The start of any year is usually filled with a glut of poker tournaments and 2018 is no different. In January alone, the newly reborn PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, the Aussie Millions, the World Poker Tour’s inaugural European Championship, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in Hollywood, FL, the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open and the start of the venerable L. A. Poker Classic take over the schedule. This isn’t even counting in the smaller tournaments from the World Series of Poker Circuit, the Heartland Poker Tour, or the Mid-States Poker Tour. Now another event will vie for the attention of the poker audience and the players themselves.
Beginning on February 1, the U. S. Poker Open (probably not called the United States Poker Open because that title is owned elsewhere) will take place at ARIA in Las Vegas. The eight-event schedule will not feature a tournament with a buy in under $10,000 and its Championship Event will be a $50,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament starting on February 9. All the action will be broadcast through the streaming services of PokerGO.
“The U. S. Poker Open is our newest marquee tournament positioned to kick off the high-stakes tournament calendar,” said Joe Kakaty, the president of Poker Central. “Our lineup of quarterly majors gives PokerGO subscribers year-round access to some of the best high-stakes poker in the world.”
The eight-tournament schedule does cover pretty much any variant of the game that exists. The kickoff tournament will be a $10K NLHE tournament, but February 2 brings a change of pace with a $10,000 Pot Limit Omaha event. Event #3 on the schedule kicks the stakes up with a $25,000 NLHE tournament. But the highlight for some players on the schedule will come on February 5.
On that date, a $25,000 Mixed Game Championship will be held. This mixed game tournament won’t be your run-of-the-mill H.O.R.S.E. event, instead it will feature an eight-game challenge for the players. Deuce to Seven Lowball Triple Draw, Limit Hold’em, No Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Pot Limit Omaha, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo are the featured variants and players will be allowed one re-entry into the event.
This one event could be the “make or break” tournament of the schedule. Daniel Negreanu, a longtime partner and supporter of Poker Central, has said that the High Roller format has become stale, with the same players at the top simply shuffling the money around. By putting in the mixed game format, Negreanu feels it will bring different skills to the fore (not to mention different players) and, with hope, hype the interest of the audience for the tournaments being held.
It could also have the opposite effect. For many years, the mixed games events at the WSOP were broadcast. In recent years, however, there has been no stream of the games, in part because of the low number of players but also the difficulty in explaining the games to newcomers. It is the dance that televised poker has had to do – cater to the casual player while keeping the hard core pokerites interested in the proceedings.
The addition of the Mixed Game format could also be a bit of sour grapes by Negreanu. With the “young guns” of the poker world running rampant over the High Roller and Super High Roller tournaments worldwide, Negreanu isn’t garnering the attention that he once commanded at these events. In addition, he’s perhaps feeling the heat from players like Dan Colman and Fedor Holz, who are rapidly approaching his perch at the top of the all-time money earners list.
The question for the new U. S. Poker Open will be if there will be enough players to go around. Even though it is the start of a new year, smart players will have their bankrolls stretched to the max should they want to hit all the events in January alone. Additionally, most of the poker action will be on the East Coast of the country and outside the U. S., not in Las Vegas. In a couple of months, however, we will find out whether the U. S. Poker Open as created by PokerGO will be a success.