Thoughts from the Chicago Poker Classic
Since Black Friday, it's gotten to be pretty hard to get one's poker on in the U.S. However, I was able to do just that over the past weekend at the Chicago Poker Classic.
The venue for the Chicago Poker Classic, located just 15 minutes outside of downtown Chicago in northwest Indiana, is tops in the U.S. Obviously Las Vegas during the WSOP cannot be beat. But as far as non-Vegas poker in the U.S. goes, Chicago might only be second to the poker rooms around Los Angeles.
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What makes the Chicago Poker Classic so great is really simple: Chicago. Anytime you can put a poker venue large enough to accommodate a ton of players near a metropolitan area, it's going to be awesome. People aren't going to travel hours and hours to play small(ish) buy-in poker tournaments, but they'll travel a few minutes if that's all it takes.
The organizers at the Chicago Poker Classic hit a homerun this year with their $350 buy-in, $1 million guarantee tournament with six starting days. This event more than any I've played before embodies exactly on the head for what the poker masses are looking for out of a live tournament: a gigantic prize-pool, a realistic buy-in, and several chances to get back in the action if you bust out.
Not only could players re-enter the $350 on subsequent starting days, but they could also re-enter within the first eight levels on the same day following a bust out. What's more, is even if you made day two you could still keep playing the tournament. Organizers remove your shortest day two stack and reward you with $3,000 in cash for it. Carter Myers won $9,000 through this approach (that's right, made day two four times of the same tournament... not bad).
Here are a few things organizers could have done differently for the Chicago Poker Classic:
•start the action with 4 levels of 75/150 instead of 25/50
•expand breaks from 10 minutes to 15 minutes, 10 minutes is pretty short for such a large venue with hundreds of players rushing to the same bathroom
•a 90 minute dinner break instead of 60 since dining options are limited at and immediately nearby the venue
•supply the venue with a wifi network capable of handling player demand
•install a phone charging station (charge money to use it if necessary)
Poker in Chicago seems to have what it takes to grow substantially in popularity. A new poker room opening in an altogether different area of town could fragment the virtual monopoly that Caesars Entertainment maintains through their Horseshoe Hammond property. However, maybe a little competition is a good thing.
Presently, Horseshoe Hammond has its limitations as a venue. The casino is not attached to any hotel. This means out-of-town poker grinders must choose from some pretty unsavory options around what is the armpit of Chicago or deal with a commuting in from downtown (which presents added expenses for budget-conscious grinders).
Additionally, with the exception of a WSOP-Circuit event in the fall, there is little "prestige" associated with Chicago poker. It would be a boon to the scene if the World Poker Tour nixed one of their less popular stops in favor of a newly-created Chicago event. Los Angeles thrives thanks in part to a couple of annual WPT stops. Chicago has the makings of a TV-worthy major live poker tournament scene.
It would be nice to see the powers that be get a little more aggressive in marketing Chicago as a premier annual stop on the giant roaming live poker tournament series. Chicago may be second to only Vegas in its potential as a destination for where the most money in the poker economy changes hands.