Obscure Poker Tournament Destinations
Poker offers it's participants a rare chance to travel to various destinations in the spirit of competition. Places that many poker players might not otherwise get the chance to see, such as Monte Carlo, the Bahamas, and Melbourne, Australia, each play home to a major poker tournament every year. But for most people, making it to a place like Melbourne or Monte Carlo once before they die probably doesn't necessitate being a hold'em player. There are, however, some spots on the globe so obscure that if it wasn't for their playing host to a major poker tournament, most poker players would almost certainly never visit in their lives. This Weekly Shuffle is dedicated to precisely those locations.
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Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
How many poker players can say they had heard of Vanderbijlpark, South Africa prior to learning what a "turn" and "river" were? Probably not many. Heck, most poker players probably still have never heard of the city. But Vanderbijlpark, South Africa is precisely where the inaugural WSOP Africa kicks off one week from today. The city of 220,000, many of them workers in the steel industry, is also home to the Emerald Casino and Resort. Harrah's Entertainment tagged the property to play host for it's first-ever WSOP Africa event. The WSOP Africa events will be part of the WSOP Circuit. Event winners will receive a gold WSOP Circuit ring.
Previously, South Africa's largest claim to fame in the poker world was Raymond Rahme's 3rd place finish in the 2007 WSOP Main Event. His $3.4 million in earnings from that tournament remain five times more than any other South African's total career tournament winnings.
Prior to this year, Tallinn, Estonia meant about as much to the average poker player as Antarctica. That was before European Poker Tour officials decided to launch the seventh season of their roving tournament series in Estonia's capital and largest city. Last August, 420 poker players descended on the beautiful city of over 400,000 inhabitants. Norwegian Kevin Stani emerged victorious in the Main Event capturing a first place prize of €400,000.
If it weren't for the World Poker Tour, the history of major live poker tournaments held in North Africa would be non-existent. In 2009, the WPT decided to take a gamble by holding a stop in Marrakech, Morocco. Despite having over one million residents, Marrakech doesn't exactly make the top of many poker destination lists. The Marrakech gamble proved successful for the WPT; over 400 players showed up for the €4,500 buy-in championship. Frenchman Christophe Savary triumphed over the field to capture the €379,000 first place prize.
Since it worked the first time, why not try it again? Next month, the WPT returns to Marrakech this time for a €5,000 buy-in championship event.
WSOP officials are giving poker players an excuse to visit a town they would have otherwise almost certainly never encountered: the population 16,000 city of Durant, Oklahoma. The city, located in southern Oklahoma just across from the Texas border, was tagged to host a new WSOP Circuit event this January. The championship event will have a buy-in of $1,600. WSOP officials hope to attract players living in Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa which are all a short drive away.
The island of Cyprus, located just south of Turkey, is home to just 790,000 people. Last year, it also became home to a $10,000 buy-in WPT championship. An impressive 181 players joined together for that event which was won by Thomas Bichon for $580,000. This year, the island once again played host to a major live tournament. WPT disassociated themselves from the event, but the second largest online poker room picked up the slack to sponsor a tournament in Cyprus. The event drew exactly 181 players for the second year in a row. German pro Andreas Krause came out on top to capture a $415,000 payday.
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Although their soccer team is pretty good, Uruguay is not exactly high on many "places to see before I die" lists. But poker players have had a good reason to visit Punta del Este, a small resort city in the southern tip of Uruguay, for the past three years. The inaugural Latin American Poker Tour schedule included a stop in Uruguay. Since an impressive 351 players turned up for that 2008 event, LAPT officials have kept Punta del Este on their schedule ever since.
In February, Jose "Nacho" Barbero won the Main Event for $279,000. Three months later, he made poker history by winning the very next LAPT event in Lima, Peru. To put Jose's accomplishment into perspective: in over six seasons of the European Poker Tour, there has never been a two-time champion. Barbero not only became a two-time LAPT champion, but he did it by winning back-to-back tournaments.