There is something Schrödinger-esque about waiting in line to register for a tournament. Firstly you’re trying to figure out whether you’re about to run the purest you’ve ever run, or be out first hand. You just don’t know.
You’re surrounded by people thinking exactly the same thing. Young and old. Male and female. This is the first time that you get to eye them up. To scope out the competition.
To some this might be the biggest tournament they’ve ever played. To others, this might just be another Saturday in another card room.
The £220 Unibet UK Poker Tour is a peculiar beast. I like to imagine it as a poker tour getting into the bath. Testing the waters. If it’s too hot they can get out, but they’ve judged their opening foray just right.
The Tour consists of five stops throughout the UK: Brighton, Nottingham, Brighton (again), Glasgow and Manchester. I was invited to play at the Manchester leg last weekend. The venue? Manchester235.
The first time I met Doug Leonard, the poker room manager at Manchester235, he said that thought he recognised me. I had never met him before in my life and thought it strange. However, I’ve come to know that this first moment was a perfect example of how Leonard manages his card room.
Manchester 235 is situated right in the heart of Manchester and Leonard joined in 2011. He told me that his mindset is not just to run the card room well, but to do it better than his competitors. His goal is to make it the best card room in the north, and from my experience, he’s going the right way about it.
“We aim to excel in customer service by showing customers that there is no fear. We educate our dealers and engage with our customers, and as a result, the players are more friendly.
“It shouldn’t be about winning or losing, it should be about the experience. That’s what drives our business.”
It was this approach to poker which perhaps caught the eye of Unibet Poker Marketing Manager David Pomroy. A veteran poker player with an EPT final table on his résumé, he works with a team of ex-players as a separate unit away from Unibet which controls their own budget.
“It means if we want to do something, we don’t have to go and beg for money. We’re fairly autonomous in that respect,” he said.
Pomroy firmly believes that Unibet is about community. He works closely with players, forums and qualifiers to ensure the best atmosphere for newer players. And according to him, these qualifiers are a tight knit bunch – “They’ll know everyone when they get here!”
This certainly proved to be the case. On my first table, there was a Belgian player seated to my immediate left who had won a package for just €4. He had flown over especially for this tournament because ‘He’d never visited Manchester before.’ Nice guy.
He embodied the spirit of the tournament and indeed the two parties behind it: Unibet and Manchester235. Laughing. Joking. Including all the players at the table. There were two gentlemen at the far end who had started the tournament in sullen silence. By the midpoint of the second level, they were chatting away and laughing along with all the jokes.
This article was going to focus on one individual who, in my eyes at least, didn’t respect what Unibet or Manchester235 were aiming to do. He wasn’t necessarily a bad person, he just didn’t fit the remit of what Unibet are about – a festival/tour based on community spirit and a welcoming atmosphere for new players. He called an all in for 150 big blinds with 67 to cripple the aforementioned Belgian’s AQ when the flop came 589. He disappeared for nearly an entire level to go and play cash and was generally not a very nice person to be around.
He is the reason that this blog is coming out a little later than I had planned. I didn’t play very well, and he spoiled my experience of the event, so when it came to writing about it, I just sounded…for want of a better word – butthurt.
On the whole, I am looking forward to seeing what Unibet do in the future. I look forward to experiencing my first Unibet Open, something I’ve heard only stellar reviews from. There is a gap in the market for a tour operator such as this, and I hope that they make the most if it.