One of the first things to mention is the top-notch food service available at the IP poker room. Much like in Los Angeles area casinos, table-side food delivery is available. Runners can bring you a menu, take your order at the table, and bring the food to you so you can eat without ever having to leave the game. Sterling calls it one of the room's biggest attractions for players of all levels. The easy availability of food comps for players makes the tableside service light on the wallet as well. If you do decide to get away from the tables for a bite, there are several options available. Thirty-Two steak house, Highlights sports bar, Back Bay buffet, and Carnaval de Brasil Churrascaria offer a wide enough variety of dining options to please almost anyone.
Promotions are a big draw at the IP. Friday mornings from midnight to 9 AM are when you can win $100 for having your table and seat drawn in the Lucky Table promotion. There's even bigger money available on Sundays and Mondays during football season. The room runs a football squares promotion, giving away $1,000 over five hours each day. Once the season is done the promotion doesn't end, though; it becomes Poker Squares instead, giving everyone in the room a chance to win cash for holding specific cards. Then there's a progressive jackpot worth up to $500 available to players who hit specific hands during the week. The players are given tickets for each lucky hand, and every hour on Friday and Saturday a ticket is drawn. The room gives away approximately $2,000 on both days, and over the course of a given week distributes between seven and eight thousand dollars to its players.
If there weren't already enough incentives to play your favorite limit Hold'em, no-limit Hold'em, or pot-limit Omaha game, cash game players at the IP are also eligible for a freeroll tournament if they play enough hours. From the beginning of the year through March, the top 150 players in terms of hours played will come back for a shot at a share of $20,000.
The tournament schedule at the IP rivals that of most rooms in Las Vegas, and there's enough variety to satisfy almost anyone. Buy-ins range from $60 to $200 and the tournaments run seven days a week. Standard low buy-in, no-limit Hold'em freeze outs run about half the week. A bigger no-limit freeze out with a $200 buy-in runs at noon on Saturdays and has a $5,000 guaranteed prize pool. Then there are Tournament Director Ronny Prevost's bounty tournaments. Twice a week you can collect anywhere from $20 to $50 for eliminating players from the field, and on Wednesdays each table has a target player with a $100 bounty on his head.
The best deal of all is that if you play in any tournament from Monday to Saturday, you get a free shot at $1,000 on Sunday. All you have to do is show your entry ticket from any daily tournament during the week and you're on a freeroll. No worries if you lose your stack, though - the tournament does offer rebuys, making it an added-money tournament when all is said and done.
Probably the biggest promotion at the IP this year is the new Tournament Player of the Year leader board. Throughout the year, players will earn points for competing in any daily tournament at the IP. At the end of the promotion, the top 10 players will all receive a share of $27,000 that the casino has put up for the competition. The player who finds himself ahead of the pack at the end will get $10,000. Sterling and Prevost both say that the promotion has already been a big hit.
IP Poker Classic
If the daily tournament aren't big enough for you, the IP Poker Classic comes around twice a year with some bigger buy-ins. Along with those bigger buy-ins comes a lot more play than the daily tournaments offer. "I play so I know a little about what our players want," says Prevost. "For January we gave them more chips and a very gradually-moving structure, starting at the 25-25 level. So over the course of the day they get a lot more play."
"Surprisingly enough I haven't had one complaint about structures or chip counts," Prevost continues. "The first time I tried to use something comparable to what the WSOP was using, and that didn't go over so well, so we made some changes and some improvements."
The next tournament series is being planned for August 2007, after the end of the WSOP, and if the last two series are any indication, it should be successful. Total prize pools increased 15% from the first series to the next, and the attendance has been steady as well. The plan for the next event is to add some bigger buy-in events to the schedule. "We're going to leave the $340's, and the $200 second chance tournaments," says Sterling. "But I do want to add a couple of $500's, a $1,000, and possibly a $1,500 next time."
Sterling has high hopes for the future of the IP Poker Classic. "This event is going to grow. I know it's going to," he says. "No brand-new event starts off with these huge numbers. Tunica didn't start off with huge numbers. They had to build it. They're established now but it took them a few years to get there. And it may take us another year or two to get there. We need to find the right time slot, but I'm full of confidence that August will be very successful."
*Picture by Jason Kirk*