A night of pub poker fun

By: Jonno Pittock

Forget what you think you know about pub poker.  Last night I went to a local venue for a $20 tournament and could not believe what I saw.  I had organised a catch up with former Crown Poker Tournament Director Mike Tarr, and then put out an open call on Facebook for people to join us for a few beers and a laugh.  The tournament was scheduled to start at 7.30pm, and given that I lived less than 10 minutes away from the venue I thought leaving at 7.00pm would give me plenty of time to drive there, park, meet up with the guys and register for the tourney.  How wrong I was…

Pulling up to the venue it became apparent pretty quickly that it was going to be busy inside as there was nowhere to park.  Once I finally found a spot and made my way inside, I was met with a massive crowd of people and I knew then that finding everyone was going to be difficult.  There were literally hundreds of people milling around, and I could make out what seemed to be two distinct lines.  One had about 40 people in it, and the other had about a dozen.  As it turned out, the shorter line was for players buying their entries at the bar and the other was for people who had already bought in and were waiting to register.  It is essentially a two-step registration process where you pay the bartender, he prints you out a ticket, which you then take to the Tournament Director to be entered into their system and given a table and seat number.  All up, it took about ten minutes from start to finish and was actually pretty seamless.  Excluding the bar staff, there were only two guys running the tournament, and one of them was tied up entering players into the system and signing up new members.  I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I looked out across 20+ tables and thought back to writing rosters in the Poker Room, where I would have had at least three people running an event that size, on top of the 20 dealers.  These guys were obviously working hard, but did it well, and managed to engage all the players in the process – mentioning players by name, helping the waiters with locations of food orders and commentating the ongoing action on the microphone.

In the end, there were a total of 171 entries, forming a prize pool of $3,420.  The tournament ran eight-handed and paid the top 16, with an almost perfect payout structure.  Min-cash got double their money with $1,000 for first.  In almost every sense it was a traditional, multi-table, real money tournament - with only one exception.  It was self-dealt.  I had played a couple of these events a few years ago so I thought I knew what to expect, but again, how wrong I was.  I played on three different tables with about 45-50 different players throughout the night and the overwhelming majority of them knew what they were doing.  Each had their own unique way of shuffling the cards, but made sure it was done thoroughly, and having the button cut the cards meant there was no risk of mechanic (after all, it is $1,000 up top!).  Players generally followed the action and the game moved at a steady rate, I was surprised at how many hands we got in. 

We started with a mountain of chips – 50k with the blinds starting at 100/200.  Yes, that’s right – 250BBs!  It didn’t last long as the blinds went up pretty steeply at fifteen-minute intervals, but it ensured everybody got to play at least a couple hours of relatively deep-stacked poker before it started getting too ridiculous.  Taking into account the buy-in, structure, prize pool distribution and the fact that there was NO COMMISSION, I can easily say that it was the best value poker event I have ever played – and it was less than ten minutes from my front door!

The atmosphere there was hard to describe, there was a definite buzz in the air.  When the first player was eliminated, the Tournament Director announced it on the microphone and pointed him out and the whole tournament broke out into “Na na naa na, hey hey hey, gooooodbye!”.  He took it in his stride, bowed and walked over to the TAB.  When the final entry number was announced, everyone cheered and hi-fived each other that they had gotten such a great turnout.  Again, I smiled, as it reminded me of running the old Thursday night tourneys with Ozzie, trying to beat each other’s record every week.  There was no “us against them” mentality happening last night, just a genuine excitement that the tournament was such a success, and the feeling that we were all in it together.

Whether it was due to the Aussie Millions recently being shown on free-to-air TV, or the WSOP APAC coming in a couple weeks time, or riding off the back of the recent pub poker Main Event – it doesn’t matter.  For whatever reason, poker is booming in the suburbs and there is money to be made.  These prize pools are nothing to be sneezed at.  Whenever there is a tournament that pays the top 10%, 2x buy-in min-cash and scales up to 50x buy-in for first prize AND has such an incredibly soft field, if time permits I will be there.  In the end I basically bubbled last night coming 21st, but I had a great time doing it.  In short, it was FUN.

Until next time…

Follow Jonno on Twitter @JonnoPittock