Poker manager profile: Matt Clement, Oaklawn Racing

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Matt Clement joined the Oaklawn Racing & Gaming team in December 2008. Along with his staff and other Oaklawn departments, Clement helped transform the Oaklawn poker room into what it is today. Ante Up’s Craig Fleck recently had an opportunity to talk with him to discuss life, work and, of course, poker.

Where are you from originally? I was born and raised here in Hot Springs, Akr. It’s a beautiful city to call home.

How old are you? 29, soon to be 30. Ugh.

What is your official title with Oaklawn? I am the assistant gaming manager, as well as the director of sales and special events.

How long have you been in poker and could you tell me about the path to this job? I came to Oaklawn as the director of sales and events following stints in advertising and hotel sales. Oaklawn is terrific about promoting from within, and offered me the chance to work in the gaming operation in July 2009. … In November 2009 I was asked to oversee the poker room. At the time we were very close to expanding our poker operation, from four tables in a corner of the game floor to a fantastic seven-table dedicated poker room. It was a pretty crazy time, but fortunately I inherited a terrific staff.

Do you play poker and if so, how long and what’s your favorite game? I’ve played poker for about 10 years. Texas Hold’em is the version of poker I first learned, and is still my favorite poker game.

How big is the staff? We have a staff of six, including myself. The electronic PokerPro tables we operate do not require a dealer, which means a single poker host can take care of table operations for the room in most cases. There are many times that we will have a couple of hosts on duty, such as before the start of a multitable tournament or other promotions, and our hosts are always able to take great personal care of each player in the room. We’ve had very little staff turnover, and this has allowed our players to develop close relationships with the poker team.

What can a player expect from a room run by you? We strive to provide a fair game, where poker etiquette is respected and the player can relax, play poker and enjoy themselves. When a player comes to Oaklawn to play poker, he or she can expect a sparkling poker room, quick drink service, great daily promotions and poker programs. A friendly poker host is always ready to help them adjust to our electronic tables, and a responsive management team listens to their concerns and makes decisions based upon them.

Can you give us insight on the Arkansas Poker Championships? The Arkansas Poker Championship is the biggest, most exciting event in Arkansas poker history. The APC is a series of multitable tournaments over a span of 10 weeks where the top-two finishers in each tournament will qualify for a final championship tournament in early August. Oaklawn will run two tournaments per week in June and July for 10 weeks for a total of 40 qualifying players. There is a guaranteed prize pool of $25,000 to be distributed over the course of the qualifiers and final championship tournament. However, with qualifying fields regularly topping the minimum guaranteed amount, the final prize pool figure could reach close to $40,000. Qualifiers are held at 7 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday with a buy-in of $50.