Monday, 6 April 2015
Neil Channing surveys the affairs of the gambling classes.
BACK IN THE GROOVE
I'm making a comeback this month.
I can hear you at the back. No need to be rude. I can hear you saying that bloke used to be all over the telly and he hasn't won a million dollars for ages.
You are right of course. It's about time I won something decent. For the last couple of years I didn't fancy going to the Irish Open. They dropped the buy-in right down, which wouldn't necessarily put me off, I'm not averse to playing a two grand event, but I wasn't keen that the proportion of juice to the buy-in went up. I also don't really want to run up the expenses of flights and hotels to play an event that is not much bigger than any number of events I can jump on a train to Nottingham for or pop down to the Vic to play.
The organisers and the sponsors have had a good think about it though and this year they want to try and put the pizzazz back into the event. The first thing they have done is go back to a buy-in of 3500 Euros (including 300 juice), they have increased the size of the side events and this year they don't clash with an EPT (it was San Remo last year).
It's definitely the case that people have suffered in Ireland. I certainly don't think the economy has totally recovered but the numbers at events all around the country have been improving and there is a confidence that this year's event will get a decent number of runners. I'm sure they'll get more than 300, they may well get as many as 400 and that would be a good result for all concerned.
SATELLITE OF LOVE
One thing the Irish Open always gets right is that they qualify lots of people. The online satellites are popular and the sponsors spend money on encouraging that, but also this is an event which sends players from every small card club across the land. People play tiny satellites, they have leagues, they send their champion and it means a lot to dream of the title. I think many people soon forget the latest EPT winner and it's definitely tough to keep up with all the winners on the smaller tours. I was really sad to see the guy who won the GUKPT Grand Final say that he had no idea what he'd won and he didn't realise that this was the culmination of a tour of events which had been taking place around the country all year. I actually think that was a terrible bluff by someone trying to make himself look cool. He'd played the event for three days and the name of the event was on posters all around, on the tournament clock and on all chip updates. Given that it's impossible to avoid social media these days he simply must have known. Whether he did or not though it was clear that he didn't really care for the title.
I think a massive factor in the success of the Sky UKPC, which managed to beat the overlay and build a guaranteed prize pool of a million quid, was the fact that this tournament truly does find the UK Champion. More than any other event I've been to in recent years this one had everyone in UK poker in attendance - the big guarantee certainly helps but I think a lot is down to the prestige that you can gain by winning a big title.
Despite the fact that the WSOP seem happy enough to cheapen their brand by giving out more and more bracelets each year I still think that people care a lot about the jewellery. They definitely like having the money, especially when a recreational player changes their life overnight, but it's the title of world champion and the bit of gold that often gets them to buy in.
Building that brand is not a cheap thing to do and I think Paddy Power may have realised that it's the cachet of the title and the brand of the Irish Open which they need to re-establish. In the first tournament which takes place without Liam Flood, who played such a big part in its history, I hope that they manage to get the magic back. If I'm lucky enough to win it again I know I'll be just as proud of the title as I was first time round.
I'll still have the money as well though please.