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Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open: Making the $10M Guarantee, Sustainability, and More

Seminole Hard Rock Poker

Ten million dollars.

If you type “ten million dollars” into Google, you will receive pictures of money. Lots and lots of money. Mountains upon mountains of money. There’s also a picture from South Park of a half-naked Eric Cartman sitting in a pile of bills, but we can simply ignore that for now.

Let’s just focus on the money.

The Seminole Hard Rock took a big risk when they announced that this tournament, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship Event, will have a $10 million guarantee. Only three tournaments in 2013 generated prize pools of $10 million or more, including the GuangDong Ltd Asia Millions, World Series of Poker $100,000 One Drop, and WSOP Main Event. Two of those events were six-figure buy-ins, inflating the prize pool considerably, and the other one was the most important $10,000 buy-in event on the calendar.

The winner of the SHRPO Championship Event will walk home with a minimum of $1.5 million, which is good for at least 29th on the 2013 money list. If the field is larger than 2,000 players (the board currently says just over 600), which it appears it will be, then that first-place prize will be even bigger.

Unlike UKIPT Galway and WPT Cyprus, which both missed $1 million guarantees this month, the SHRPO Championship Event has three very important things working for them: location, timing, and sizzle.

“Florida’s poker scene has been building for a few years now,” Brian Hastings, a new resident to the Sunshine State told PokerNews. “And it’s a nice place to be generally — although this is the rainy season.”

Scattered showers or not, Florida is still one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world with over 89 million people visiting in 2012 alone. Additionally, after you're done having fun in the sun and grinding poker, you can catch a direct flight from Miami to Spain for the next major poker tournament series, European Poker Tour Barcelona. Neither California, Las Vegas, or Atlantic City are as accessible and enjoyable as South Florida.

The timing is crucial for two reasons. First, as stated above, EPT Barcelona is right after this event. Sneaking the SHRPO in right before the EPT season begins not only prevents unnecessary overlapping, which would negatively affect both festivals, but it also separates it from the WSOP for a longer period of time. After grinding 50 or more tournaments in Las Vegas, the last thing players want to do is travel to another festival right after. Everybody needs a vacation, even grinders.

“Everything seems to be good for this one,” Mike Leah said. “There’s nothing else going on.”

Timing is also important because the Seminole Hard Rock is the first property to offer a guarantee of this size. Instead of entering an oversaturated market of six-to-seven-figure guarantees, they decided to swing for the fences and create their own market. It worked.

“A million [dollars] just isn’t enough anymore,” says WSOP bracelet winner Jon Aguiar, who came out of “retirement” to play in this event. “Throw out a ten million dollar guarantee, you have to go, everyone has to go. These are cannibalizing million dollar guarantees.”

The success of this event could be dangerous, however. If other tours or properties try to mimic the Seminole Hard Rock’s success and start plastering eight-figure guarantees all over the place, then another oversaturated marker will be created.

“If you tried to do something like this every month, there’s no chance,” Hastings says. “Once or twice a year, depending on where it is, how well the event is run, how many satellite winners there are, and how much value is there. It’s possible.”

The man in charge of making sure the tournament runs smoothly is Hard Rock’s director of poker, Bill Mason.

“With the Hard Rock, you’re looking at a venue that’s complete,” Mason told PokerNews. “We’ve got activities, we’re in South Florida so the lifestyle is unlike anywhere else — it’s fast paced, and people want to come to Florida.”

When asked if this is just a one-off event or if there could be more big guarantees in the future, Mason smiled.

“I definitely believe that there’s going to be more opportunities like this to come. We’ve made a commitment, and once this is over we’re going to take a look and see what we can do even bigger and better,” he said.

For now, the march to 2,000 entrants is on here in the Sunshine State.

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