Big poker tournaments, such as the $5 million guarantee Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open main event that begins Aug. 15, became unappealing in recent years to players with modest bankrolls. Because the tournaments allowed players to re-enter after getting knocked out, locals who wanted to take one shot at a dream and put down the four-figure entry fee were at a disadvantage: Wealthier players would fly in to bully the tables, re-buying several times.
But card rooms, including the Seminole Hard Rock's, allowed re-buys in order to make it worthwhile for players from out of town. Otherwise, one bad hand could make for a wasted trip. Not a good way to fill your hotel.
The Seminole Hard Rock this year might have found a happy medium: There will be no re-buys, but four tournaments are formatted like Russian nesting dolls, one bigger than the other but connected at the base (in this case an Aug. 18 final day). Besides the $5,250 buy-in main event Aug. 15, there is a $2,650 buy-in on Aug. 16 and an $1,100 buy-in on Aug. 17 (as well as a $25,400 entry event for high rollers on Monday).
All will wrap up 2 p.m. Aug. 18 at Hard Rock Live, with taping by CBS Sports and live coverage at PokerNight.com and on Twitch.com. Phil Hellmuth, who supports the format change, will emcee.
"That still makes the event worthwhile to fly in," says Hellmuth, who won his record 14th World Series of Poker bracelet June 8.
And for those who might shirk away from entry for fear of facing Hellmuth, known as "The Poker Brat," don't worry. He's strictly here as a commentator, although he'll be playing for two nights of taping of "Poker After Dark" Aug. 20-22 at Paradise Live. The public is invited to watch.
Hellmuth and I talked for about 35 minutes. I'll have a full interview with him next week.