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The Big Bet

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa has gone all in to make sure the World Series of Poker's 46-event, 13-day tournament is a memory maker and possible moneymaker for spectators and players.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
February 28, 2018

Last year, quite a few Tulsans experienced something most of the world has only seen on television. For a second year in a row, they’re going to do it again at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

Since the poker boom of 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event as an amateur, millions of new, inspired players from all over the world have anted up and put their poker faces on. Online poker rooms and casino tables have boomed.

To be fair, that was 15 years ago. There’s been talk that a little bit of the luster has worn off. Fans of the game and those close to the industry might say it was the April 15, 2011, United States versus Scheinberg indictment against the online poker industry — often dubbed Black Friday by the online poker community — that was the heaviest blow.

However, the WSOP circuit is far from closing its tables.

With the economy on a strong and steady rise, any decline in poker room attendance over the last seven years looks to be eclipsed by an explosion of tournament entries the likes of which have never been seen. Thanks to the poker gods and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, the 918’s hottest poker players are getting another seat at the table during a circuit event.

Anyone who has never visited Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa will be blown away by what is arguably one of the best poker rooms in the area.
‍Anyone who has never visited Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa will be blown away by what is arguably one of the best poker rooms in the area.

Byron Long, senior manager of card games for Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, has gone all in, using everything in his arsenal to make sure the 46-event, 13-day tournament is a guaranteed memory maker. With a $1 million championship final event, it’s not just an assured moneymaker for the last player standing, but also a lot of other winners. Last year’s event saw over 7,500 entries, paying out over $2.5 million to entrants. Big names in the poker community, including the likes of Justin Gardenhire and others, will attest to the attention to detail and comfort for all the WSOP entries.

“The feedback we got from the players last year,” says Long, “is that room set up and the comfort of the space we put the tournament in is the most comfortable the players have experienced. Sometimes tournaments happen on concrete floors, but being on the Hard Rock property, the comfortable carpet flooring, the climate-controlled rooms, the 360-degree viewing of games during March Madness, for example, makes it a great place to participate in a tournament.”

Long doesn’t like to brag, but he’s proud of everyone involved in the event and is sure it will be a tournament not to be missed.

“The preparation that our teams at Hard Rock pulled off for last year’s event was unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. We spent a lot of time meeting players, and there were very few problems,” he says. “I attribute that directly to the preparation Hard Rock put into planning the event. We take a lot of pride in making a good first impression, and it showed during the tournament.”

Players like Maurice Hawkins, Daniel Lowery (above) and Oklahoma’s own Will Berry, the returning champion, are expected to take part in the tournament.
Players like Maurice Hawkins, Daniel Lowery (above) and Oklahoma’s own Will Berry, the returning champion, are expected to take part in the tournament. 

The tournament’s director for this WSOP circuit event has little doubt it will be another tremendous event because Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is ready to provide entrants with little perks they may not be expecting.

“Last year we created a players' lounge, close to the tournament area,” says Long, “where players could sit and relax between playing. They can order drinks and food and watch the ongoing action through live television feeds on big projector screens.”

Anyone who has never visited Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa will be blown away by what is arguably one of the best poker rooms in the area. The room is non-smoking. Sixteen televisions, three of which are a whopping 80 inches of HD goodness, are mounted for perfect views. Fourteen fantastic tables strategically placed around the room make it a spacious experience, which any card player will attest is quite comfortable, because bystanders don’t have to invade anyone’s personal space as they play.

Considering that poker players can potentially sit for hours and hours, Long says that little things like the complimentary bottles of water, unlimited snacks and being able to charge personal devices are important elements.

Other big names like Maurice Hawkins, Daniel Lowery and Oklahoma’s own Will Berry, the returning champion, are expected to take part in the tournament. Berry, from Norman, Okla., is one of the WSOP circuit’s fastest rising stars. Seeing him sitting at this year’s final table would be no surprise.

This year’s circuit event has buy-ins ranging from $65 at the low end to $2,200. Anyone bringing money to the table is welcome to join for a chance at that championship take home, as well as all the other chances to win.

Now in its eighth year, the WSOP circuit culminates at the Global Casino Championship (formerly the national championship). The GCC is an exclusive, invitation-only event with a minimum prize pool of $1 million. At each stop on the circuit, which includes the Tulsa event, the main event winner earns a free seat to the GCC. The player with the most points in the 12 official open-ring events during each circuit stop also earns a seat. They’ll join the top 50 players and other qualifiers on the season-long leader board.

In addition, another 100 players from the 2017 WSOP player-of-the-year race each have the right to buy in to the GCC for $10,000. Any ring winner from the 2017-2018 season also has that right.

LOCATOR
World Series of Poker
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
800-760-6700
hardrockcasinotulsa.com/casino/wsop
March 15-26

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