Someone put at the reigns of one of the biggest and most prestigious poker tournament series would seemingly be inclined to keep things at status quo for as long as possible, and continue to rake in cash hand over fist. The LA Poker Classic is not just any series, though, and while it is incredibly successful year after year Tournament Director Matt Savage is interested in anything but maintaining the status quo.
Now in his seventh year as TD for the LAPC, Savage – who’s also the Executive Tour Director of the WPT – is all smiles when it comes to how the 2015 LAPC played out.
“The series has been great,” said Savage. “We took a little risk this year, we put some big guarantees in without having re-entries; we really went away from the same heat re-entry as a way to not only drive players to play other events, and save their bankroll for other events, but also to allow them to be able to play the cash games downstairs.”
Their success paid off in a big way. Of the 52 events at the LAPC that offered guarantees, only two missed the mark – including a number of $250,000 and $500,000 Guaranteed that easily cleared their marks.
Going away from same heat re-entries, which have been the major driver behind massive prizepools for tournaments at the Commerce (and subsequently around the world), would certainly worry some bosses. It’s been Savage’s mission in the last few years, as he’s stated multiple times, and he really put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the 2015 LAPC. It would be natural, then, for there to be questions and issues with such a dramatic change, even with somebody as tenured and successful as Savage.
“None,” Savage said emphatically of troubles with management. “Jeff Harris is our manager here, and he is supportive of it. I always feel like even though we created re-entry here, I think that it really hurts the poker economy because you have people that are blowing all their money in one event at the beginning of the series, not having enough money to play other events, or staying in an event too long so they don’t get to play satellites or mega satellites.”
The prospect of going one-and-done in a tournament that required cross-country travel has led the World Poker Tour, among other organizations, to allow players extra chances if they bust out early. The WPT Main Event at the LAPC, however, has held steadfast in allowing only one opportunity to make a run at the title. There’s also only one starting session, a distinction it shares on the WPT with only the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio.
From Savage’s perspective, and reflected in field size numbers for one of the few remaining $10,000 buy-ins, it gives the LAPC an air of prestige.
“It’s the only event that has no re-entry, again I’m a very strong supporter of that here,” said Savage, “It’s like a real championship event. I talked about it earlier on Twitter, if you want to put up what poker’s majors are I think this belongs in the conversation.”
Few venues could attract and hold a series and a WPT Main Event like the LAPC, but there are a few obvious factors in play. In terms of sheer size, few could measure up to the Commerce’s cash game offerings. With more than 150 tables in action during peak weekend hours, the cash games and tournaments form a symbiotic relationship that benefits both entities significantly.
Some players don’t even make the trip upstairs to the ballroom to play tournaments, choosing instead to jump into the massive cash games that are filled with poker players in town for the series and Commerce regulars alike.
“A lot of times I’ll go downstairs and see players that I haven’t even seen up in the tournament room because they’ve just come for the cash games,” said Savage. “Patrik Antonius hasn’t played a single tournament here, but he’s here all month. David Benymine, I haven’t seen him all month, he’s been playing cash games down there. Daniel Alaei, these guys are playing $1,000/$2,000 down there, big, huge, PLO games.”
“When the action’s that good they’re down there playing the cash games, they don’t even make it up to the tournaments. Sometimes first place [in one of these tournaments] can be won and lost in a single pot. I think they choose to play here because we have the most selection and most action at the Commerce of anywhere in the world. I have no problem with that; I think that the tournaments support the cash games, and cash games support the tournaments. It’s a great place to play.”
That kind of insight has benefited the Commerce in a big way during Savage’s tenure, and not just in allowing him to see the big picture. In tandem with Commerce’s Casino Shift Manager Sam Quinto and a host of other bright minds, the LAPC is a breeding ground for all kinds of innovative tournament offerings. 2015 was no exception, with one of the most infamous formats front and center once again.
“We had the Ironman, but we also had a couple of new events,” said Savage. “One was the ‘Time’s Up’ event, which played 8 hours and then the tournament was over, which was a good one. We also had the Escalator, which players seemed to really like. It’s just ideas of mine, and [we] come from just trying to create something different. If you just had straight, No Limit Hold ‘em tournaments every day, I think players would tire of them a little bit. Keeping things fresh, I think that’s our main goal here, and keeping people excited about coming back here day after day.”
“With those new events you don’t always get the biggest numbers, because people are afraid, or don’t know what they are,” said Savage. “But I think once you introduce some [new formats] to them, I think that some do fall in love with them, and hopefully come back again next year and play that same event.”
It doesn’t always come easy, though. Between Savage, Quinto, Director of Business Development John Griffo and almost the entire management and floor staff of the Commerce, to say nothing of the hundreds of dealers and other Commerce employees, it’s all hands on deck for the LAPC.
“Sam Quinto left to become a shift manager at Commerce, and they are tough shoes to fill,” said Savage, “But Jeffrey King has done a great job this LAPC.”
The attention has turned to the WPT Main Event now, and hopes are high that they can eclipse last year’s turnout.
“Throughout the series [we’ve had] really good numbers,” said Savage. “I didn’t expect this big of a start here for this event, so I’m excited to see that we already have [as many as we do]. Hoping that we can eclipse last years number of 534.”
They’re on a good pace through six levels, and with registration open until 1:45 pm PST Sunday they might just blow that number away.
— Matt Savage (@SavagePoker) March 1, 2015
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