Brian Rast Reflects on Inaugural Bellagio $25K Mixed Game High Roller: CardsChat Exclusive Interview

6 min read

Earlier this year, Daniel Negreanu came up with the idea of hosting $25,000 Mixed Game High Roller events. Brian Rast took the ball and ran with it by contacting Bellagio, ironing out the details, and hosting the inaugural event last weekend in Las Vegas. Rast spoke to CardsChat about the inaugural event and his plans for the future.

Brian Rast CardsChat interview
Brian Rast (seen here at the 2016 WSOP) spoke to CardsChat about his efforts in setting up the first-ever $25K Mixed Game High Roller at the Bellagio. (Image: Donovan Lockett/LVR-J)

Mixed Game: Success or Failure?

Last week, back-to-back events were held with the first drawing of 25 entries. That tournament saw Ben Lamb defeat Negreanu in heads-up play to walk away with a $281,000 first-place cash. Alan Richardson and Lamar Wilkinson finished third and fourth, for $106,260 and $62,500 respectively.

According to Rast, a two-time winner of the World Series of Poker’s $50,000 Poker Players Championship, the $25,000 Mixed Game High Roller structure mimics that of the famed Bobby’s Big Game mix. The games included in the mix are No-Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em Pot-Limit Omaha, Omaha 8 of Better, No-Limit 2-7 Lowball, 2-7 Triple Draw, A-5 Razz, Badugi, Stud, and Stud 8 or Better.

The second event, held the day after the first, drew 10 players and saw Daniel Alaei emerge victorious for $125,000. Negreanu once again finished in second, this time for $77,500, while Michael Glick placed third for $47,500.

Other players who participated in the tournaments were Scott Seiver, Mike Gorodinsky, and David Oppenheim, just to name a few.

Brian Rast Reveals All

CC: What were your thoughts on your first pair of $25,000 buy-in Mixed Game tournaments at Bellagio?

Rast: Overall, it was definitely a success. Day 1 was better than I thought. I never imagined we’d get 25 entries, it was way better than I expected, a really nice surprise. Not only that, everyone was there on time and we started right off the bat with three tables. That was pretty awesome.

CC: What did you think of the turnout?

Rast: Most of the players were recruited by me, but there were still a number of people that I didn’t know about or recruit personally. [Of] some of the people that told me they were coming, only a couple didn’t show up, but it still got big, because a whole crew came out from L.A. Only Mark Shaffer had made a firm commitment, but others like Jesse Martin, Marco Johnson, and Daniel Alaei, every one of those L.A. players came. That was better than expected.

Some of the people I thought would play, like the ‘Vegas Big Game’ people, there were less of them than I thought. Jen [Harman] and Doyle [Brunson] didn’t play, Lyle [Berman] only played on Day 1, and David Oppenheim didn’t play Day 1, because he was sick.

CC: The first day had a great turnout, but attendance dropped a bit on the second. What happened?

Rast: A number of people who played the first day had to leave town, and there was a cash game that went [on simultaneously], so Day 2 ended up being much smaller. Day 2, given Day 1, ended up being a bit disappointing.

I’ve been trying to figure out why. Maybe people thought the second day would be tougher. I know there was a cash game that was going, and I think some of the Day 1 players would’ve played again if not for the cash game. I also think $25K might be a bit much for some people’s bankrolls, so one of the things I’m thinking about going forward is not having both days be $25Ks, maybe have one day be a $10K or $15K rebuy and the other day the $25K.

CC: What sort of feedback did you receive from the players?

Rast: My general feedback from players was that they were happy with the event, especially on the first day. There was a buzz, there were a lot of people there, and the tournament was run smoothly. Everyone was really happy with it.

I think there was some disappointment on the second day because of the turnout, but I think getting that many people there for a mixed-game tournament was pleasing to everyone.

CC: How did the Bellagio and staff do handling this new tournament?

Rast: There were a few kinks. It was a tough situation, a new type of tournament. The Bellagio was in a tough spot, but overall a lot of the people I worked with, like Dallas and the floor person there, they were super good.

Going into the tournament, the customer service was top notch. The tournament itself was run pretty well. Stuff like clock management could’ve been better, but I think when we start doing this more regularly, things will work even better. Overall, the Bellagio did a great job and were good hosts.

CC: When can the poker world expect the next event(s) to be held?

Rast: I think the plan is to do another one right before the WSOP after SCOOP. I will be in Cabo for SCOOP and I don’t want to come back that weekend and play a tournament right away on Monday, so I’d rather do it Tuesday and Wednesday. I know the Super High Roller Bowl is having a couple of tournaments before the $300K, so I think the best thing to do is have our tournament before those. I’m going to have to figure it out, but the goal right now is to do the next event that last week in May.

People were talking about doing it during the WSOP, but my goal with this isn’t to compete with cash games. The people who play this will be the same people who play mixed cash during the summer.

My goal with this is to get people in one place when things are slow, and maybe then it’ll inspire cash games on the side. I might do one right after the WSOP around when the Bellagio Cup is, and then the plan is just to have it during different times when it’s slow and people are available.

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