Matt Savage, poker tournament director extraordinaire

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By Garrett Roth

If you play tournament poker or watch it on TV, you probably know who Matt Savage is. He’s the most well-known and respected tournament director in the world and his advocacy has helped poker grow into the game it is today. He has many professional titles, including executive tour director of the World Poker Tour, a founder of the Poker Tournament Directors Association and tournament director at Commerce Casino and many other poker rooms.

Savage lives in Las Vegas with his wife and children, but he was born and raised in San Jose, Calif. He spends much of his time in Los Angeles at Commerce and also travels, directing the most prestigious tournaments on the circuit. He has decades of experience in the industry and has changed the game forever in 2001 by introducing the TDA, which standardized the rules of tournament poker.

You won’t meet a nicer or more player-conscience TD. Savage goes out of his way every day to improve the game while still listening and responding to player feedback. He’s a rules expert, so when questions arise about tournament play, blind structures or a hand scenario, you better believe someone is tweeting @SavagePoker for an answer. It’s just another way for him to reach out to the players and be a true ambassador of the game.

Savage and WPT executives always look to expand their tournament schedule and recently partnered with Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, Calif., adding the Rolling Thunder series, which is the final leg to the California Swing. The tour also includes the LAPC at Commerce Casino (Los Angeles) and the Shooting Star at Bay 101 (San Jose).

The WPT Rolling Thunder series will be March 14-19 and will feature a $3,500 main event.
“Thunder Valley is one of the most beautiful rooms in the world,” Savage said. “Not only do they have a lot of players but there’s tons of action coming from the Bay Area and Reno. It’s just a beautiful property.”
Since poker players have numerous tournaments to choose from each year, the California Swing makes it more convenient to play three major WPT events in less than a month because they are all within driving distance of one another.

“It’s not hard to get from room to room,” Savage said. “Players can go to the LAPC at Commerce, which has always been one of the biggest events on the World Poker Tour, and then you can go right up to Bay 101 in San Jose which, in my opinion, is the most unique event in poker. They can then take the two-hour drive up to Thunder Valley and play the WPT Rolling Thunder series. You get to see the whole coast of California and it’s a great time of year to see it.”

Savage will attend all three events of the WPT California Swing. The LAPC, Shooting Star and Rolling Thunder will all be nationally televised and the winner of each will win an enormous first prize, a $25K championship seat and title of WPT main-event champion.