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Deep Stack Poker Trend Slowly Becoming the Norm

Casinos Desire to Be Competitive Benefits Consumer

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The poker renaissance has placed cardrooms in casinos around the country and filled them with an influx of new players who are driving the poker industry to new heights. Poker is now big enough that when a casino's poker-playing customers talk, the managers listen. In cities where there are more than one poker room and casinos have to compete with each, the poker player ends up as the ultimate winner.

The new trend of deep-stack tournaments is a direct result of cardrooms making moves to ensure customer satisfaction among large markets. All tournament poker players, no matter their skill levels, want to compete in tournaments that allow for a lot of play. Unfortunately, tournaments with buy-ins that most of us could afford ($60-$330) usually came with a fraction of the starting chips and much shorter blinds levels compared to larger buy-in events.

But slowly this trend is changing, and poker players are starting to see more deep-stack tournaments spread for their pleasure. The Venetian led the way, starting in 2007 when it held its first Deep-Stack Extravaganza (DSE). Its DSEs are a collection of reasonably-priced tournaments ($300-$1,000) that feature larger-than-normal starting stacks and an extended blind structure. Players love them. Fields have been huge, giving players a chance to win thousands of dollars for the relatively cheap entry price.

Kathy Raymond, the Venetian’s poker room manager who helped usher in the DSE era at the Venetian, said the DSEs are a way to stay competitive in a crowded market.

“For years, many tournaments have been short-stacked with accelerated blind structures,” Raymond said. “I believe that casinos are spreading more and more deep-stack tournaments to try to remain competitive, and I do not see this trend changing anytime in the near future.”

During its DSE II (which took place last summer during the 2007 World Series of Poker), the casino processed 14,776 entries in 30 tournaments. More than $7 million in prize pools was generated and won in these tournaments. That means that during the month of June, players won thousands of dollars in these events daily. Satellites for the events ran most of the day and helped fill the tourneys.

“What it all comes down to really is what does the player want?” Raymond said. “Without giving player satisfaction, your volume of participants will not increase. It makes good business sense to make sure that players are happy. A perfect example is our daily deep-stack tournaments. [Friday's] noon tournament [with a $150 buy-in] had over 170 players.”

A third DSE is scheduled to take place at the Venetian from Feb. 4-14. Click here for the schedule.

The Venetian showed the poker world a formula for success, and other casinos have followed with branded deep-stack events. There’s one going on this week at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles called Mo’s Deep Stack. It features a handful of tournaments costing $300 or $500, with a $1,600 championship taking place Saturday. Click here for the schedule.

Last week, the Larry Flynt’s Challenge Cup adopted a deep-stack formula to give its players a more satisfying experience. Patee McGuire, the casino’s poker room manager, said the reason was easy.

“This could be the wave of the future,” McGuire said. “Players like these tournaments for obvious reasons — they start with more chips, feel more confident with the deep stack, and have the ability to play comfortably for longer periods.”

The spirit of competition is evident just down the street from the Venetian at Caesars Palace. The casino holds daily deep-stack tournaments at noon each day of the week. Sunday through Thursday, a $200 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament features 7,500 in chips and a 40-minute blinds clock, while on Friday and Saturday, $330 buy-in events start with 10,000 in chips.

And, with thousands of players playing in these events annually, it’s likely that the deep-stack structure will spread to other competitive poker markets, making the trend the norm, which would mean more tournament play for players of all levels.