When Ante Up decided to move its Ante Up World Championship from the Dominican Republic to the United States, Ben Erwin knew he wanted it at Thunder Valley Casino Resort.
"When I look at Ante Up, this is the brand that we’re behind," said Erwin, director of poker operations at Thunder Valley, just north of Sacramento, Calif. "This is the brand that has supported us and we wanted to be the property that hosts that championship."
And over the past several months, Erwin stayed up late many nights designing and tinkering with the schedule, structures and details – fully committed to making the event worthy of the name "World Championship."
"What’s great about working at Thunder Valley is (the business side of poker) isn’t the No. 1 priority," Erwin said. "I have the ability to offer events that encompass the game itself. So we always ask, ‘what’s the best thing for the game?’ "
The "best thing," Erwin decided, was a 12-day, 14-event series with a variety of games and hold’em variations, all culminating with $1,650 buy-in Main Event with a $250,000 guaranteed prize pool, specifically designed at attract notice from pros and amateurs alike.
Players will start with 30,000 units and 40-minute levels, expanding to 60 minutes in Level 9. They’ll be only one starting flight with each player allowed just one re-entry, keeping the entire field together throughout the tournament eschewing the new norm of multiple Day Ones and re-entries that give players with larger bankrolls an advantage. Players also will have the option to abandon their chip stack the end of Level 9 and re-enter.
"One thing that is important to me is that this event have a championship feel," Erwin said. "I thought it was important to design the event where every hand counts. We’re going to take bankroll out of the equation, and let people’s play be what they remember from the event. You’re never really forced to play a hand. You can let the event come to you."
The champion wins his or her photo on the cover of the September issue of Ante Up Magazine and a personalized champion’s jacket, in addition to what should be a nice payday. And, weather-permitting, the final six players – and friends, family and fans watching via live-stream at home – will get the full resort experience, as Erwin plans to host a shortened final table on Thunder Valley’s luxurious pool deck.
"We want this to be a great poker event, but also a great place to visit," Erwin said.
The Ante Up World Championship series officially starts July 31, with a $126 buy-in kickoff event that will be heavily marketing through Facebook and Twitter, and 13 other events. Hold’em variations include deepstack, bounty, escalator, survivor, six-handed and ante-only events, while players looking for something different will see HORSE, Limit Omaha/8 and, for the first time at Thunder Valley, an Open Face Chinese Poker event. The Western Senior Poker Tour also will host a seniors event during the series.
Also, nearly three dozen multi-table satellites at several price points are planned starting July 26, as well as daily single-table satellites, giving players at all bankroll levels a chance to play for the title.
"The poker enthusiast is really going to like this schedule, and it’s just going to be a great couple of weeks of poker in Northern California," Erwin said.
For the complete schedule and more information, visit Ante Up’s World Championship webpage.