Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rants & Raves: Reno Tournament Series

Hi!   I'm still here.

I haven't been writing because playing poker in Reno isn't very interesting to me these days. I'm keeping the blog open for the information in it, and just in case I have something to write about.

Well, something happened last Sunday that got me to sit down and type.

Grand Sierra started their Fall Pot Of Gold tournament series on Thursday, and it goes through today. However, it was announced on last Sunday that the series has been cancelled after four days. The reason was due to excessive overlays for the guaranteed events.

The big $100k weekend event, which had five starting heats, had a $30k overlay. The  tournaments that I played included a $10k Omaha-8, a $10k HORSE, and a $15k NLHE. They all missed their guarantees by a decent amount. I would estimate that GSR had to pay around $40k in overlays for all event over the first four days. Due to gaming regulations, management's only choices were to continue the series or cancel the whole thing. And with a $200k Main Event and various other smaller guarantees, it's not that surprising that they pulled the plug.

This is very disappointing to the players and traveling dealers, but it's not that big of a surprise to me. The Pot of Gold is certainly the best run and most popular tournament series in Reno, but it had been common to be missing guarantees over the last few series, although certainly not as bad as this one.

The next series, Winter Pot Of Gold (Dec 5 - 15), was in limbo on Sunday. Last night, there was a poster for the POG, but all guarantees were removed. It's good that they didn't canceled the whole series. However, the Winter POG is traditionally the smallest of the GSR series, and California player won't show up without the guarantees.

Other tournament series around town are having issues. Atlantis held their WPT Regional series last month. They also missed many guarantees, but I'm not sure it was as bad as GSR. I played in a $10k HORSE and a $15k NLHE, and they both missed by a decent amount. I know the Main Event missed it's guarantee, but I'm not sure by how many players.

Atlantis has some other issues besides the guarantees. I've heard many complaints about the team that is brought in to run the series, although I've never had any issues with them. What I do have an issue with is the tournaments are too damn long. I've heard that both the 12n and the 7p events have run until 5am, and that is ridiculous to me as a recreational player with a job. But to be fair, this may have been fixed as I haven't heard about the 5am finishes lately.

Their Main Event has also had issues with length. GSR's Main Events usually end on Sunday evening, with is great for us working stiffs. Last month's Main Event at Atlantis ended around 5am on Monday morning. The previous Main Event went an extra day and ended with a heads-up chop on Monday afternoon.

And then there's the Peppermill. It's clearly the #1 room in Reno, but they run the least popular tournament series. Both players and traveling dealers agree that it's the worst run series in Reno. It's also the only series that doesn't hire an outside Tournament Director. Coincidence?

Things have deteriorated so badly for Peppermill tournaments that they haven't run a series since early April.  That series didn't have a field over 20 players. Their "Main Event", which is just a slightly higher buy-in tourney on Saturday, had 9 players and 2 re-entries. They screwed up a HORSE tournament so badly that I ended up jumping in to help run it until they found an old structure sheet to work from. Overall, the whole series was such an "Epic Fail" that they canceled all series for the rest of the year.

So with everything going downhill for Reno tournament series, what can these three rooms do to save tournament in Reno, or at least stop the bleeding?

In one word... Scheduling.

As I've said in the past, Reno is not a poker town like Vegas, AC, or LA. The local players can't support a tournament series. Hell, they can barely support $45 donkaments, let alone $245 tournaments.

So in order to have a successful tournament series, you need to attract Northern California players from Sacramento and the Bay Area. You need to let them know when the series is being held through advertising and mailings. But most importantly, you need to find right weekends.

The Poker Calendar is getting more crowded every year, and it's hard to find the weekends that players don't have an event somewhere to play. If California players have to choose between traveling to Reno, or staying in their own bed while playing at Bay 101 or Thunder Valley, then it's not much of a choice.

It's gonna be interesting to what happens from here. The next series in Reno will be at the Peppermill. "Poker Night In America" is hosting their next event just before Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I think this will be another Epic Fail, especially the first weekend. Looking at the schedule, it's all Mega-Satellites with a $230 NLHE with a $15k guarantee on Sunday.

The first problem is that Thunder Valley in Sacramento is hold a tournament series right be for this, and their Main Even is that weekend, This means that no California players will be coming to Reno, and some of the bigger Reno players will be going to Thunder Valley. The second problem is there are not enough Reno players to support all these satellites. Even with the guaranteed seats, they won't have enough player to cover the overlay.

The last problem is the Sunday $15k guarantee. For whatever bizarre reason, the Peppermill always runs their Daily Donkaments during a tournament series. Their Sunday 1pm $55 is the most popular donkament in Reno, with fields regularly getting 60 - 75 players. The $230 tournament that starts an hour before needs 77 players to hit the guarantee. There are not 150 tournament players in Reno, and most of them would rather play the $55 donkament. I wouldn't be surprised if the $230 gets 30 players, even with re-entries. As a someone who will be one of those few players, the overlay is dead sexy. But it just means that this series will be a bigger disaster, and less likely the Peppermill will ever do one again.

After the Peppermill series is the Winter Pot Of Gold, which is traditionally GSR's smallest series. And since they removed all guarantees, California players don't have much reason to drive over the mountains in December. These factors mean that I have very low expectations for this series.

Overall, the future of Reno tournament series is looking bleak. It really does depend on the success of the last two series of the year. If they both fall flat on their face, then the number of series will be greatly reduced for next year, and Reno will be even less of a factor in the poker world.