Can Poker’s Biggest Whales Help The WSOP End Aria’s Summer High Roller Dominance?

Martin Derbyshire May 18, 2018 1691 Reads
High Roller

Up until now, the World Series of Poker has been operating under the philosophy that if they run it, players will come.

The series’ unprecedented track record of success has seen it draw record entry numbers across the board almost every year. Whether they give players more chips, more time, or charge them more rake, most, if not all of the gimmick events the WSOP rolls out always draw big numbers.

They run it and players come. In fact, the WSOP has literally had the Midas touch when it comes to poker tournaments since 2003.

However, this summer, they will heading into uncharted territory.

This year, the WSOP will be making a major effort to keep high rollers at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino Las Vegas. High Rollers have traditionally been more interested in playing down the street at Aria Resort & Casino.

It really marks the first time the WSOP is really competing with anyone for business. They’ve simply run over everyone else who has tried to take them on for the past 15-plus years.

The King’s Lounge High Roller Series

How they plan to keep poker’s best and most affluent players on site is no secret. The WSOP will be running a high roller tournament series that may offer even better value than the one Aria has run alongside the WSOP the past few summers.

The King’s Lounge High Roller Series will consist of a group of $25,000 buy-in and up tournaments. They will run every weekend from Friday, June 1 to Sunday, July 8.

All the tournaments are one-day events. There are no bracelets up for grabs, but if the events draw decently, there should be some big money on the line.

The King’s Lounge is a high roller area the WSOP installed in the Pavilion Ballroom last year. It is sponsored by King’s Casino, the Rozvadov, Czech Republic poker-focused casino that began hosting WSOP Europe last year. It has really become the home of the game in Europe despite its remote locale.

The lounge will play host to three high rollers every weekend throughout the schedule, including:

  • $25,000 No-Limit Hold’em Fridays at 8 p.m.
  • $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Saturdays at 8 p.m.
  • $50,000 No-Limit Hold’em Sundays at 8 p.m.

All three tournaments are of the unlimited re-entry variety, with re-entry and late registration open through ten levels.

All three will also be played with a shot clock and a big blind ante. A move that fits in with high roller trends around the globe.

The $25,000 events will take 2.1 percent out of the prize pool for entry fees and another 0.9 percent for tournament dealers and staff.

That amounts to three percent rake on $25,000 events and two percent on $50,000 tournaments. Numbers that bring us to the first bit of value these events are offering high rollers.

The 2018 Aria Summer High Roller Series

Make no mistake about it, the King’s Lounge High Roller Series is running right up against the 2018 Aria Summer High Roller Series.

Aria’s series will run May 25 to July 9. It kicks off with a $100,000 + 2,000 Super High Roller that has just two percent rake.

However, it also features as many as 16 different $25,000 + 1,000 High Roller events charging four percent rake. There’s also a small group of $10,000 + 500 events with five percent rake at the beginning of July.

One might not think a savings of $250 per $25,000 event would make that much of a difference to a high roller. However, that can add up over a lengthy series. Plus, high rollers are value hunters by nature. You may have heard the saying that the wealthiest people in this world didn’t get there by giving away money. The same is true in the poker world.

There is some real value there. So, the rake break might be one reason high rollers choose King’s Lounge over Aria this summer. However, there is another.

Bum-hunting

High rollers hunt value by looking for more than just less rake. They seek out weakness and try to exploit it in any way they can. They want to play where they have an edge and will fly all over the world to find even the slightest increase in expected value.

Put it this way: if all other things are equal, and two high roller events run on the same day, most professional high stakes players are going to try to play in the one with the weakest field.

If they are guaranteed to be up against all pros at Aria, but a field full of 50 percent fun and recreational players are over at the WSOP, most will play the WSOP event.

Some call it bum-hunting. Others say its common sense. Either way, its a fact of high roller life and it brings us to the other bit of value the King’s Lounge events may offer over Aria.

Poker’s biggest whales

King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik made some big headlines for allegedly refusing to pay out millions in losses to poker players including Elton Tsang and Matt Kirk. By most accounts, Tsoukernik has been dumping untold millions in high stakes cash games and tournaments around the world over the past few years. The Kirk and Tsang losses represent just a drop in the bucket.

The stories of “Loose” Leon’s losing are legendary. He’s quickly developed a reputation as poker’s biggest fish. A whale of extraordinary proportions. The likes of which have not been seen since billionaire Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté allegedly lost as much as $25 million playing online poker under various screenames like LadyMarmalade and Elmariachimacho.

The name of a recreational player on the banner like Tsoukernik, or at least his King’s Casino, may mean the King’s Lounge High Roller Series are where the real fish are this summer. A move that’s sure to attract the sharks.

We’ll have to wait until July to see whether the King’s can outdraw the Aria. Perhaps there’s more to drawing high rollers than just a little value and a few horrible recs.

However, all signs point to King’s and the WSOP giving it a real shot. Even if they have to dangle poker’s biggest fish as bait to give them one.

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