PokeFest at mid-year II

PokerFest has exceeded all the expectations in breaking record after record

Î: Mr. Sorin Constantinescu, we are now half way through the second year of the PokerFest live poker tournament. Tell us how you see the next year and how you were looking at this year, same time last one.
R: What can I say is that last year we were optimistic, hoping to have a raise in both number of players and quality of playing – which actually happened, making us good estimators. The number is higher, so is the playing class and the same for the participants at super-satellites that are successful before the tournaments. We even broke an European record. We have never been a super-satellite that will bring together over 200 players; we had 222, ‚a set of twos’ at the latest super-satellite in Bucharest. In terms of number of participants, it was little weaker than the one before – the reason was that a few qualified on PokerStars showed up – last time 45 -50 and only 15 now. Should we had as many as last time, the number would have gone over 300, which was the target for this tournament. Unfortunately, with a few online people coming, we only had 272. Too few people to be dissatisfied. There is always some complaining, but we talk with the players and have a good feedback from them. They have been content for most of the time. Most players, well-known outside the country, attended the event, which made me happy. It was a real sign of appreciation.
We had a victorius string of tournaments, except the one in Deva. I even said that I would not be doing any tournaments in the western part of the country – it is not a reasonable thing to be in Deva, Oradea, Arad or Timisoara and have 1 or 2 players from those cities and 7 from Buzau or Ploiesti. Lack of interest. I thought that Timisoara was an isolated fact, we were at the beginning, people knew nothing about PokerFest, so I said why not try again. We picked Deva, it was somewhere in the middle, close to Oradea, Timisoara, Arad, to all the cities in the west – but there was no interest.
It is very likely we are not going there any longer. We will be trying Sibiu next year (more in the center of the country) and I am pretty sure will be succesful; also, we will be following the traditional tournaments in Piatra Neamt, Brasov, etc, already a hit.
A very pleasant surprise – and I think our best tournament in the countryside as for atmosphere and participants was in Piatra Neamt. Everything was extraordinary, every one being there said that they had their best time ever.

It matters a lot the local partners that we have – if in a city you don’t know and have no support, then it is rather dificult to get everything in place.
In Piatra Neamt, everything went smooth, as all of them were passionate about poker, including the hotel owner. The owner and his children played, so did the restaurant chef. At one time, the waiters were nowhere to be seen, as they were sitting at the tables, playing. In a word, every single person there plays poker.
To give you numbers, we had 300 people during the two days of super-satellites – and 150 were from the Neamt county – a record number for a region.
As I was saying, the worst tournament in this series was the Deva one. There were 70-80 players. A big financial loss and disappointment, but we are optimistic and keep going forward.

Î: Last year, you were not expecting these records- but for this year, do you hope to still break records?
R: For a month, I was gone every day to the tournaments abroad to try to bring foreign players – I think this is the potential and we have reached the maximum in Romania. We will not be able to have more than 300 Romanian players in a 1,000-euro tournament. I am aware that, after 22 years in this business with casinos and gambling, this is how far we can get unless we bring in foreign players.
To this purpose, we went to some international tournaments – closer here, to Chisinau, EMOP in Bulgaria, to Dublin at the affiliate conference – to talk to the online networks for bringing foreign players, mainly from northern Europe. I am doing this to raise that number of 300, we cannot do better and I don’t us to get stuck here. We must develop, as a tournament.
We are in the middle of negotiations and we are trying ow to have a tournament in Chisinau for Ukraine and Russia (it is forbidden in Russia) – only a tournament to Kiev took place – Russian Poker Series. There is nothing in Chinisau and we can bring the Russians over there. I would love to have a big tournament with Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians and Moldavians.

Î: For the next year, I understand that the plan is to go international with the PokerFest tournament.
R: Exactly. This is what we want, to start having tournaments abroad. At least one in Chisinau, one in Bulgaria. We are studying the market now and the legislation to try one in Hungary. Not dreaming of a too big expansion, but just a slow and sure step towards the east of Europe.
I would have liked to have Russians here. They are very good players and very many – for now, they need a visa to travel (as being outside the EU). Hence, it will be easier to have them in Chisinau, where they can travel without a visa.

Î: PokerFest has broken many records. What is the tournament impact upon the players? Are they coming for the prize or because of passion? How do Hungary, Bulgaria or the Republic of Moldova perceive it?
R: PokerFest-ul has become a brand and it is a matter of pride for the players to attend and have good results. To give you one example – at PokerFest in Bucharest, there only two left at the Final Table – they started to negociate, to ‚deal’ in our words. And one of them said: ‚I give up 10,000 euros in exchange for the Cup…’ which means that the PokerFest Cup is wanted and also expensive.
At the beginning, the big players would not come – if you get up high, at some final tables or ‚in the money’ at an EPT of 5,000 euros, you do not want to come to a 500-euro event, as you are spoiling your image. But they saw they were wrong – PokerFest is a brand, their image is still intact – we are now on ‚Handon Mob’ and the players get points for being present; the big players come here with great pleasure, come for glory, for good results that are good abroad. We are known internationally. I was pleasantly surprised to meet with the representatives of the great online poker sites and they knew about PokerFest.
Also, PokerFest has become a meeting place – they are all waiting for the monthly event to meet and share the latest. They even started businesses together. I can speak about a PokerFest community, which is a reason to be happy. We throw parties for the players. In September, we will have one on the beach. The Palace Hotel will be hosting a Pool Party, a Fashion Show, live music – all for the players to spend more time together and have fun.

Î: We know for a fact that poker has a great influence on people. How do you explain the poker phenomenon in Romanian and in the world?
R:In Romania first: Romanians are players, they love playing, betting, adrenalin; this is why many players in the live casino area, roulette, blackjack players ‚lost their minds’ in casinos just for the sake of adrenalin and moved towards poker, tournaments where the amount that they can lose –bad luck or no knowledge- is limited. You cannot lose millions, lose your house, wife, the car, like in a casino. If a 500-euro tournament, you can lose 500. You have one more chance, maximum, to buy once more, and that’s it. There is no way you can lose hundreds of thousand euros in a poker tournament. Then, the players switched to poker – it keeps them close to gambling and gives them enough adrenalin.

A few years ago, I saw that as a casino manager. When we were doing a poker tournament, after it was done, all the players would go to the roulette or other card games. Today, if we have a casino tournament, people would rush out of the door when it is finished. They are not playing such games. So many ‚gamblers’ have moved from roulette to the poker tournaments.

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