When the first World Poker Tour Regional tournament in Black Hawk was held last fall at the Isle Casino Hotel, it performed solidly. It took place just weeks after the popular Heartland Poker Tour stop at the neighboring Golden Gates, an event that broke the $1 million mark for the first time in HPT history. Given that, the Isle’s WPT main event did well, attracting 207 players and a prize pool of $310,500.
The Isle obviously hopes to build on that success for the WPT’s return this fall, and Isle poker manager Matthew Dodd has a new promotion for 2012, one designed to increase not only WPT participation, but at the Isle’s tables all the way through September.
It’s a simple system: Play live poker at the Isle any time until Sept. 30 and your hours are credited toward the event’s $1,990 buy-in.
Anyone who plays 500 hours gets a free seat, while players who play less can get seats subsidized in 100-hour increments: The casino will provide a $1,600 voucher toward a WPT seat for 400 hours of play, $1,200 for 300 hours, $800 for 200 hours and $400 for 100 hours.
“We wanted to reward our live players, give cash-game players a chance to earn their way into the tournament,” Dodd said. “I’d love to see 100 of our live players play in the main event. … I think it’s an innovative promotion. It’s good for the room, good for the event.”
The promotion won’t affect the total prize pool in any way; the Isle simply pays in the difference for what the full cash buy-in would have cost. While live players are earning their way to free or discounted participation in the WPT, they’re also earning the casino’s standard promotions, such as a free night’s stay in the hotel for six hours’ play.
Of course, the Isle also will be running numerous multitable and single-table satellites for players to earn a seat in the main event, which has been expanded to four days this year (Oct. 18-21). Because the multitable satellite qualifiers sold out last year, several more will be added this fall.
As for other changes, Dodd said the biggest focus was on incorporating players’ feedback on what they liked and what could be improved following the first WPT event, which Chris Tryba won, pocketing $67K. Tryba was one of several players to share his thoughts on how to tweak the tourney, and the Isle listened, Dodd said.
“We took lots and lots of notes, and we know what we want to do and what things to take care of,” Dodd said. “We always want to find ways to make things run more smoothly and make things better. Everyone who (came to us), they’ve all definitely been heard.”
— Rick Gershman is Ante Up’s Colorado Ambassador. You can email him firstname.lastname@example.org.