By Christopher Cosenza
One of the more brilliant moves from Las Vegas poker rooms in recent history involved starting unique poker series to coincide with the World Series of Poker schedule.
Two of the biggest and most successful series to reap the benefits of offering WSOP alternatives are the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza and the Golden Nugget Grand Poker Series. (Last month we previewed the Binion’s Poker Classic, which mimics the WSOP schedule but at 10 percent of the cost).
The Grand, which is the brainchild of Nugget director of poker John Colville, is in its fourth year and has become known as the series of variety.
“Every day our featured events are at noon, and we actually run two a day. Half of the facility is no-limit hold’em and the other half is a different game, such as H.O.R.S.E., seven-card stud, PLO, limit Omaha.” said Colville, who has run the poker rooms at both Nugget properties (Vegas and Laughlin) since they launched about five years ago. “Last year was the first time we tried that concept and it went over very well. Most series will have maybe two or three non-no-limit hold’em events, and then like 20 or 30 NLHE events. We have a non-NHLE event every day.”
The Grand (June 4-July 4) runs about 240 tournaments in all during the series, including about six or seven per day, and something new this year is a Young Gun event in which entrants must be 30 years old or younger (June 10, $230).
“It’s like a big festival really,” Colville said of the series. “It’s a lot of poker. … We run more variety than anybody else and at a great price structure. Obviously at the World Series you get some good variety, but you’re talking about $2,500 and above for buy-ins. We’re in that $100-$230 range and we have the variety. We have an eight-game mixed tournament for $200 (June 15). H.O.R.S.E. events are big for us; we run four (of them at $230 each) during the series (June 7, 14, 21, 28). We’ll get 200-300 people to play H.O.R.S.E.”
The Venetian runs its Deep Stack series quarterly and chooses to cater to a little higher buy-in crowd. This third installment runs until July 15.
“I feel one of the bigger highlights is that we are offering more of the bigger buy-ins this year than we have in the past ($1,500-$2,500 range),” Venetian tournament director Tim Mix said. “We feel the $200-$300 buy-ins have been saturated throughout Las Vegas and there is a need for quality higher buy-in tournaments. We experimented with this in 2010 and had an overwhelming positive response. I think you will see even more of these tournament players migrating over to the Venetian this year.”
The Venetian will expand to 119 tables this year to accommodate larger fields.