When the 2014 World Series of Poker started, no one from Minnesota had won a bracelet in over 10 years. By the end of the Series, the streak had been broken twice with two bracelets for nearly a million dollars in winnings for Minnesota players. With double-digit final tables, over $1.5 million in earnings, and two bracelets, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" had a breakout Series, and this year looks to be even bigger with an extra 45 seats to WSOP events given out by iNinja Poker leagues in its first season.
iNinja Poker leagues kicked off last August at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota. With three leagues to choose from, all with different price points and seats awarded (including six Main Event seats), iNinja Poker was a huge success in its first season. iNinja also hosted its very first iNinja Poker Main Event with a $675 buy-in and $100,000 guarantee. Crushing the guarantee, the event brought in a total of 316 entrants and looks to increase those numbers when the next $100,000 guaranteed event takes place July 16-19 at Canterbury Park.
While the idea of a poker league is nothing new, and satellites to the WSOP are not uncommon, the combination of the two on such a grand scale, especially in the first year of a new league, is unprecedented.
iNinja Poker President & CEO, Issac Tucker, commented on the success of the leagues and now tour: "I had big plans for the leagues and tour, but I had no idea it would take off so quickly. People love the idea of playing on a regular basis with their friends, winning cash for the top spots, and taking a shot at winning seats to larger events. I've spent the last six months trying to figure out how to provide everything that players want and trying to fit everything in. I'll do whatever it takes to make the upcoming season even bigger than our inaugural season and offer players what they want — more seats!"
In Season 2, coming this August, iNinja Poker looks to spread four different leagues to multiple venues in Minnesota and the surrounding area. Partnering with the PPC Poker Tour, RunGood Poker Series, and Blue Shark Optics, the league is looking to continue to smash previous perceptions of what poker leagues can do.
iNinja has also amassed a pro team of local players to help promote the leagues and offer their input on everything from venues to structures. Those players include iNinja Poker owner Issac "RunGood" Tucker himself, 2014 bracelet winner Chris "Fox" Wallace, tournament pro Kou Vang, 2012 Minnesota Player of the Year Erick Wright, online wizard Lance "Kingpin023" Harris, and local tournament grinders Aaron Johnson, Vladimir Revniaga, and Adam Dahlin. Together the team has more than $2.3 million in live tournament winnings and an incredible knowledge base that Tucker taps into at regular team dinners.
One of the trademarks of iNinja has been their colorful graphics of characters in ninja costumes, which are everywhere on the iNinjaPoker.com website and each team member has their own remarkably accurate avatar.
The new season will feature even more seats to a wider variety of events including seats to sponsors events such as the PPC Poker Tour and the RunGood Poker Series, as well as local events in Minnesota and a healthy dose of WSOP bracelet events. We have heard hints of expansion into other states is coming very soon, too.
The next major event for iNinja is the Mayhem in May series at Running Aces card room in Columbus, Minnesota. The event features a $280 buy-in, multiple starting days, stack buy backs, and a $100,000 guarantee and runs from May 13-17.