For the last several days, poker players have been frustrated with The Venetian Las Vegas. Refreshingly, I might add, none of the frustration has to do with Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson. Instead, people are talking about an October tournament series at The Venetian called the $225,000 Lucky Shot Poker Series & Drawing.

Looks like any other series

The Lucky Shot Poker Series features six poker tournaments, five of which are the focus of this discussion. In fact, we’ll drill down further and look at one tournament, specifically, as it is effectively the “main event” of this series. It is Event #1, a $250 buy-in, $150,000 “Total Prize Pool” No-Limit Hold’em tourney with six starting flights.

When you look at the tournament schedule and the structure sheet, it looks like any other tournament at first glance. It looks like a $250 tourney with a $150,000 guaranteed prize pool. But here’s the thing: it’s not. And that’s what has gotten people upset.

Until you look at “Total Prize Pool”

It is a $150,000 “Total Prize Pool” tournament. If you examine the structure sheet and scroll down to the ninth rule in the list of “General Rules,” it explains that “100% of all funds collected will go to meet the $150,000 Total Prize Pool. Any funds collected above and beyond the total prize pool will be the sole property of The Venetian Poker Room.”

This means that while no rake is taken from the buy-in, the prize pool will be $150,000 no matter what. So, $150,000 is guaranteed in the strictest sense of the word, but unlike in every other tournament most of us have ever seen, it is also limited to $150,000. Normally, if the buy-ins take the prize pool over the guarantee the prize pool just keeps climbing.

This is what is pissing people off. Though the rules state how everything works, a lot of people don’t concern themselves with reading the fine print, especially for lower buy-in tournaments. You see the buy-in, the start time, and what looks like a guaranteed prize pool, and you sit down to play. It feels almost scammy for The Venetian to use a guaranteed prize pool (excuse me – “total” prize pool) and a prize drawing to attract players only to keep the excess buy-ins above $150,000.

To be clear, it is not a scam, it just has a bad odor to it.

And that drawing is fishy, too. Players receive one drawing ticket for every $250 in buy-ins they pay across five tournaments. They then have to be present on October 27th, which happens to be Day 2 of the $250 event, during a two-hour window in order to receive their physical tickets and then must be present to claim their winnings if their name is drawn. It definitely seems like the intention is to make people stay and possible drop more buy-ins just for a chance to get lucky.

In The Venetian’s defense, all of the buy-in is applied toward the prize pools of the five tournaments in question, so if they were regular tournaments with a normal rake, more entries would be required to meet the guarantee. The drawing adds $52,000 in prizes, as well.

But to the poker community, it all seems very gimmicky in a way that feels like The Venetian is trying to trick players. There is nothing about it that is dishonest – it is just a different way to run a tournament – but it is rubbing poker players the wrong way.

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