The Hollywood Poker Open is off and running with Season 2, and the third event on the schedule is ongoing at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA. On Saturday, the $1,800 HPO Regional Main Event will kick off and run through the weekend with PokerNews on hand to provide live reporting. It's an exciting event you won't want to miss and one that allows players a lot of tournament play without the huge tournament price tag, as Lee Childs pointed out he's a big favorite of.
Recently, PokerNews' Brett Collson had the opportunity to talk to Bill Bruce, Director for the Hollywood Poker Open, on how he came into working for the HPO, landing Chris Moneymaker as the tour's ambassador, and what makes the HPO stand out from other events on the circuit.
First of all, how did you get started with the Hollywood Poker Open?
Last year, I was contacted to organize additional staffing to support a couple Penn Gaming properties that were going to run some 10-day tournaments. They were also developing a promotion across all their properties to send players to a "Championship" type event at The M Resort in Las Vegas in June.
That would be the Hollywood Poker Open held at The M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas. How and why was the decision made to expand the series into several different regional tournament stops?
The event at The M was so well received by the players. Approximately 200 players won seats around the country in local promotions, and they all had a blast. More than 400 players bought in on the day of the event for a total of 631 players competing for [a prize pool of] $1,423,062. There was an enormous amount of requests for more HPO tournaments at more locations. The management team got together and started working on the details.
Chris Moneymaker is the new Tour Ambassador. What does it mean to have a world champion and poker icon representing the series?
It’s fantastic to have Chris on board with the HPO brand. I couldn’t ask for a better name to have associated with the tour. Chris really takes his role seriously, and it’s been a pleasure to have him promoting the stops and committing to playing in the Regionals. It should signal to the players that Penn Gaming and the Hollywood Poker Open are serious about poker. If you look at what the HPO is doing, it should be evident that this is something that poker players are going to want to participate in and even promote.
Chris played every day at the recent Tunica stop, including the $1,800 HPO Regional Main Event. How has the response from players been when they sit at a table with Chris?
Chris is such a gracious host. He is not just playing in all the events, he is engaging the other players and interacting with them on and off the tables. If he happens to get eliminated from an event, you can find him in the poker room playing all day. It’s like a big home game and Chris is just one of the guys. He just happens to be a world champ.
You've served as a tournament director at events all over the country, and you've worked for many years at the World Series of Poker. What is the most important part of your job day-to-day, especially for a new series like the HPO?
The planning, organizing and coordinating of all the regional events takes up most of my time each day. Then there is also the hiring of the staff for each event, coordinating with the gaming commissions of the different states, marketing meetings, multiple conference calls from the various departments of the various properties, training, auditions, budget planning, etc. The most important part, though, is the little things. The details. The extra mile.
That sounds like a lot of work.
Sure, but I am surrounded by an incredible support staff and collection of colleagues and team members that are all working together to get the job done. The corporate support is unmatched. Jim, Dan, Kristen, Gaye, Bill and so many others from the leadership team are just phenomenal. The Penn National Executives from all the properties have been just great to work with. The tournament staff of supervisors and dealers are all so awesome. We have been blessed beyond belief with the personnel on this staff.
There does seem to be a lot of familiar faces from the traveling circuit. How many HPO Regional events will you be traveling to this year?
The HPO team and I will be at all the stops the rest of the way. We want the players to have a sense of consistency at each venue. I think that goes along way. Even if you have never been to one of the regional casinos before you know what to expect because it will be the same crew you have seen at all the other locations. We will also be staffing the Championship at The M in June again.
As you mentioned, last year more than 200 players qualified for the HPO Championship Event at various properties around the country. How many are you expecting to win seats this year?
Once again, we have promotions giving away seats at most of the Penn and Hollywood properties. Also, this year the Regional Poker Tournament Series will be at six locations where we will be running regional leaderboard promotions and other promotions, so I expect there to be even more seats awarded this year.
Is there a central place where players can find out information on the HPO Championship seat give-away promotions?
Yes. On the HPO website there is a tab, which is a link, named 'Local Seat Promotions.' If you go there, it will have links and descriptions of promotions from the various Penn and Hollywood properties.
We have also heard great things about the structure. What makes it so great?
That’s the buzz, how incredible the HPO structures are. The HPO Regionals have 60-minute levels, 20,000-chip starting stacks, and every level imaginable. Players can find a copy of each structure on the HPO website.
Tell me about the dinner break for the Main Event in Tunica.
It was crazy. We had a private banquet room set up for the players during the dinner break on Day 1. Full spread, tons of choices, all you can eat, all compliments of the house. If you get a chance, check out all the pictures everyone was posting on social media about it. It was impressive.
Here’s the deal. The HPO is serious about being a presence when it comes to poker. We have gone out and hired one of the most recognizable names and face in the game of poker in Chris Moneymaker, we have brought in PokerNews to give players the best possible onsite live reporting, the fees are less than other events, and the structures are amazing. I hope everyone will play the nearest HPO regionals when they have the opportunity.
As previously mentioned, the third stop for Season 2 of the HPO is off and running right now at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, PA. For more information on that event, including the complete schedule, please head over to the HPO website.
*Lead photo courtesy of pokertournamentconsultants.com.