Tsoukernik Looking Forward to Another WSOP Europe at King's
The history of the World Series of Poker Europe is one of changes of scenery, as the marquee event has bounced from U.K. to France to Germany to its current home at King's Casino in Rozvadov on the Czech-German border. If King's proprietor Leon Tsoukernik has his way, those migratory times are coming to an end.
"We have built a new home for WSOPE, just what WSOP Europe should have."
This year's WSOPE, featuring 10 gold bracelet events, fast approaches with a start date of Oct. 9. It's the second straight year the event will be hosted at King's, and Tsoukernik plans for it to be far from the last.
He told PokerNews as much in a recent interview, saying he's under contract with the WSOP for five years and hopes to extend for five more.
"We are different from any other casino or any other place or performer which has been representing WSOP Europe," he said. "King's is an international destination for poker players and located in the centre of Europe and is easy to get to. We have built a new home for WSOPE, just what WSOP Europe should have."
Looking Back at 2017
Many raised their eyebrows when King's Casino was announced as the venue for the return of WSOPE, which had last run in 2015 in Berlin. Stately, world-famous European cities like Berlin, London and Cannes were one thing. How was one of poker's marquee events going to keep its prestige running in a town of a few hundred near the Czech-German border?
The ambitious schedule featured some hefty guarantees on a few of the 11 bracelet events. For example, the €10,350 Main Event carried a €5 million guarantee, while the €111,111 High Roller promised €10 million.
In the end, all of the requisite numbers were hit, with the closest shave being the Colossus, which inched past its €2 million guarantee by about €78,000 with a packed house of a final flight.
While the small border town offers little in the way of amenities, King's does have some draws, including a well-stocked buffet line for players and a cash game selection that would be the envy of most venues in the world.
"It is very positive that people who made reservations last year are generally coming again this year."
Fans around the world, meanwhile, could easily follow the action courtesy of live updates for every tournament here on PokerNews and a number of live streamed final tables.
"We made a fantastic start to a new era of WSOPE’s presence in Europe," Tsoukernik said. "It was different to any WSOP before. I'm very thankful to every player who came to participate — the staff, and the partners in U.S.A. and around the world."
Tsoukernik said most of the feedback coming out of the series, which paid out over €25 million in prize money, was positive.
"We get small criticisms like tournaments start very late from a few pros, but we do have to respect our private casino clientele that have a different opinion," he said. "It is very positive that people who made reservations last year are generally coming again this year — that shows the quality we delivered and we constantly try to improve even more."
On to 2018 and Beyond
While Tsoukernik walked away pleased with how WSOPE 2017 transpired, he and the King's staff were well aware plenty of work remained. Curious foreign players might travel to an out-of-the-way spot like Rozvadov once — especially with a prestigious brand like WSOPE attached — but getting them to return in the coming years would mean continuing to improve the experience.
Tsoukernik believes the team is well on its way to rolling out the red carpet once again for a first-class poker festival.
For one thing, he said, in complying with updated Czech law, the venue is now non-smoking. While players didn't have to worry about smoke at the tables before, the venue as a whole was another story. Tsoukernik believes the new environment should be more welcoming and familiar for foreign guests.
"We have new Italian and Israeli chefs and fantastic new vegan and vegetarian options at our great restaurants."
Furthermore, the food options have improved. In addition to the usual buffet, players can now expect a better restaurant selection.
"We have new Italian and Israeli chefs and fantastic new vegan and vegetarian options at our great restaurants," Tsoukernik said.
Plus, the player pool should be full of satellite qualifiers courtesy of this year's partnership with partypoker, and players buying in with PP LIVE $$$. On top of that, players are satelliting in stateside from New Jersey and Nevada.
Hotel space has also been expanded for 2018 after extensive renovations, according to the WSOP.
Overall, Tsoukernik said, players can expect an improved experience, while fans can expect much the same in 2018 with more live coverage and continued commitment to live streaming.
High Roller Action
Those thirsting for high roller action can also rest easy, as the €100K is back for now and the foreseeable future.
"It is my personal achievement and a mission to have this spectacular tournament in King’s and I hope to continue with it," Tsoukernik said. "We have changed the format of the high roller from last year and this year the buy-in is €100k + €0. Because of Czech law, we have to charge five percent commission from the prize pool.
"We have a fantastic range of private clientele attempting to win the tournament this year, which would be rare to see at any venue I have been in the world."
"I want to have a fantastic tournament and everyone to enjoy themselves."
Tsoukernik himself is a veteran of such tournaments, having dabbled in the super high roller scene himself during his stints as a player at numerous events both European and stateside. Last year, he opted to step back from the bracelet events and focus on his executive role.
He expects to reprise that role in 2018.
"I have two wonderful kids, Leonel and Isabelle, and beautiful Sandra at home," he said. "I have been playing poker and running a casino using almost all of my time. The kids are starting to grow up and I spent a little bit of time in the summer with them, which was a better game than any I have ever participated in!"
The King's boss left open the option of playing in a side event or two but expects his next playing opportunity to come at partypoker Caribbean Poker Party in November — an event Tsoukernik called "fantastic."
In the meantime, the focus will be on his goal for WSOPE 2018.
"I want to have a fantastic tournament and everyone to enjoy themselves," he said.