The World Tavern Poker Tour came to the Piedmont of North Carolina on January 19th. The freeroll event, with the intent of being along the lines of pool or dart leagues, was well received by all involved in the surprisingly competitive and fast paced tournaments.
Over fifty people played in the two events, separated by a three hour gap to allow the first to be completed before the second one began. There was a very nice cross section of players that came to Tee Time Sports and Karaoke Bar in Winston-Salem, NC; the oldest competitor was in his seventies, while the youngest had just recently turned 21. Additionally, there was a father and son who played, and the brother of the father sat at the tables as well, making for a true family outing among them.
"I play home games quite a bit," said Chris from East Bend, NC. "This was an opportunity to play with something a little bigger than pennies on the table. I'm just hoping that I do well. Mostly, I just want to enjoy playing some cards," he finished with a smile.
It seemed as if that spirit was prevalent among the players. Laughter was bountiful as the chips crossed the felt, but there was also serious play going on. In one particular hand, three players found themselves all-in. When the hands were turned up, it was A-J versus J-J versus 10-10. As the flop came down 7-8-9 rainbow, the tension ratcheted up. A ten hit the turn, giving straights to the jacks but spiking a set for the pocket tens. A second nine on the river brought cheers and groans as the pocket tens scraped in the pot, having drawn out the boat against his shocked opponents.
The structure of the tournament adds to the fast paced action. You start with 2500 chips with the blinds at 100/200. The blinds escalate every twenty minutes and there is a break after the first hour. Once the chips are colored up, play continues until there is one player left standing. Prizes are then awarded to the top competitors, with the prizes being put up by the establishment. With the starting chip stack and the rapid escalation of the blinds, a person cannot sit back and wait for the perfect starting hand. It results in a test of players deciding what is a hand worth starting out with and some interesting bluffing that goes on at the table.
"I thought this would be worthwhile, and I couldn't be happier," said Charles, the owner of Tee Time, as he stacked chips in their holders after the second tournament's color up. "I see this just getting bigger and better, and I'm going to stick with it all the way." He also indicated that he was considering starting another night of the tournaments on Sundays.
"Without any money in play, there's no conflicts you have to deal with," said Holly, who acted as the Tournament Director for the Tee Time tournaments. In the statement of the rules of the tournament, Holly emphasized the 'no cash gambling' rule to everyone. "Everyone comes in, has a good time, competes and walks away happy whether they win or lose."
On a personal note, I played, and played well, in both of the tourneys. I won the first after nearly being eliminated by pocket Kings early on. I went out on the bubble of the second game, but enjoyed tremendously the live action and the camaraderie of the tables.
"Oh, I'll be back," commented Vince (and others echoed), as he looked across the final table of the second tournament as his son, Scott, stacked a sizable bet on the table. "It's a lot of fun."
"Yeah, I will, too," responded Scott, who admitted he plays at several sites online. "Yeah, and I'll get you next time!," laughed Vince's brother, who had just been dismissed from the final table.
All in all, the World Tavern Poker Tour was a great experience for all involved. It allowed for players to get into some live action without the threat of law enforcement hanging over their heads. Although no cash was available, the competition was intense and the players were serious. If you have the opportunity to play in any of the Tour events, it should be something that you take advantage of.