The size of the online gambling market has more than doubled in the past decade; poker and its card shark siblings are bigger and better than ever before. With casinos now readily available to anyone with an internet connection, player population and competitive drive is on the up with no peak in sight. And yet, around the world, in-person tournaments continue to take place. Classy tournaments. Big tournaments. Big tournaments with big prize pools and attending populations that regularly soar into the thousands. These competitive brackets can last weeks at a time in some cases, with each stint broadcast and reported on live on air. These tourneys are where careers are made. These tourneys are where one big win can mean a free ride straight to retirement. Think James Bond in Casino Royale, only times a hundred.
Introducing the star-studded world of international poker. Strap your smart shoes on and grab your passports, folks. It’s going to be a glamorous ride. Just who travels the globe in search of big money? Where are their destinations? And how does tournament poker fit into the wider industry scene today?
The Guest List
International poker isn’t picky. It isn’t exclusive. It isn’t showy. All that matters for most organisations is how good you are at the game and whether or not you’ve got the cash to ante up. To that end, most major poker tournaments are open to the general public more often than not. One simply has to sign up, pay up and sit down to take part – all the while planning their winning strategy for the day. But even that is more complicated than it may seem from the offset.
See, competing abroad in a big circuit is a huge investment. The poker community is just as diverse as any other – there are the full time pros, the part-timers and the hobbyists, plus anything and everything in between. For a lot of people, the travel and tourism involved for a big tourney can be a huge time and money sink should they lose out in an early round. Because of course there are the flights, and there’s the time lost at work, and there’s the hotel room and celebratory mini bar drinks – not to mention the jet lag! A whole lot of planning goes into taking part in international poker, just like any other expedition abroad. The hope is, however, that any given competitor will return home richer than when they left.
And that’s an understandable ambition given the nature of the game and many tournaments’ six-figure prize pools. Be it Texas Hold ‘Em poker, Omaha Hi-lo or stud poker, skill and mental fortitude can carry the day. Live poker is all about strategy – so there are all kinds of advice passed down from the long time poker card pros like Chris Moorman and Martin Jacobson: to be on time, to not party too hard, to play more numerous hands in the early rounds of tournaments to get ahead. The list goes on and on. Remember, it’s a competition as much as a holiday. For a lot of the more serious poker players, taking part in several big titles throughout the course of a year might even form part of a career. They might even dedicate their working lives to travelling the globe around a certain circuit continuously. In such cases any advice from above is likely welcome! Characters like these are likely relying on placing in tournaments to continue funding their worldwide lifestyles, after all, with small poker table wins being reinvested into their career and big wins leading to poker fame and retirement. Right?
The Bigger They Are…
Right. Because someone has to be top dog. A cursory glance over some of modern history’s largest poker tournaments is proof enough, with the 2006 World Series of Poker event being just one example. The 2006 world series totalled an $82 million total prize pool over its many events, all of which ended up being hosted in the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. A glitzy destination, and yet the majority of attendees would be going home in disappoint. Jamie Gold, however, would not. Jamie won the Final Table of the event, claiming a $12 million prize. This would go down as the fourth largest single payout in poker history; Gold would go on to claim that the blueberries he snacked on during the event were the source of his victory. He called them “brain food”.