The Venetian Poker Room in Las Vegas has drawn the ire of the poker community and this time it has nothing to do with the politics of online poker opponent Sheldon Adelson.
The Venetian’s upcoming Lucky Shot Poker Series and Drawing takes place beginning on October 21 and promises players a series of seven tournaments, six of which have an attractive ‘Total Prize Pool’ number attached.
For example, the spotlight tournament of the series boasts a $150,000 ‘total prize pool’ for a mere $250 buy-in.
The is a discussion centered around the use of the term ‘total prize pool’ which is being used in place of the industry-standard ‘guarantee’. The Venetian is using this wording for good reason as a closer look at the fine print on the tournament structure sheet reveals.
“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.”
No matter how many players show up for the tournament, the prize pool will be $150,000. Yes, it’s a guarantee of sorts in that it’s both a minimum but it’s also a maximum. No matter how much money players put into the tournament, the most money The Venetian will payout is $150,000 – it’s a guarantee unlike any poker tournament before it, one that limits the upside of the players and gives the house unlimited potential to rake.
The Lucky Shot Poker Series & Drawing is a unique series where we are offering $225,00 in total prizes. This includes $52,000 in Drawing prizes that players can win just for playing in those events. Official Rules will be posted online soon.
— Tommy LaRosa (@VenetianTD) September 12, 2019
The $250 buy-in tournament has six starting flights and re-entry through eight 30-minute levels for each starting flight. The tournament needs to get 600 players to reach the $150,000 mark. After that though, the prize pool sees no increase.
The Venetian is running a tournament where they keep all the prize pool above the guarantee. They use the term “total prize pool” and put the rest in the fine print on the structure sheet. Shame on you @VenetianPoker, this is terrible. https://t.co/D9BFU2wfgG
— Chris Wallace (@foxpokerfox) September 12, 2019
— Vegastripreport (@Vegastripreport) September 13, 2019
The Venetian Poker Room confirmed Friday afternoon that no matter how many players show up and buy-in, the prize pool will not go up or down.
The Venetian Poker Room is disregarding the industry-standard model of a guarantee where there’s a minimum prize pool with the upside of even more money being added depending on player attendance. The Lucky Shot Series $250 spotlight tournament has an enticing structure for recreational players with a 25,000 starting stack and 30-minute levels for Day 1. With so much time and opportunity for players to enter, the $150,000 prize pool could be considered a modest number with theoretical unlimited upside for collecting rake.
In a traditional model, the $250 tournament would likely be broken down into $200 for the prize pool and $50 going to the house as rake. In that model, 750 players would need to show up to hit the $150,000 guarantee as the Venetian would collect $37,500 in that scenario. For every player above that, $200 goes into the prize pool and the Venetian would take their standard cut of $50.
In this ‘total prize pool’ model – 600 players are needed to hit the prize pool number and after that, the house begins to collect. The next 150 players to enter bring the Venetian what they would have made in the traditional model. Every player after that is 100% rake.
Every entry after #750 makes the tournament less valuable for everyone already playing and more valuable for the house. Players need to battle through larger fields without the promise of larger rewards while the Venetian reaps more money per player with every entry.
There is a caveat to this math and this series in particular. For the Lucky Shot Poker Series, The Venetian is also holding a drawing at the end of the series where every $250 tournament entry gives players a ticket for a drawing of $52,000 in prizes. Should that be $52,000 in cash prizes (and not $52,000 worth of prizes like meals, rooms and other items with more arbitrary value), that’s another 208 players at $250 each needed to cover that portion of the prizes.
It appears that the Venetian is betting on two things. The first, that they can bring in more than 750 players for the series Main Event. If they fail to hit 750, but the field still exceeds 600, then they simply make less money than they would with a traditional guarantee. If somehow the field is less than 600, then they don’t have a traditional rake to help cover any potential overlay.
The second thing they are betting on is that players will see the $150,000 headline number and either not see the ‘total prize pool’ qualifier (thinking it’s a traditional guarantee) or they simply will not care. Many professionals players continue to support the Venetian poker room despite the well-known anti-online poker stance of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.
The Lucky Shot Poker Series may indeed be aptly named. Not for the potential earnings players may win in a tournament or drawing but for the Venetian itself. If the poker room knocks it out of the park, the windfall of rake could be more than any traditional tournament of its size could hope for.