When the Hollywood Poker Open Season 4 Championship Event came to a close at the M Resort Spa Casino this past weekend, it wasn't just the end of another poker tournament. It was the end of an era.
Penn National Gaming and its Hollywood Casino properties around the United States started the Hollywood Poker Open series back in 2013 as a marketing effort aimed at promoting the organization's Las Vegas properties by sending hundreds of patrons from across America to its summer Championship Event at the M.
By all accounts it was a huge success. They brought in 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event champ and poker fan favorite Chris Moneymaker as an ambassador, and over the next four years, thousands of players poured into regional events across the country for the chance to shake his hand, take a selfie, and maybe win a ticket into the championship, and a chance at a big score.
The fact that a few hundred qualifiers were flying out to Las Vegas to play every year quickly drew the attention of the professional poker-playing community. Value hunting pros and those looking for a few days off from the WSOP grind flocked to the M to fire away at the $2,500 buy-in event, and ultimately, the four Championship events drew an average of more than 650 entries, putting better than $1.5 million in the prize pool, year in and year out.
As the Season 4 Championship Event was wrapping up this weekend, Hollywood Poker Open Director Bill Bruce told PokerNews the marketing promotion had simply run its course, and after four very successful years, the Hollywood Poker Open was closing its doors.
"The HPO has always been a promo run out of the marketing department at Penn Gaming," Bruce explained. "It was a promo to expose the properties out here, including the beautiful M Resort, once [Penn] bought that. We've been sending players from around the country out here to visit Las Vegas as a getaway every year. [Penn] also runs a millionaire maker slot promo and we've been leveraging that promotion as well. But as any promo will do, this one has simply come to a close.
"Four years for a promotion is kind of a long run, but it did so well. It was originally intended to be two years and we ran it for four. There were really good numbers in the regionals across the country, and we did some fun things. Chris Moneymaker came on as a spokesperson and we brought PokerNews in for coverage and tried to run it all in a real professional way, tour style. But in the end, it was just a promotion that has run its course."
A quality structure, low juice thanks to the fact tournament revenues were not the HPO's number one goal, and the chance to qualify all across America had pros and recreational players alike circling the HPO Championship on the calendar the past four years.
All four years saw final tables filled with some of poker's best and brightest, budding young stars with past winners including Ana Marquez (2013), Simon Deadman (2014), Keven Stammen (2015), andDejuante Alexander this year.
The M Resort and the HPO impressed all with the tournament receiving four years worth of glowing reviews from any and all involved.
In the end, Bruce said he was proud of what the HPO team had accomplished, and it's simply time to move on.
"I'm proud of what the HPO tour was," he said. "In the end our regional stops were all up across the board, 33 percent this year, and we've always heard all kinds of great feedback from all the customers and players around the country.
"The goal was to run quality tournaments that reflect well on the brand. Give people a positive marketing experience and exposure to these properties and we did that. I feel really good about that, but the event has served its purpose.
"It's simply time to close this chapter. I'd love to continue to run the HPO championship, but the promotion has unfortunately run it's course. It's time to turn out the lights on the HPO, but I can say it has been a great run."