By Scott Long
When talk of the Ante Up Poker Tour began, Ben Erwin knew right where he wanted to be.
“We really did want to be No. 1 on that list. We really wanted to be the inaugural event,” he said, and come Nov. 19, that desire becomes reality when the poker director at Thunder Valley Casino Resort hosts the first Ante Up Poker Tour event, the Ante Up NorCal Classic.
Over the following 15 days, thousands of poker players are expected to fill the poker room at the resort just north of Sacramento to compete in nine events, culminating with a four-day $1,100 main event that begins Nov. 30 and features the largest guarantee in Thunder Valley history, $200K.
“This area is definitely ready for the bigger events,” Erwin said. “We’ve sold out every main event we’ve ever had. We’ve been working toward a $1,100 buy-in event and Sacramento is very excited that we’ll be hosting this event.”
Thunder Valley can accommodate 200 players to start each flight and will seat alternates through the first four levels. The player who wades through that large field will not only earn a nice payday, but also will be featured on the cover of the January issue of Ante Up Magazine.
“The cover is all the talk right now. That’s a huge draw,” Erwin said. “As soon as the magazine hit, that was the most popular thing people we’re talking about up here. It’s a coveted award that these players are looking forward to.”
The series schedule includes a three-day $450 event with a $100K guarantee that kicks off the day after Thanksgiving. A similar event in August generated a prize pool of $184,000. All told, the series’ nine events are guaranteeing $345,000 in prize money. Also on the schedule are two knockout tournaments, a six-max no-limit hold’em event, Omaha/8 and H.O.R.S.E. events.
Twenty-five mega satellites with buy-ins as low as $55 will be held (14 before the series even officially begins). Mega satellites with three price points kick off on Nov. 9 and up to three will be offered per day, and $130 single-table satellites will be offered 24 hours a day.
“One thing that’s important to us at Thunder Valley is that whatever your buy-in range, that we’ve offered you a way for you to get into the Ante Up NorCal Classic,” Erwin said.
As with most tournament series, plenty of cash-game action is expected. The room regularly spreads limit poker from $3-$6 up to $6-$12, but the $1-$3 no-limit game is the most popular. No-limit is also spread at $2-$5 and $5-$10, with $25-$50 offered during big events.
Players driving in for the event will be impressed with the AAA Four-Diamond resort’s amenities, some of which are tailor-made for a grinding tournament series, including a spa with a steam room that is free for hotel guests. Thunder Valley also is working to arrange discounted alternate accommodations for players.
“We don’t want to have a big event and only have our regular players,” Erwin said. “We want people to come in from the outside. But along with that, we definitely want the players who call this home to be represented in these events and I think that’s what culminates in a very successful event.”
Regardless of where players stay, they’ll eat well while at Thunder Valley.
“The dining options I think people are really going to enjoy,” Erwin said, with Asian, a buffet, a food court and tableside dining from a poker menu and the full room service menu among the options. “We have a steakhouse (High Steaks) that is one of the best in the area.
“One of the things our owners are absolutely dedicated to is everything is first-rate, and I’m very proud to work here. I think the people who come out here for the event will feel that level of elegance and the prestige that comes from winning the inaugural Ante Up Poker Tour event.”
For more information on the Ante Up NorCal Classic, go toanteupmagazine.com/thunderva lley or thundervalleyresort.com. For more information on the Ante Up Poker Tour, be sure to visit anteuppokertour.com.
Ante Up NorCal Classic
Nov. 19, 7 p.m. – $100 NLHE
Nov. 20, 7 p.m. – $100 Omaha/8
Nov. 21, 7 p.m. – $125 NLHE deepstack
Nov. 23, 11 a.m. – $450 NLHE deepstack Day 1A
Nov. 24, 11 a.m. – $450 NLHE deepstack Day 1B
Nov. 25, 1 p.m. – $450 NLHE deepstack Day 2
Nov. 25, 7 p.m. – $125 NLHE knockout
Nov. 26, 7 p.m. – $120 H.O.R.S.E.
Nov. 27, 7 p.m. – $100 6-handed NLHE
Nov. 28, 7 p.m. – $150 NLHE knockout
Nov. 30, 11 a.m. – $1,100 NLHE main event Day 1A
Dec. 1, 11 a.m. – $1,100 NLHE main event Day 1B
Dec. 2, 11 a.m. – $1,100 NLHE Day 2
Dec. 3, 1 p.m. – $1,100 NLHE final table
MORE INFO: anteuppokertour or thundervalleyresort.com
* Mega satellites with buy-ins as low as $55 will be held up to three times a day starting on Nov. 9.