Russell Tamplin Interview

Russell Tamplin Interview

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Head of Poker at Grosvenor Casinos chats to Bluff about all things GUKPT, as well as the all-new 25/25 Series.

Hi Russell! So what have we got to look forward to this year?

Hello! As far as the GUKPT is concerned, we’ve got 10 legs and the Grand Final, as well as the student event and the Goliath in Coventry. So we've got four £1,000 main events and six £500s in the middle of the year, finishing with the £2,000 Grand Final at the Vic!

You’ve got some new locations – Edinburgh, Leeds and Cardiff.

We have. We acquired 19 new casinos from Gala, which pushes our number of UK casinos to 55, and we now have 39 poker rooms across the UK. We’re going to Edinburgh and Leeds Westgate which are the two new ones this year, the rest are all existing stops.

What made you go for those ones?

Leeds Westgate is central Leeds. We’ve always wanted to go to Leeds but our existing club there is not quite big enough for a GUKPT event, whereas Leeds Westgate is – and it has a car park. It has everything going for it from the point of view of accessibility and parking, etc. It just makes sense to go there really. We listened to feedback from our valued customers and took action based on that.

Is there anything else that’s changed compared to last year’s tour?

Yeah, there’s been some quite big changes actually. All our £500 events are £100,000 guaranteed, compared to £50,000 last year, and that takes our guarantees over £2 million for just the GUKPT. We’ve tinkered with the schedules a bit to make it more interesting based on feedback from customers – we’ve got the Omaha tournament because we think it’s good to offer something a little bit diverse during these festivals, and the six-max is always popular. We’ve also added in a few turbos.

Other additions include quite a few guaranteed satellites on On the Sunday before every GUKPT we run a 10-seat guaranteed qualifying event into the Main Event, but for next year we are running some extra ones during the week. For example, during the week of the £1000 events, we’re running a £30 rebuy tournament on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we’re guaranteeing one seat into the main event for all of those. On the Wednesday we also do some late evening £150 super satellites, where we guarantee five seats into the main event. All in all, for the £1000 event we are guaranteeing 19 seats into the main event during the course of that week. For the £500 event, there are 15 seats into the main event. Online qualifiers for our live events are really starting to take hold, and more and more people are getting their seats that way.

The Goliath made history by being the largest ever European land-based tournament last year. Do you think you’ll shatter this record again this year?

Yeah, I hope so! Last year we never even attempted to break a record and we ended up breaking two! So that was really great. We didn’t advertise it on the basis of ‘come and break a record’, but it just goes from strength to strength. I think it’s really hit the right niche. There’s no need to change things which are working, and although we tinker with it a little bit according to player feedback, ultimately it stays largely the same. The real key change for next year will be that we’re going to run it as part of a bigger festival. We tinkered with it this year and ran a few extra things, like beer pong, and had a Formula 1 simulator from Red Bull, and various other things going on. It was kind of a toe in the water and it was good fun but it didn’t quite reach the height that I wanted it to, so this year we will be building a festival around the event rather than just having the event itself. I would expect 3000+ people to play in the poker event. We want something for everybody, really – it’s not just for poker players.

When are the Student Poker Championships coming back?

We’ve yet to agree the dates, but it’ll definitely be in early April. We’re already talking to the student body, and we’re expecting a good number to come back so it should be a really good event. It’s hugely popular – beyond even our expectations, to be honest. I was gobsmacked when I turned up there. It was incredible, so next year we really want to push the boat out and make it an amazing event. We’ll be making it much more like a GUKPT event, and a group of GUKPT supervisors will run it. We’ll be doing lots of different prizes for the bubble boy, and the Day 1 chip leaders among others.

We’re smack-bang in the middle of the 25/25 Series at the moment – how is that going so far?

It’s going phenomenally well. We launched the 25/25 in the North-West at the start of this year, and it’s been incredibly successful from the first event onwards. A key thing of what we’re trying to do now is all our guarantees are unconditional, we never run a guarantee with a condition on it which is unusual compared to other tours. One of the things that we’re told again and again in player feedback is that casinos take a risk with a guarantee, and there should never be any strings attached. The only proviso with a guarantee for us is we require five players to start a tournament – if that tournament starts, the guarantee kicks in regardless! When we launched the 25/25 we did exactly that – it’s a £25k unconditional guarantee.

We’ve also created tonnes of online qualifiers for it. At £220, players can qualify really cheaply, especially online where you can qualify for as little as £3. Equally, if somebody wants to buy in directly, it’s not a totally huge amount of money. Because the North-West was so successful we spread it out, and now we’ve created 25/25 regions. We went into Scotland a few weeks back, and that’s gone really well – we’ve been into Glasgow and Aberdeen. Last week launched the Yorkshire 25/25, Brighton launched the South coast one, and then the next one will be the South-East, which will encompass London and the whole ‘M1 corridor’ – so Luton and Reading will be part of that one. We’ve got 64 25/25 events across the year.

What was the inspiration behind the 25/25 format? How did it come about?

It came about partly because we were looking at feedback from players about no strings attached guarantees. We got a large number of casinos in the North-West and Manchester areas, so what we wanted to do was really get them working together rather than as separate entities. It seemed like the obvious thing to do was to run a monthly tournament where they all run qualifiers and then take it in turn to host the main event. Genting had run a £20k guarantee, so we thought we’re not going to do the same – we’re going to go better! So we made it £25k. The name came about because 25,000 is both the number of chips you start with and the guarantee of the event.

You’ve got a lot of online qualifiers with different routes, is that right?

You can qualify for any of the events around the country online at We get lots of people qualifying online – regularly upwards of 60 players. We’ve started to offer guarantees for the qualifying event and the number of seats we offer is constantly increasing. The online route is really starting to take hold now.

For someone who hasn't been to any GUKPT events before, why should they come this year?

We’re the longest-running established tour, and I would say the most consistent too. The key thing for me is whatever you decide to play in, it’s consistent – the same team of people run it across the country. Obviously occasionally you get a rogue ruling or something like that happens, but on the whole, because it’s the same people, it’s always run exactly the same way. We use all professional, experienced dealers that are used to dealing in large events like EPT. The team of supervisors that run it are Ian Bryan, the tournament director, and Dena Hassan – both of them are at every single event. It’s the same group of guys and girls that run it, and most people know them so it’s a really friendly affair. It’s a large amount of money and so will always be serious, but there’s also a big social element. Finally, it’s a long-running event that has a lot of kudos attached to winning, and that’s reflected in the big players we attract.

Tags: GUKPT, Russell Tamplin, Goliath, 25/25