Poker is no longer a back room game just played in casinos and speakeasies, and tournament organisers are looking further afield for venues to manage the incredibly large groups of players, such as sporting stadiums and hotels. At my company, D4 Events, these days we almost exclusively run tournaments in larger venues like hotels.
Probably the biggest benefit of hosting a festival in a hotel is the spacing. Other than Dusk Till Dawn, I can’t think of a poker room in the UK or Ireland that can hold a decent sized event in comfort for the players. A good sized hotel will have a ballroom or conference centre that can host 70 or more tables comfortably.
This is particularly important when you want to run a niche event like six max, which would need to be capped in most casinos, but in a hotel as long as you have enough dealers and tables, there are no restrictions. The European Shorthanded Poker Championships takes place at the Regency hotel in Dublin this month, and last year we managed to accommodate 656 six max players in a similar hotel, which I believe is a record for a short handed event in Europe.
Hosting poker in a hotel also means that you can expect a better attendance for the side events and cash games. The fact that the players are usually just a few flights of stairs away from the action means they have much greater flexibility if they want to find a game, and generally we do not have any restrictions on closing times and they often run around the clock.
All of our events are re-entry events, and we find that up to 70% of our day 1A bust outs re-enter on day 1B, which is no doubt also helped by their proximity to the action.
The only real downside is that it takes us a couple of days before the event to get everything set up. But this does allow us to try and make sure that everything is set up in the easiest way for everyone.
For sponsors it also allows other activities to be held to create a relationship with their players. Winamax had a great quiz last year at the shorthanded championships (and it will be on again this year by popular demand) with over 100 of their players joining in and creating a great atmosphere.
At our next event we are using one of the other rooms near the large ballroom to create a breakout space for players to relax. We will have pool table, table football, air hockey and even beer pong tables in there.
From a player perspective, a tournament in a hotel has the potential to significantly reduce the travel expenses incurred on the live circuit. All those small expenses like taxis and petrol add up when you are playing the circuit a lot, and usually the hotel gives poker players subsidised rates on rooms and food.
Hotel room prices can fluctuate throughout the year, but when we take over a hotel we book all the rooms and are able to get a rate that is the same for all the players. This rate is usually very competitive and is on a room basis, not per person. We also make sure that the food offering is extended. There will be a poker menu available to players outside the normal restaurant opening hours.
Making the hotel the hub for all the poker action also makes everything just run much more smoothly, and it reduces the potential for mishap. Despite the fact that most of our marquee events are based in Ireland, our biggest player base is actually from mainland Europe (We have over 400 French players confirmed for this month’s European Shorthanded Poker Championships already), many of whom don’t speak much English. Keeping everyone under one roof for their rooms, the poker, food and drink, makes the weekend much more stress free for everyone concerned.
There are still people who see a stigma attached to going into a casino and these players feel much more comfortable playing in a hotel environment.The lack of house games is a benefit to some players (although they may not realise it). It also means that the full focus is on the poker. A lot of casino’s don’t feel poker gives them enough revenue so they don’t always treat the poker room with much importance. For the week we take over a hotel, it is all about the poker.
But most of all, running poker events in hotels just make for a much better atmosphere overall. There is a much greater sense of camaraderie, especially among the travelling players, and we find that they drink more, play more, and stay up later. Because everyone is in the same building, it takes the sting out of busting early because there will be other players to hang around with soon enough, or if you want to get away from poker for a while, you can take as long a break as you want because your room is just upstairs.
Casinos will never be fully replaced by hotels in poker tournaments, and many large events (Such as the EPT) are seeing the benefit of using a large hotel alongside a partner casino to accommodate the growing demand of large field tournaments. From an organisers view I can only advocate how much easier it is to run a tournament in a hotel, and from a players point of view I can guarantee it is much more fun.
Mike Lacey is the director of D4 Events. Their next event, the European Shorthanded Poker Championships, features a six max €550 re-entry main event. It takes place at the Regency Hotel in Dublin between September 26-30. Hurry as day 1B is selling out fast. Check out www.euroshorthandedpoker.com for more details.