."

Edna Dalton, who will be running poker events at the planned Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, said she was getting in on the ground floor.

"We’re going to start with 12 tables," Dalton said. "We will introduce poker, check tournament schedules elsewhere and study the market. I’m as excited about poker as everyone else is. We’re glad to be a part of the boom."