The GUKPT is the longest-running poker tour in the United Kingdom and for some time it was the only real option for British live poker, unless you wanted a £20 rebuy at your local casino.
Now in its sixth season the GUKPT has plenty of competition with the UK live poker market being rather saturated thanks to the creation of the PokerStars UKIPT, the Genting Poker Series, LCI UK Poker Tour and the superb events held on a regular basis at clubs such as Dusk Till Dawn and the Fox Poker Club. So earlier this week we spoke to Mike Lacey of D4 Events, who run and create poker events around the UK and Europe, and asked him a few questions about the GUKPT and other titbits.
All views are those of Mike Lacey and D4 Events only
Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to UK & Ireland PokerNews, it is much appreciated. For those at home who are not aware of who or what D4 Events is/are could you please give us a bit of background information?
D4 Events have been creating and running poker festivals in Europe for 5 years. Our best know event is The European Deepstack poker Championship which is held every February in Dublin. From a first event with 148 players it now regularly achieves 500+ players peaking at 737 in 2011 without any online support to speak of. (Last years event there were 7 online qualifiers out of 590 entries).
This event has been used as a blueprint by at least 3 other operators. We have also ran these events with 500+ players in Belgium & Austria.
The European Short-Handed Poker Championship is our other major festival and is the biggest 6 Max event in Europe growing from 141 players in 2009 to 313 in 2010 then 656 in 2011 and we expect more in 2012.
One of the tours you look after is the long-running GUKPT, which is now going into its sixth season now. This year sees increased competition from UKIPT, GPS and the LCI along with regular events at DTD and the Fox Poker Club. Can and does the GUKPT offer something the competition doesn't? Does the UKIPT increasing their buy-in put them in direct competition with GUKPT?
2. We are involved in the planning of The GUKPT as well as providing the live stream. The UK market is becoming very saturated now and the choice for the UK poker player is fantastic.
Season 6 has already seen some major changes with a new structure, the new £550 Deepstack & 6 Max events. It is also the only tour that guarantees an added £200,000. Every event winner whether it be a £100 side event or the £1000 main event gets a seat into a £100,000 Champion of Champions live event. There is a leaderboard worth £40k. At each venue on the tour there are “Shark's Giveaway night” where seats to events are given away and at each event there are seat added satellites.
Other changes we have made this year are adding re-entries, removing the late entry chip penalties, extending the late entry period, only going 10-handed if the venue is maxed out & increasing the clocks/stacks in some of the side events.
Season 7 will see even more changes but now is too early to make decisions on exactly what in a market that changes so quickly. The second part of season 7 includes historically more successful stops on the tour and we are confident that putting the Coventry leg on at the same time as Goliath will see a big increase in numbers.
All the events you have mentioned are competition to The GUKPT – none of them were around when The GUKPT started and the market has not grown that much in the last few years so they were obviously going to make an impact into the numbers seen on tour. Our challenge is to be innovative to bring new players into the market, no-one can match the online qualifying power of Pokerstars. One of the major reasons for going to Belgium was to make the players there aware of a great tour that is only a short trip through the tunnel away.
What happened to the Dublin leg (which was cancelled)? Are there plans to host a GUKPT in Ireland during this season or next?
We were all disappointed that the Dublin leg had to be cancelled. I am not at liberty to divulge the reasons but holding an event in Dublin is high on our priority list but unlikely to happen in 2013.
The GUKPT stopped off in Belgium last week, were there any particular reasons Belgium was chosen from all of the European countries?
4. Belgium has a thriving poker community and the casino where the event was held is one of two that Rank Interactive own outside the UK. It is also a country that D4 have a strong following in. The challenge to create a big event there was still very large, the casino has not been running poker for long and still only spreads it 3 nights a week. Our player base attends €500 events so how many of them were going to step up to €1000 was a mystery. We also could not offer online qualifiers to the local players due to gaming regulations over there.
The main priority was that the event was well run and received by the players to give s strong foundation to build on and also to give those players a taste of well run and structured event which is rare in Belgium. We certainly did this from the reaction of the players that attended which was overwhelmingly positive. The numbers in the side events were way above expectations and the poker room was flat out most of the days with every available dealer being used. Four of the side events were the biggest on the tour this year. Historically we have always increased numbers in our events year on year and I expect the Belgian leg to be much bigger next time.
The Main Event attendance was rather low and some, myself included, were quite critical of this. Was the turn out much lower than expected? Were the side events well received?
The turnout was lower than expected in the main event but in most of the side events the turn out was higher than our highest expectations. All the events were very well received. It was disappointing that more of the UK regulars did not make the short trip but those that did seemed to enjoy the experience.
We also had a good number of Dutch, German and French players throughout the festival so that is great for spreading the word about the GUKPT in Europe.
When creating the schedule for the GUKPT events did you factor in other major events being held at the same time?
When we scheduled the series there were no other tours scheduled so we had to work with last years schedule. The only event we knew we would definitely clash with was the WSOP for the Belgian & Plymouth legs. This is going to lose us some players but the percentage of regular GUKPT players that go to Vegas for the WSOP is not that high. Also there are many high buy-in events in Europe that these kind of players might go to during a normal GUKPT leg anyway.
Clashes are unfortunate but unavoidable these days. There are more major events than weeks in the year now. Go back a few years and all there was was The GUKPT.
One of the most eagerly anticipated events on the live poker calendar is just around the corner, the Goliath, do you think you can exceed the 1,765 entrants from last year? Is the goal to reach 2,000 players?
Yes, we believe that we will achieve over 2,000 entrants this year. The response to last years event was overwhelmingly positive and the vibe has spread across Europe so we expect an influx of Europeans into an event that was full of mostly local UK players last year. With the addition of the full GUKPT schedule at the same time it is going to be a great week of poker and a great challenge to us & Grosvenor as organisers but one that we are definitely up for!.
The poker player in me would love to play this event as there is no event in the world that gives such a great structure for such a low buy in.
Can players re-enter in the Goliath on the same day or does it have to be the following day?
This year players will be able to re-enter once each day meaning that a player could re-enter up to 5 times as opposed to twice last year. Re-entries have become the norm in poker tournaments nowadays and the feedback I have directly from players is that they almost universally want them to stay. They were added to the GUKPT because of player feedback.
What plans do the GUKPT have going forward in order to stay ahead of the opposition? Plans for PLO events or other games? New locations?
The next season is a long way ahead. There are sure to be many changes and we have a lot of ideas to go through before committing to a full schedule. The tour already includes an Omaha event at most legs and The Vic recently ran a very successful Omaha festival which they plan to repeat soon. There will almost certainly be some new locations. Grosvenor & D4 both have a history of bringing new things to the poker world and I am sure the UK poker scene will be delighted at what we have up our sleeves for Season 7.
The GUKPT was one of the tours I aimed to play in when I first discovered tournament poker but as yet I still have not managed to play in one of their events; but that is all set to change. Your friendly neighbourhood site editor is going to be playing in the Goliath in August where I plan on taking down the whole shebang for around £35,000, just as Lee Rawson did last year! You read it here first.
Follow PokerNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news.