NCPO: Mel Judah hopeful for a big turnout in Noumea

The highly experienced Mel Judah (pictured),Tournament Coordinator of the New Caledonia Poker Open, spoke with us about their exciting poker event that will be held from March 24 – 31, 2015 in Nouméa, New Caledonia.

I got involved with the New Caledonia Poker Open after I met with Nouméa Casino staff in 2013. They asked me to help them set up the first tournament, which was last year. The inaugural event was a total success. We had 250 for our main event and we had no online presence, so that was a great result for setting it up from scratch. The tournament organisers and staff work really well as a team and they are very friendly people. People who actually came from Australia for the first event really enjoyed themselves – it was more than just the tournament – it’s also a holiday resort. The event was also good for New Caledonia tourism.

In Nouméa they speak French but most of them also speak English, around 80-90%. So language is not a problem for visitors. In the tournament we only allow English during the hand, we don’t even allow French. Outside the hand it doesn’t matter. Some dealers come from Australia and I’ve taught all local dealers in advance of the tournament. They have about 80 regular players that play tournaments there, so they have a base to build on. There’s enough money there for people to play and our tournament is not expensive overall to play. Our buy-ins range from $400 for the first no limit hold’em event, to $650 for the other side events, and the Main Event is $1400. So everything is within reach. It’s a true tournament and they added money to the prize pool last year, which was very good. This year they are adding 1m francs, which is about $13,000, to three events, so there’s even more value for players.

Satellites have been a little challenging but I’m hopeful in building the opportunity where we could work with someone to run satellites for our tournament. If we got PokerStars or APT or similar then we would run some satellites, even through the pub poker network. However, the pub poker companies typically find it difficult to establish another event because they have their own events in Sydney and Melbourne and around the country, throughout the year. Their focus is more on their own events but we’ll still look to attract players through these communities with our unique offering, particularly the destination.

Although, I’m looking beyond it being a great location where you can play a poker tournament. We’re sponsoring two female players to play – Percy Yung from China and Yuri Ishida from Japan. Last year we sponsored Jackie Glazier and Yuri. We are trying to get the Japanese and Chinese players to visit and play. We are running a satellite in Japan where we’re giving a seat away. Perhaps there’ll be 100-200 people playing for the seat, which will be good. The intention is to get them to know about the NCPO and hopefully we’ll then get some players from there. As long as the event isn’t run when another event is on, such as the ANZPT or events in Macau or Manila, because the travelling distance is much further for them to come to Nouméa as opposed to an hour or two in Asia.

Our event starts on March 24 and the flight from Sydney is only 2.5 hours so you don’t really lose on time, you can still play on the same day as you arrive. So the people who are playing the ANZPT Sydney can still make the NCPO. Poker players don’t book things in advance, they often leave everything to the last minute! So I may get a late rush that I’m not expecting. I’ll be happy to have that rush if 15-20 players come in late. My idea in the lead-up is to go to Cebu to meet the players there playing in the APT event and hopefully attract some of the Japanese players that go to that event. As long as we don’t clash with other events, that’s important. I always look at when the APPT and APT run their events and I try to fit somewhere in the middle. Last year was before ANZPT and this year it’s just after. It’s also enough time for Easter as well.

I think we’ll get 300 for our main event. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t reach that number. If I increase the player base from last year we should be able to reach 300, I hope anyway.

In regards to accommodation, we provide players with a package. The Le Meridien is now a 5-star hotel where they’ve refurbished about 100 rooms. It’s part of the Starwood group. Generally it’s about $300+ per night but it’s only $200 as a package with breakfast for two included, as long as it’s booked by February 8. Otherwise it goes up a little to $225 per night. So players can get a deal if they book by February 8. Bookings can be made directly through the NCPO website (http://www.ncpo.nc/).

We pick up the players from the airport and drop them back on their return using the shuttle service. They change their money at the casino and buy back at the same rate – that’s the best rate on the island. You don’t want to change your money elsewhere. I try to do the best thing for the players and a same buy-back rate is fair. We also have a welcome party on the day before the first event and adding to the prize pool is a good thing for the players. We’ve also added more omaha events this time because we know a lot of people get tired of just playing no limit hold’em. Having a better variety of different events helps if you want to attract more people. So I added two more omaha events, which includes a pot limit omaha high-low-split event as well.

Nouméa is a really nice place. You’ve also got the hotel, the pool and the beach all very close, just a short walk. The casino is no more than 5 minutes walk from the hotel. And it’s a very safe place, that’s important. It’s kid friendly, everything’s friendly. We try to put on other things as well to make it an even more fun experience. I’ve got a few things in the pipeline that will be confirmed soon. It’s all for the players so they’ll enjoy what we have planned. There are many nice restaurants over there too if you want to eat locally, some really great French food.

As the tournament approaches, I’ll be talking with players as much as I can. It’s never easy with so many events on and I don’t even remember who I’ve spoken to and who I haven’t! Everyone is welcome to come and if they have any questions they can ask me directly while I’m here at the Aussie Millions or at any of the other events. When I speak to people I tell them the best deal for them. People don’t always read the details correctly! So we’ll hopefully be able to attract a lot of players who I’m sure will have a great time.

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