MGM makes huge upgrades for Grand Challenge poker series

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By Christopher Cosenza

The slogan for the MGM Grand Challenge Series (April 19-May 6) is “Go Big or Go Home.” And it looks like MGM is taking its own advice. This year’s series, which has one of the most diverse schedules ever found, will have famed tournament director Matt Savage at the helm.

“It brings instant credibility to the series and instant name recognition,” director of poker Robert Moore said. “Because this was only our second tournament series we felt bringing in a players’ tournament director like Matt Savage would really put us on the map.”

And Savage had his hands all over this series, something that will no doubt please (and attract) players.

“Matt is known for his great structures in the poker community and I pretty much let him put together what he wanted to,” Moore said. “I think we have a great series and variety of events, everything from NLHE to PLO to H.O.R.S.E. to Omaha/8 to Chinese poker, so there’s going to be something for every player, and buy-ins will be from $150 all the way up to $1,600 (main event, May 1), so something for every budget also.”

The main event, which begins at noon, also counts toward the Ante Up Player of the Year race.

There will be a $1,090 event (capped at 40 players) that’s Chinese poker (half high, half deuce-to-seven in the middle) on April 29.

“That’s a way for us to create some exposure for some of the professional players who may not have ever played here,” Moore said. “Chinese is a game that’s rarely spread in tournaments, so what better way to get them over here to see how great our room is?”

Another great way to attract pros is to enlist an active poker ambassador, something MGM did in early March by hiring popular poker pro Karina Jett.

“We’re looking to do a lot of things here,” Moore said. “We already have one of the best rooms in Las Vegas that no one knows about. Everyone knows about Aria, Bellagio, Venetian, and we want to get in that game, so we’re bringing in Matt Savage for our tournaments; we’re bringing in Karina Jett as an ambassador to draw more attention to our room.

“She’s going to help with our marketing efforts, our social media efforts. She’s already brought her H.O.R.S.E. tournament over from the M. … We see big things for our poker room moving forward.”
Jett, who said she’ll be playing the series’ H.O.R.S.E. and ladies events, is excited about her new relationship with MGM.

“Just working with Rob and seeing what he wants to do in poker is great,” she said. “I’m very excited to have this opportunity.”