Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Press of AC: Borgata cashes in on lower buy-in poker tournaments

It's good to see The Press of Atlantic City with some poker articles.


Borgata cashes in with lower buy-ins at poker tournament

By SUSAN LULGJURAJ, Staff Writer

The grim economy would seem to make the timing bad for a major poker tournament in this struggling casino market.

However, the WPT Borgata Poker Open Championship has been a success since it started on Sept. 8 with an estimated 15,000 entrants.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa's signature poker tournament concludes with a televised final table of the main event Thursday.

The Borgata Poker Tour is a stop on the World Poker Tour and the final table eventually will be seen on Fox Sports Net.

A key to the event's success has been the lower buy-in for the no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event, which started Saturday.

The Open drew 1,018 players for the $3,500 event ($3,300 goes into the prize pool and $200 to the casino).

The buy-in is significantly lower than it is for most major tournaments around the country.

"I think it's very smart for today's economy," said Brigantine resident Joe Simmons, a regular at the Borgata. "It gives everyone a chance to play. The $10,000 buy-in at this point is cool for the World Series (of Poker), but just imagine how small this field would be otherwise."

The prize pool is smaller than at some tournaments but not by much. The large turnout generated a prize pool of $3.4 million with the winner getting $925,514. The top seven will finishers take home six-figure amounts.

"We've built the event for the players," Borgata poker marketing director Ray Stefanelli said. "Rather than spend $25K on an event, they can come here and get the same exact prize pool with a better value."

If you compare the WPT event at the Borgata to a recent WPT event in California, you see how successful Borgata is with its structure.

The winner of the Legends of Poker, which was held at The Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, Calif., received $1.03 million, but there were only 279 entrants and a $2.65 million prize pool.

Poker players enjoy the Borgata's tournament so much they have came from across the country. Some well-known poker players attended the event such as Gavin Smith, Lacey Jones and Kathy Liebert.

However, many of the popular poker players are currently competing in the 2009 European Championships in London.

"Nobody does it better than the Borgata," said poker player Will Failla, of Smithtown, N.Y. "They just make it right. It's really been a great place to play."

The tournaments are filled with many East Coast players, but the Las Vegas players come to the Borgata as well. Some just enjoy the casino so much, they always make sure it's a stop on their schedule during the year.

"They always have a pretty good field," said Smith, 41, who lives in Las Vegas. "The biggest difference is that the field is quite a bit weaker. You get a lot more amateur players willing to pay $3,500."

Borgata's buy-in for the main event has been around $3,000 for the last three big events. The casino holds three major tournaments throughout the year: Borgata Poker Open, Winter Open and Summer Open.

The American stops on the World Poker Tour had buy-ins of at least $10,000 for the main events. Some went as high as $15,000.

The World Series of Poker Circuit events, tournaments at Harrah's properties around the country, have buy-ins around $5,200. The World Series of Poker main event, the one that grabs headlines and is seen on ESPN, has a $10,000 buy-in.
The Borgata's is one of the least expensive tournaments and most popular.

"I think the Borgata is ahead of the curve. I think this is the future of the big events," Failla said. "With the way the economy is, the Borgata is doing the right thing."

E-mail Susan Lulgjuraj:
slulgjuraj@pressofac.com

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