It has certainly been a big year for poker in Australia, with plenty to celebrate as we head into the festive season and onward into the New Year, but there have also been plenty of challenges facing the industry as a whole, as PokerMedia Australia reports.
LAYING DOWN THE LAW: Tassie & WA poker in turmoil
As reported by PMA, the poker community in the Apple Isle was rocked to its core after the Tasmanian Liquor & Gaming Commission (TLGR) announced sweeping changes to the interpretation of its poker policy, effectively shutting down tournaments in the state overnight.
Despite numerous operators informing PMA that the TLGR had initially permitted them to run tournaments for cash prizes under existing trade promotion laws, it appears that the regulator has now taken a harder stance in line with its published guidelines, which have been in effect since 2019.
According to a fact sheet available on the Tasmanian Government’s Department of Treasury and Finance website, a poker game is considered illegal under the Gaming Control Act 1993 “where an operator requires patrons to make a payment to participate in a game involving prizes, by way of compulsory ‘donation’ or the purchasing of any goods or services”.
PMA can confirm that up until the crackdown, regular tournaments and major series hosted in Tasmania utilised a “merchandise purchase” system, whereby players would purchase souvenir items (such as rubber bracelets) priced at various dollar amounts, with only paying customers declared eligible for cash prizes, as per the operator’s terms of entry.
The rights to host real-money tournaments, according to state legislation, is granted exclusively to the two Federal Group casino properties – Wrest Point Hobart, which has hosted APL Poker Tour events in recent years – and Country Club Tasmania in Launceston. To date, neither casino property has poker listed as one of their table games offerings.
News then broke from over in Western Australia, where the state’s Gaming & Wagering Commission had also come down hard on poker operators, mandating that the promotion of tournaments and cash games adhere strictly to its Community Poker Policy.
As the guidelines state on the Department of Local Government, Sport & Cultural Industries website, the advertisement for any poker game, whether a tournament or cash game, must only display specific information; any other details, including buy-in amounts, tournament formats or structures, or even payout results – all of which is vital for the purposes of transparency, game integrity and consumer choice – is considered contrary to the letter of the law.
PMA understands that members of the poker community had been planning to lobby members of state government, after claims that former legislators had admitted that the Gaming and Wagering Commission Act 1987 is outdated, and does not provide scope for major events similar to those held over East to be hosted in WA.
All hopes of that have all but been quashed, with one operator sharing their thoughts publicly on a popular Perth poker Facebook group.
“In a previous candid discussion with [the Department], I cut to the chase on the subject of raising the $50,000 [prize pool] cap,” wrote the owner of West Coast Poker, Justin James. “There was no need to mention to them all the wonderful benefits it would provide to our great city and its players, because they already knew.”
“[They said]: ‘To raise the limit … would only allow those doing the wrong thing to do so on a greater scale … when every instance of questionable returns and inquiry takes 100 man hours to resolve, it’s a wonder that we haven’t pulled the pin on it.’”
This is all in spite of the fact that the state’s only casino operator, Crown Perth, is only spreading cash games, although that may well change if its sister property in Melbourne can deliver on its aspirations to restore the Crown Poker brand to its former glory after having relaunched tournaments last week. Watch this space.
O COME, ALL YE FAITHFUL: Poker Palace, Stacked Social bring good tidings
Even in the midst of all the drama that has come about, there’s still plenty to celebrate this festive season, thanks to the Poker Palace out in Sydney’s West, who have recently kicked off their traditional Marconi Christmas Cup.
Now running through until 18 December, the $1 million estimated series officially begins with its $550 buy-in Main Event Warm Up tonight, with plenty of budget-friendly options including a $220 Accumulator, as well as a $2,500 High Roller and a $1,150 buy-in Main Event.
Amidst the MCC schedule are satellites and Day 1 flights into the Poker Palace’s newest offering, the Australian Poker Open (not to be confused with the 2020 Australian Poker Open, which was hosted by The Star Gold Coast and presented by PokerGO).
Although the full APO schedule has yet to be released, monthly satellites into the $3,300 buy-in Main Event have already been run, with more scheduled in the lead-up to the series starting on 27 March 2024, featuring a whopping $1.5 million in guaranteed prize pools.
The news was made all the more sweeter with the announcement of Bert Perry as the APO Brand Ambassador. In a Facebook post published in October, Perry promised that he would “endeavour to represent the brand to the best of my ability as I travel and play live stops over the coming months”.
Incredibly, the reigning Poker Palace Winter Championships Main Event has already made good on his word, taking out the Last Chance High Roller at the recent USOP Danang series in Vietnam for a tidy VND 851,000,000 (AUD $53,367). For more information, visit the Poker Palace website.
Meanwhile in South Australia, the team at Stacked Social are now primed to launch their first series of 2024: the Stacked Poker Championship, which begins on 4 January 2024 and runs right through until 5 February 2024.
11 tournaments are on the cards, with buy-ins starting from just $230 and with plenty of variations on offer for novice and veteran alike. The Stacked Poker Championship will also feature the inaugural Cash Game Festival from 14-25 January 2024, which promises “over 100 hours of fun, safe and exciting cash game action” and featuring a televised high-stakes feature table.
Together with Stacked Social’s unparalleled service and hospitality, it’s expected that the series will exceed its $1 million series estimate and potentially break all previous prize pool records in the Festival State. For more information, visit stackedsocial.com.au.
MAKING MOVES: APL announces 2024 major events schedule
The Australian Poker League (APL) has continued to build upon its collective success, with 2024 shaping up to be even bigger and better after having released its mid-tier tour and major event line-up.
After garnering more than $22 million in total prize pools, the APL Poker Tour kicks off its first Queensland series on the Gold Coast with 41 events scheduled over the course of nine days and featuring the highly anticipated $100K Invitational, which will see all of last year’s APL Champions battle it out to determine the best of the best.
The January series will be the first of three hosted by Southport Sharks next year, which includes the APL’s crowning jewel: The APL Million. Four stops are also planned for Sydney, and both the NQ Classic and Ville 600 make their return to the iconic Ville Resort-Casino in Townsville.
Players in Brisbane’s CBD will also have the chance to get in on the action, with the Kedron-Wavell playing host to an APLPT series for the very first time in late October. Located only 15 minutes north of the city centre and just a stone’s throw from the airport, it makes for an ideal centralised location for the majority of Queenslanders along a good stretch of the M1.
And whilst SkyCity Adelaide will host two legs of the tour in 2024, the regional town of Albury has hit the jackpot, with two series locked in at the Commercial Club, followed by a third at the SS&A Club.
PMA is aware, however, that the multiple jumps across the Murray are likely in response to the Victorian Gaming & Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) questioning the validity of the “venue voucher” system used in previous APLPT series hosted in Melbourne. For more information and schedules for all APL tournaments, log onto playapl.com.
BRING IT ON: APT, NPL and WPT League set for first quarter of 2024
Other major players in the mid-tier circuit are also preparing themselves for next year, including the Australian Poker Tour (APT), the National Poker League (NPL), and the WPT League, with the APT having recently put out its schedule for its first stop of Season VII.
Running from 3-21 January 2024 at Eatons Hill Hotel, the APT Brisbane Championship series boasts a $2 million series estimate, featuring the Dracakis Players Championship, The Goliath, The Grind and the APT Brisbane Championship Main Event, the buy-in for which has increased to $750.
The Hachem Management Group have also hinted at the debut of an all-new APT High Roller series, in what would undoubtedly be building upon the success of the APT National Championship in Sydney last October. The series at Bankstown Sports garnered more than $5.1 million in total prize pools, and saw history made with Khari Sou becoming the first player in history to win the Deaf Poker Australia (DPA) Championship twice.
The NPL is also set to come back in a big way through major changes touted for 2024, including the introduction of its mobile-phone based NPL Credits system. Players who participate in NPL events across the country are eligible to earn NPL Credits, with the ability to manage your NPL Credit account – including transfers – from their mobile phone.
The announcement coincides with the first of four NPL Super Series, to be held at the Richmond Club from 14-17 March 2024, with an estimated $300,000 worth of total prize pools, including a guaranteed $100,000 prize pool for the $675 buy-in Main Event. Log onto npl.com.au for more information.
The WPT League, meanwhile, are keeping their cards quite close to their chest, with no word yet on the return of the WPT League Championship Tweed Coast, which saw popular French ex-pat Elise Depauw break through for the win in the Main Event last month, hot on the heels of her first mid-tier title in the $450 PLO Rotation at the APT Brisbane Championships back in January.
That said, the Illawarra faithful are already gearing up for their WPT League Summer Series at Warilla Bowls & Recreation Club in January, before the WPTL500 makes its Queensland debut at Club Helensvale in February.
No word on any new major series just yet from our friends in Sydney, but we’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on the Sydney crew at this year’s WPT World Championship, with PMA once again bringing you live coverage direct from The Wynn Las Vegas!
PokerMedia Australia will once again be front and centre in Las Vegas for this year’s WPT World Championship, before breaking for the festive season. We’ll then be back in early 2024 with an all-new line-up of regular content, as well as our continued event coverage from across the country. To keep with the latest from on and around the Aussie felt, bookmark our website and follow us on all our socials: Facebook, Instagram, Discord, YouTube and X (formerly Twitter).