By Scott Long
Minnesota poker players used to having to hit the road to find a well-structured tournament won’t have far to travel in April.
“There are a lot of good tournament players here in Minnesota and the Midwest, and players just have had to travel a lot in order to get to a well-structured, big buy-in event,” said Tristan Wilberg, tournament director at Running Aces Harness Park on the north side of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.
But during the Ante Up Midwest Championship, an Ante Up Poker Tour series at Running Aces April 11-21, players can expect tournament structures that have been designed with great thought.
“There weren’t really a lot of tournaments in our area with good structures in the past couple of years, and lately we’ve taken on more of a players approach,” Wilberg said. “We listened to the players and started doing some guarantees and adding money and lastly we extended the structures.
“The structures we use now are pretty much comparable to any large event that you’ll find in the nation,” Wilberg said. “We use all levels that you can pretty much think of, 75-150, 150-300 250-500. Some of those levels you’re not going to find in many tournaments and all the local pros and players in this area have been real positive about it.”
All 13 events in the Ante Up Midwest Championship will use the same, player-friendly structure, though starting stacks and level lengths will vary from event to event, and all events count toward Ante Up’s Player of the Year race.
While the highlight of the series is sure to be the $1,100 main event, the winner of which will appear on the cover of the June issue of Ante Up Magazine, the event likely to spur the second-most interest is Event 6, a $250 tournament with five starting flights that features a unique chip buy-back program for players who advance to Day 2 in more than one flight.
“We wanted to let you play more than one Day 1, and if you do, and make it to Day 2 on more than one Day 1, you’re going to lose your smaller stack and we’ll give you $1,000 for it,” Wilberg said. “So if you played all five Day 1s and advanced in all of them, you will have made $4,000 before you even play Day 2 and we’re still going to keep that $50,000 guarantee on the prize pool.”
Making the series accessible to all players, Event 7 will be a freeroll featuring $10 add-ons through the first break and two main-event seats added to the prize pool.
“We have a lot of freerolls,” Wilberg said. “Not everyone has the bankroll to play an $1,100, or even a $250 qualifier, so having a freeroll like this gives everyone a shot at the big payday, and even if you do have the bankroll, why wouldn’t you want a free seat?”
Omaha players will want to check out two events: an Omaha/8 tournament early in the series and a no-limit high-only tournament that ends the series.
Throughout the event, satellites will be available for $65 through $250, paying out cash, $250 vouchers or main-event seats. Single-table tournaments will run as well. Thunder Valley Casino Resort near Sacramento, Calif., which hosted the first Ante Up Poker Tour series, also ran main-event satellites.
“Ante Up has a great presence around the country, so it’s great to see these other properties pulling together and creating these great partnerships that allow us to get more advertising, which helps build the event,” Wilberg said. “And I think it rewards the players by giving them opportunities to win seats that they wouldn’t normally have.”
The most popular cash game at Running Aces is a $2-$100 spread-limit game with buy-ins of $50-$300 and max bets of $100, since Minnesota law doesn’t allow for true no-limit cash games. Limit games include $2-$4 and $3-$6 with a kill, and Omaha and stud games get going several nights a week.
And bigger-limit players won’t want to miss the $5-$100 spread-limit game with a minimum $300 buy-in and no maximum.
“That game usually runs big,” Wilberg said. “Some of our regular players consider it the best cash game in Minnesota. There are constantly players putting pictures of their stacks on Twitter.”
Running Aces offers several Las Vegas-style table games, all without antes and most with progressive jackpots and side bets. The Winner’s Circle restaurant offers all-you-can eat specials three nights a week.
Running Aces has partnered with three hotels within five miles of the racino, all of which are offering 15 percent discounts for players who mention the Ante Up tournament when booking. Links to the hotels can be found at anteupmagazine.com/runningaces .
“Every player secretly dreams of being on the cover of a national magazine like Ante Up,” Wilberg said. “I mean, who wouldn’t? Some of the players really aren’t all that secretive about it. They talk about how they are going to make it to the cover and it’s going to kick-start their career and they’ll be the next Phil Ivey.”
Ante Up Midwest Championship
April 11, 11 a.m.: Event 1 NLHE ($100 w/$50 rebuys).
April 11, 6 p.m.: Event 2 NLHE ($230 w/$100 bounties)
April 12, 6 p.m.: Event 3 Day 1A NLHE ($500)
April 13, 11 a.m.: Event 4 NLHE ($100)
April 13, 3 p.m.: Event 3 Day 1B NLHE ($500)
April 13, 6 p.m.: Event 5 Omaha/8 ($150)
April 14, 11 a.m.: Event 6 Day 1A NLHE ($250)
April 14, 2 p.m.: Event 3 Day 2 NLHE
April 14, 6 p.m.: Event 6 Day 1B NLHE ($250)
April 15, 11 a.m.: Event 6 Day 1C NLHE ($250)
April 15, 6 p.m.: Event 7 NLHE freeroll ($0*)
April 16, 3 p.m.: Event 6 Day 1D NLHE ($250)
April 17, 6 p.m.: Event 6 Day 1E NLHE ($250)
April 18, 3 p.m.: Event 8 NLHE ($50 with $30 rebuys)
April 18, 6 p.m.: Event 9 Day 1A Main Event ($1,100)
April 19, 6 p.m.: Event 9 Day 1B Main Event ($1,100)
April 20, noon: Event 6 Day 2
April 20, 6 p.m.: Event 9 Day 1C Main Event ($1,100)
April 20, 11 a.m.: Event 10 NLHE ($50 with $30 rebuys)
April 21, 2 p.m.: Event 8 Day 2 Main Event
April 21, 3 p.m.: Event 11 NLHE Deepstack ($300)
April 21, 6 p.m.: Event 12 NL Omaha ($100)
* There are optional $10 add-ons