In a few weeks, all eyes in the poker world will be on the November 9, the final table of the 46th Annual World Series of Poker Main Event, which resumes Nov. 8 at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The winner of the Main Event is considered the world champion and takes home a multi-million dollar prize and ever-lasting fame.
While the WSOP is THE event for professional players, amateur and recreational players in the United States have their own national championship to fight for. For the second straight year, the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J., will host the Bar Poker Open.
The inaugural event in December 2014 included 12 tournaments with affordable buy-ins over a five-day span. The event included a $40,000, invitation-only main event, which featured a $10,000 first prize. Players from 15 different Pub Poker leagues sent representatives to the tournament.
“It was a huge success,” said Glenn McCrory, founder of the Eastern Poker Tour (which hosts games in Rhode Island and Massachusetts). “It was refreshing to get a group of people who just play the game for the fun of it. A fun and unique thing this tournament will bring is a group of people who love to play. I think everyone who participated last year took back the experience and loved it. They are clamoring for it again.”
Main Event Prize Pool Increases to $100k
The second Bar Poker Open will be held Dec. 4-8. This year’s main event will feature a $100,000 prize pool, and almost two dozen leagues have registered to hold local qualifiers to give their players a chance to win a seat into the tournament. In all, the five-day series includes 12 events, with buy-ins ranging from $80 to $300.
McCrory and Andrew Griffith, who runs the Riverchasers poker tour (which hosts games in venues in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania), came up with the Bar Poker Open concept. McCrory said he originally conceived of the event as a challenge match of sorts between players from the two bar leagues. Once he and Griffith began discussing the idea in earnest, they decided it should be more than just a competition between their two leagues. They saw it as an opportunity to boost Pub Poker around the nation.
“We decided, let’s give them something that everyone needs, and that’s a decent championship to play for,” said McCrory. “We want to help build some value for every league. That’s the idea.”
“He contacted us last year, which was the first year they did it, and sold us on the idea,” said Larry Kohn, the co-founder of the Atlantic Poker Tour, which is based in Raleigh, N.C. “What a great idea to bring leagues in from all over the country to compete, to be on live TV stream. We had about 15-20 players go up last year … and they are very enthusiastic about it. They are looking forward to going back up in December.”
Affiliate Leagues Boost Prize Pool
McCrory, who founded the Eastern Poker Tour in 2005, wanted an event that would be meaningful for the players and would help the Pub League operators grow their local player pools. Each Pub League who signs up as an affiliate shares revenue with the Bar Poker Open. McCrory said this funding stream has enabled the main event prize pool to grow from $40,000 to $100,000 in just one year, a number that he hopes will keep growing.
“(The local leagues) pay us for each event they are hosting, and that is allowing a funding mechanism to grow the tournament,” said McCrory. “We hope to get enough leagues involved to where we can grow it to $1 million at some point.”
In return for the revenue sharing, the local leagues promote their tie-in to the event to get more players involved with their leagues. Each local league hosts its own qualifiers and determines which of its top players will get to participate in the main event. Players from any league are eligible to play in any of the other series events, but the main event remains invitation-only.
“We didn’t want to open it up to anybody in their league,” said McCrory. “We wanted some standard of qualification.”
McCrory said the final table will be live-streamed from the same final table set as the World Poker Tour Events that are hosted by the Borgata.
“It gives an added sense of legitimacy for the players, to feel like they are part of something big,” said McCrory.