The Venetian Poker Room is one of top venues in the country, hosting some of the most prestigious poker tournaments that draw huge fields of players. Its nearest upcoming event, however, could end up without any runners as a boycott of the venue is attracting more and more players.
The Lucky Shot Poker Series and Drawing will take place from October 21 to October 27. The highlight of the series is the $250 No Limit Hold’Em event with a $150,000 guarantee, which has been drawing plenty of criticism due to its unusual prize structure.
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The Venetian’s Controversial Prize Structure
Everything about the tournament seems all well and good – that is, until you read the fine print. It turns out that the Lucky Shot tournament will be keeping any money exceeding the guarantee for The Venetian.
“100% of all funds collected will go to meet the $150,000 Total Prize Pool. Any funds collected above and beyond the total prize pool will be the sole property of The Venetian Poker Room,” the terms and conditions read.
If you’re unsure about what that means, it’s basically saying that the guaranteed $150,00 will not be exceeded; rather, any buy-ins exceeding that would go to the house. So, if more than 600 players were to enter, the tournament’s rake could climb to some very unreasonable heights.
For 600 runners, players would enjoy a $150,000 rake-free prize pool. At 750 entries, players would be paying $200+$50, which is The Venetian’s usual rate of rake, and things would only get worse from there. If the tournament managed to draw 1,200 runners or more, half of their buy-ins would be taken by the house.
This is basically the opposite of how just about every other poker tournament works. In most cases, the casino offers a guarantee no matter how many players enter, and the prize pool increases as more players enter. This structure makes for more exciting competitions, so what’s really the draw for Lucky Shot Series?
Lucky Shot Series: For Players Who Like Promos
A spokesperson for The Venetian states that the tournament is geared towards the kind of player “who likes promotions and drawings”. This mainly refers to the $52,000 prize draw which, admittedly, could draw in less skilled players.
The spokesperson compared the series to slots and table game tournaments. While you can see the similarities in the way prizes are handed out, casino tournaments are usually freerolls or have a very small buy-in.
If you’re only spending $5 to play a slots tournament, you probably won’t mind if a large portion of that goes to the casino. $250 is whole other story, especially when it comes to more the kind of recreational players that The Venetian wants to attract with this kind of tournament.
The $250 buy-in is barely a drop in the bucket for a high roller, but players with bigger bankrolls and more experience playing tournaments recognize how unfair the structure could be. So, they are making plenty of noise to call attention to the issue.
To Boycott or Not To Boycott?
News of the tournament’s terms and conditions quickly spread and it wasn’t long before the Venetian was facing a huge backlash among the poker community. Poker forums are rife with grievances, and the hashtag “BoycottTheVenetian” is even trending on Twitter.
In his podcast, Doug Polk argues that this type of prize structure could set a harmful precedent. Should the tournament attract a fair number of runners, it sends the message that it’s okay for casinos to follow suit and potentially charge incredibly high rake.
The Venetian has responded to the criticism but will not change the prize structure for the tournament. The event will continue on as planned, but the casino has confirmed that this structure won’t apply to its other tournaments.
It will be very interesting to see how this all turns out come October 21st. The Venetian does not seem phased by the prospect of a boycott, and could suffer a significant loss if only a few players show up.