The explosion in poker has created many cottage industries around it. Many people suddenly find themselves in the position of being thrown into the fast paced life of poker with an incredible business opportunity at their fingertips.
One such person is Steve 'Red' Beyer. Steve is the travel agent/guy Friday for many of the top pros in the game. Steve has handled travel for Daniel Negraneau, Gus Hansen, Chip Jett, Scott Fischman, Amir Vahedi, and dozens of others.
Steve goes out to tournaments, and solves the problems of his clients. This can be anything from a quiet ride to the airport after a brutal bustout, to helping figure out travel rules for pets, to helping a player figure out what to do for the rest of the night in San Jose, when its only 8pm.
A likeable, funny guy, Steve has an air about him that says "I got this". Steve's clients obviously feel comfortable with him handling their details, and his client base has grown at a remarkable rate. Recently, I sat down with Steve about how the poker world had changed him in the past year, and just how you get a hotel in San Jose at 2:30am.
PN: Tell me about how you got the idea to be the travel agent for poker players?
Steve: Twofold. The idea first came about when I went to play a WSOP event last year, and I couldn't get a room. So, I thought when I get to Vegas, I'll find a room. When I got there, I couldn't get a room, and I slept in my truck. I wound up cashing in the tournament ($1,500 NL Shootout), but thought to myself that there must be a ton of players who have this problem. I thought to myself, the industry needs a travel agent. So, the idea sprung from there. At first it was mostly a thing where I figured it was an extra income source that could pay for my tournaments; Basically, freeroll me through the circuit. I didn't think of it as a career, but the more people I spoke to, the clearer it became that I could get a number of clients if I really pushed it.
The other inspiration for the idea was the tracking of expenses for travel, and how that would help the players. I only played a few tournaments last year, but I had like 100 receipts from just those few tournaments, and I thought how valuable it could be for players for someone to keep track of that stuff for them.
PN: So, the LA poker classic was your first tournament where you were really out there beating the pavement trying to add to your already impressive client list?
Steve: The LA poker classic was perfect for me, because I live in LA, and I knew everyone would be there. I went to the tournament to help my existing clients, but also to meet everyone I could. The last three tournaments have been so perfect, because LA poker Classic brought everyone to me. San Diego (Rincon WSOP Circuit) was such a tough experience for everyone because no one had communications, cell phone service was sketchy, and everyone I had just met in LA was having travel problems, and my phone started ringing like crazy.
Now at Bay 101, people are having more challenges, because hotels are so tough to find here. I must say, Matt Savage has been terrific. He turned all the players who were having issues to me. There was not a player who called me that I couldn't solve their problem. It's been great. So, the last three tournaments have worked out perfectly.
PN: You have a website up right now that players can correspond with you on?
Steve: A functional website is up right now at www.tournytravel.com. There is a contact page where people can go, and enter their information, and I will contact them. Eventually, Tournytravel.com will have an interface much like any travel website, where you can enter where you want to go, and it will show you options. There will also be a password interface where players can track all their past travel, and view their future schedules. Sort of like a combination of Expedia, and Outlook.
One of the main reasons the idea came to me is taxes. If you book all your tournaments through tournytravel.com, you can track, and retrieve all your expenses with one click.
PN: So, you've quit your 'real job'?
Steve: I've quit my real job, I am moving to Vegas, and am selling my house in LA.
PN: So, this has been viral marketing sort of thing? Word of mouth has driven your business?
Steve: Totally a viral thing. When I first set out, the number one person I wanted was Daniel Negraneau. I felt like he was the top player in the game, well respected, etc. So, I figured if I could get Daniel, I would get other people that he associates with.
PN: So, where do you see this in a year?
Steve: I see myself having fifty clients, fifty of the top players of the game. I will act much like a tour manager does for a band. Being on the road, handling their travel, their buyins, etc. More/less being a personal assistant to the players on the road, except, unlike the tour manager, I won't travel with the players, I'll just be at the place where they will end up (the tournament) once they arrive.
PN: You played some events on the circuit last year, how about you as a player?
Steve: On hold right now. A year ago, I wanted to be a professional poker player. But, I have a wife, and three kids. So, it puts everyone at ease not having to depend on poker money to pay the bills.
Being a player, I am attentive to the needs of a player. That helps because I know when someone gets knocked out of a tournament, they don't want someone in their face. How many boxers do you know that get knocked out, and have to sign autographs 15 seconds after being knocked out. I think knowing what being a player feels like gives me a big advantage. Give them a little time to breathe, but in the meantime, set something up for them. Call them in a little while, and say 'Hey, you want to go now? I have a flight set up for you.' I have found stuff like that makes all the difference.
PN: Thanks for your time, Steve, and good luck.
Steve: Thank You.
At the next tournament you go to, you will likely see this red haired, rock n roll looking guy peering out over the tournament field. No, he isn't watching over his horses...he's merely finding out when the last flight to Vegas leaves.