It wasn’t quite the Fyre Festival, but Sunday’s $200,000 guaranteed poker tournament at the Borgata in Atlantic City was marred by controversy and frustrated patrons.
The $400 buy-in multi-flight tournament during the casino’s Presidents Day mini-series kicked off with Day 1a at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. A second Day 1 session was scheduled for 7 p.m. with the Day 2 restart at noon on Monday.
Since COVID-19, the Northeast has done without many major poker events. Players in the area were enthusiastic about having an opportunity to compete in a six-figure guaranteed tournament inside New Jersey’s most popular card room. So, they showed up in droves on Sunday morning, but the casino wasn’t able to accommodate the demand.
While Borgata has a long history in the poker world, its experienced staff was laid off during the pandemic, with many veterans failing to return. As such, Borgata was, in a lot of ways, left to rebuild their tournament offerings.
There were numerous angry players on social media, especially those who stood in line for hours and then were told both Day 1 flights were full. Some showed up as early as 7 a.m. to register. Others arrived a few hours later but still couldn’t even get a seat in the 7 p.m. session.
Poker vlogger and WSOP bracelet winner Ryan Depaulo, who said he wasn’t in attendance, shared a second-hand video of the line that appears to cover most of the large casino.
I’m not even there just trying to help. I guess they are still taking people but this is what I was sent earlier.… https://t.co/FIREcROyBi
The first session had over 800 players, but hundreds more were sent home without getting the opportunity to compete. One hopeful player (@HomieSenior on Twitter) wrote that he drove three hours to Borgata and spent the entire weekend at the hotel, but by the time he got through the line his starting stack was only valued at 25 big blinds.
His story was still better than many others who were unable to compete altogether. The line was so long that players near the front were reportedly selling off their spots in line.
What Went Wrong?
As previously mentioned, when Borgata closed during COVID-19 the poker room lost most of its experienced staff. By all accounts, the Sunday tournament was understaffed and there simply weren’t enough dealers and tables available to accommodate high demand. Perhaps, they anticipated a lower turnout, but with the lack of big events in the area the past two years, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise thousands would show up.
Large guarantee tournaments with buy-ins under $2,000 almost always attract massive fields. Many players complained that they had to stand in line to register because MGM Resorts, the company that owns Borgata, didn’t have an online pre-registration option available. If pre-registration were in place like it for World Series of Poker (WSOP) events, perhaps such issues could have been avoided.
@GMenn86 @BorgataPoker Holy shit! That sucks! And, this was at 3:30 this afternoon? Good thing I didn’t jump in my… https://t.co/GaiSu3oazQ
Despite many players failing to get a seat, the tournament itself will still benefit from a massive turnout, meaning the eventual winner should enjoy a nice ROI on their $400 buy-in. Still, poker rooms around the country should take note of the high demand for low-to-mid-stake buy-in tournaments and plan according.
To paraphrase an iconic movie line… if you host it they will come.”