Tommy LaRosa Reflects on Venetian DeepStack Championship Poker Series
As the eyes of the poker world shift across the county to South Florida for the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, Las Vegas is recovering from a summer chock full of poker festivals. One of them was the Venetian’s DeepStack Championship Poker Series, which featured 150 events — including five MSPT Main Events — and awarded more than $31 million in guaranteed prize pools.
For the first time ever, the Venetian utilized the Sands Expo Center, which housed 103 poker tables (each with an automatic shuffler), a food court, lounge areas and a final table live stream set. It was there that players like Joseph Cheong, Pavel Plesuv and Anton Wigg all captured titles.
PokerNews recently caught up with Venetian Poker Room Manager Tommy LaRosa, who revealed that the series will return next year. We also got his thoughts on the summer and what they can do to improve moving forward.
LaRosa: "Making sure we maintain our high level of professionalism from our dealers and floor staff is a top priority for me."
PokerNews: In your opinion, what did the DeepStack Championship Poker Series do right this year?
LaRosa: Being away from the hustle and bustle of the casino floor was definitely a huge plus. Without a doubt, though, it was being able to offer larger guarantees on some of our key events, and being able to accommodate more players than ever before.
Understandably, no one wants to wait to play, and for the most part our alternate lines were shorter than in previous years. I also got a lot of positive feedback on the amount of space between tables and the fact that we had shuffle machines on every single table. Personally, I think having shuffle machines on every table was a pretty big deal. I don’t know of any other series, as large as ours, that has them.
What sort of things do you feel the DeepStack Championship Poker Series can do better next year?
The three biggest pieces of feedback I received were improving signage leading to Sands Expo, offering a wider variety of food options, and installing better table signage to assist our guests with finding their tables. All three are high on the list to improve for 2019, which should continue to elevate the player experience.
What sort of things do you feel you need to continue to do to bring players in, especially during the summer when there’s so much competition?
Simply put, value and comfort. Players want value for their money, with larger guaranteed prize pools. When you play for 10-12 hours a day, comfort is a real big deal. Having the space in Sands Expo this summer, we were able to offer nine-handed tournament tables and enough space between the tables to ensure nobody was bumped into or cramped while playing. The lighting was so nice and bright, that it made for a great playing experience.
This marked the first year you had a live stream broadcast. How did it all go?
For year one of streaming, I think it went well. We’ve never been able to offer this before. Without a doubt, though, I know we can improve not only the presentation but how many streamed events we can offer in 2019. I love being able to stream events for players so family and friends can watch from back home. That’s pretty cool to see recreational players get excited knowing their loved ones get to see them play at The Venetian Las Vegas.
What sort of lessons did you learn from this go around and what precipitated them?
So many, where do I start. Anytime you scale your size, you worry about your level of service. Making sure we maintain our high level of professionalism from our dealers and floor staff is a top priority for me. It takes a lot of training, coaching and communication to make sure everyone is on the same page. Being that this was the first year in Sands Expo, the poker team had a lot to get used to as well. Overall, I think everyone did a great job adjusting and being able to offer the type of service our players have come to expect at The Venetian Poker Room
LaRosa: "Las Vegas Sands has made it loud and clear that we are doing everything we can to offer our players an experience that is second to none."
What were some of the highlights/favorite memories from you this summer?
Kicking off in Sands Expo on May 26, 2018, was a pretty big deal for The Venetian Poker Room. We have worked hard for 12 years for the opportunity, and it was rewarding as we got the cards in the air that day.
How can I not mention the $1,100 MSPT event also? We set two records on that event – 1,872 players on Day 1D and 4,411 total players. It’s crazy to think that I needed more space than the 103 tables could provide. Believe me, I plan on beating those numbers next summer.
What sort of things would you like to introduce to next year’s series?
More food options, larger guarantees, and bigger fields. It’s exciting to work for a company that takes risks to be able to offer our players the best experience in the industry. With more than $31 million in guaranteed tournament prize pools this summer, Las Vegas Sands has made it loud and clear that we are doing everything we can to offer our players an experience that is second to none.
Anything you’d like to say about your dealers and staff? It seemed like they did an admirable job all summer long.
Our dealers and staff are some of the hardest working and best in the business. It isn’t easy to work 10 weeks, often six or seven days a week, maintaining the level of professionalism that our dealers and floor/support staff do. I’m really proud of everyone, and the hard work they put in to make The Venetian Poker Room the destination it is.
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