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Historic Overlay at Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open

A glut of competition amid a busy Labor Day stretch for US casino-based poker tournaments has led to what might be the largest overlay on record, of more than $2.5 million in the 2014 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open (SHRPO) main event.

The 2014 SHRPO’s official overlay checked in at $2,505,000 after registration closed on Saturday for the event, which is ongoing.  1,499 players ponied up the $5,000+300 entry fee, leaving the field 501 entrants short of the expected level used to justify the tournament’s $10 million guarantee.  Seminole Hard Rock officials have already confirmed that the guarantee will be honored, with 300 players making the money and first prize being worth $1,446,710.  (Update: A situation regarding tourney structure, though not specifically an overlay, is rumored to be unfolding regarding the SHRPO’s $100K high-rollers event, with some players suggesting on social media that tournament officials have changed the pre-event announced payout structure.  Check back with FlushDraw for the latest on this.)

HardRockSeminole-logoThe failure to cover or at least come close to meeting the guarantee likely took the Seminole Hard Rock’s event organizers by surprise.  The 2013 edition of the same event drew 2,394 entrants and built a prize pool of $11,920,000, meaning that this year’s turnout represented only 63% of the 2013 field by number.

A major factor in the overlay appears to be the presence of several directly competing events.  Last year’s SHRPO ran virtually unopposed, but this year several tournaments likely siphoned off traffic.  The largest of those is the ongoing WinStar World River Poker Series Main Event in Oklahoma, which offered another $2.5 million guarantee.  Other competing events include the 2014 Gulf Coast Poker Championship in Mississippi, the Montreal Poker Festival in Canada, a $500,000 satellite in Los Angeles at the Legends of Poker, and other decent-sized events in Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, California and Delaware.  International players had additional options such as the ANZPT in Australia or simply taking a break, on the European side, before September’s heavy slate of WSOP-Europe and EPT events.

It all added up to a financial bath for the Tampa-based Hard Rock, even if actual losses from the event manage to trim some of the $2.5 million in red ink.  Several hundred thousand dollars in tournament expense fees largely offset labor and site costs but also include some expected profit margin, and the Seminole Hard Rock also generates some secondary casino income from the poker players’ visits.

Still, the official $2.505 million overlay ranks as one of the all-time largest in poker history, if not the single largest.  Several events, such as the recent, highly panned “quantum reload” event at the WPT Legends of Poker, have included legal fine print — such as “based on (number) of players” — to avoid similar money pits; the recent WPT quantum-reload event fell more than $1.8 million short of its pre-event $4 million “estimate.”

Here are some other recent notable examples of major poker event overlays:

2012 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event: The France-based PPT offered a €5 million guarantee for its 2012 main event in Cannes, France, but came up significantly short of the expected number of players.  Faced with the need to make good on a €735,420 overlay (nearly USD $1 million), PPT officials first attempted to erase public notice of the €5 million guarantee, then backpedaled and made good on the guarantee after it became clear that numerous players had proof of the offer.  Whether French gaming officials also had a role in forcing PPT organizers to honor their guarantee has never been established, but the PPT made sure they’d never face a similar situation again: Following the event, they folded the PPT.

2013 International Stadiums Poker Tour Wembley Main Event:  When first announced, the ISPT and partner Dusk Til Dawn boasted that they could generate 30,000 players and a €20 million prize pool in an online/live dual format that promised to put the 3,000 finalists on the floor of London’s Wembley Stadium.  By the time the actual event rolled around in June of 2013, reality had set in and the official guarantee was much more modest, at €1 million — and the event still didn’t come close.  The 2013 ISPT Wembley main event had an official overlay of €589,000, meaning that less than half of the million-euro purse (€411,000) actually came via player entry fees.  Since then the ISPT has faded away; its website hasn’t been updated in several months and still promotes a smaller May 2014 event in Montenegro.


(Online) 2006 iPoker Network $1 Million Guarantee: The then-climbing iPoker Network picked a bad day to try to run a full million-dollar-guarantee Sunday event, as was their normal custom, running right into the WSOP Main Event in July of 2006 without making downward adjustments.  The result was an expensive corporate hit, to the tune of a $432,000 overlay.  PartyPoker also suffered several five- and six-digit overlays in major 2006 Sunday events, before the company’s exit from the US market forced the site to lower its guarantees.

PokerStars 2014 Sunday Warm-Up: A programming error that prevented the normal late-registration period from running meant that those who registered on time for the start of the April 6, 2014 PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up.  The tourney was promoted with a padded guarantee of $500,000, which it would have easily met based on historical performance.  No matter.  The technical flub cost the world’s largest site a $260,000 overlay on one the site’s signature tourneys.



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