A few years ago, one of the top boys at Grosvenor Casinos had a vision.

The Angel Of Gambling, dressed in an Armani suit and holding oak-aged brandy in a crystal glass, appeared to him in a dream and spake to him thusly:

“Oi! You have to host the largest live poker tournament in Europe. You have to make it cheap, but it has to have a massive prize pool. You have to make it fun, but it has to be serious poker. You need to find a venue that’s easy to get to and can seat 1000 players at one time. These are your bidden tasks, now stopeth ye wanking and get to it, or you’ll incur the wrath of the Poker Gods.”

And Lo!, the Angel Of Gambling climbed into his celestial Porsche and was gone. The Grosvenor Poker Executive crapped his pants; what was he but one man? How could he fill the requests of the Angel Of Gambling and not sound like a maniac at the next meeting? He was overwhelmed, daunted, dwarfed by the magnitude of his task. He was the Lone Ranger, The Last Gladiator, he was David against Goliath.

Poker Exec, loath to incur the wrath of the Poker Gods, set to work. He knew that there was no casino in the land that could hold that many poker tables. He was bound by the iron-fist law of the Gambling Commissioner, and he couldn’t just throw a few tables on a beach and start a clock there, it was forbidden. He had to play the game in a licensed premises, and equally, this was not Vegas; outside in the British summer time is an unreliable venue.

Poker Exec discovered a casino with an indoor football pitch out the back. He agreed with the Gambling Commissioner that they could have a license for that sacred place. The venue was secured.

Our hero now had to find a way to get 100 poker tables, 1000 poker chairs, 100+ dealers, 20+ supervisors, 25+ valets, a media team, a computerised clock and display, food and beverage facilities and a giant gong into the venue.
It was an epic task, but with a great deal of wheedling, planning and physical sweat, he and his team achieved it. Everything was ready for an epic event, but how would Poker Exec attract 1000+ players to his game?

How would he make the prizepool massive? There was only one sure fire way of guaranteeing a massive prizepool, and that was to guarantee a massive prizepool.
Poker Exec delicately placed his naked balls on the block, and guaranteed the prizepool at £250k, with a buyin of £100 (+£20), meaning 2500 people had to play to meet the guarantee. Everything was set, he had built it, would they come?

Damn right they came. And when they got there, they came again.
The GOLIATH week at the Ricoh Arena Coventry, is British Poker Mecca. If you haven’t made it there yet, do it. And if you have made it there before, do it again.

It’s 8th-16th August this year, and the buyin remains at £120. The guarantee is £250k, but last year’s GOLIATH main event total prizepool well exceeded £300k, so expecting it to be smashed again this year is reasonable.

Loads of stuff goes on over GOLIATH week, there’s a butt-load of tournament poker at various stakes and levels of seriousness. I would recommend the “Blind Man’s Bluff” event for maximum fun. I’m not much of a cash player, but I still know the cash set-up goes ballistic, I believe there were more than 25 tables in play at one time last year.

There’s loads of other nonsense happening and the venue’s well situated to help you minimise costs with food and drink while you’re down there, with a large, 24hr supermarket within walking distance. There’s plenty of budget hotels in the area, although only those from the furthest reaches will need them, as even from Manchester, Coventry is only a 2hr journey down the M6.

The event is not without its minor issues; table valet service in the main poker room has traditionally been a massive challenge for the team, and I’d be interested to see what they’ve done about it this year. That said, I have never seen any comment made to a player who has brought in their own food/drink, so at least they’re not trying to monopolise the market without the capacity to serve everyone.

My favourite thing about the GOLIATH week is the general vibe. There’s a real buzz about poker. There are people everywhere, they all look different, talk different and smell different, but they have one thing in common: a love of poker. Of course, there are other British poker festivals, but I think there is something about the GOLIATH that is a little bit unique, and I think it’s due partly to the £120 buyin and partly to Grosvenor’s presence on the market.

The larger the buyin for a poker tournament, the lower the percentage of recreational players will be in the field. There are several reasons for this; they can’t afford the buyin, they haven’t got the time to play a satellite ladder from a buyin they can afford, even pros are playing sattys to big buyins making those fields harder anyway, they are scared to play at that level even if they win a ticket.
£120 is such a great buyin level because it keeps pros out of the sattys, and even some recreational players who are not millionaires might find that £120 is affordable, given the prizepool.

Grosvenor run online and live satellites to the GOLIATH, and they have casinos all over the country, this results in a wide mix of accents and experience making up the massive field. Yes, if you play larger buyin events, you can sit next to players from all over the country/world too, but they are more likely to be poker players and have their damn headphones in.
At the GOLIATH, you’ll sit next to builders, lawyers, students and poker players, and you will have a lot of fun.

As of this week, I will no longer be an employee of Grosvenor Casinos, so I am not advertising for them. I’m recommending The GOLIATH because I genuinely love it. Anyone who’s seen me there in the last few years will know I get a bit over-excited and sometimes they have to tranq me. I’m a massive advocate of British poker, and I don’t believe low-stakes British poker players have to grow their bankrolls with aspirations to Vegas and the World Series, I believe there are British poker festivals that offer a taste of this, at far less expense and organisational effort. For me, The GOLIATH epitomises that.

I can’t play in The GOLIATH this year, I’m not allowed to be a club member this close to being an employee, which is fair enough. The truth is, and the reason for writing a blog on this topic, is that makes me very sad, I’m honestly gutted about it; I really feel like I’m missing out.
I can’t play in an event that is loads of fun, but organised with military precision. I can’t take part in a poker festival that is everything British poker should be, as well as being massively inclusive to players sometimes forgotten in the scheduling of high-profile poker festivals. I can’t go on an annual poker holiday to Coventry that I could afford on even a fairly modest income and meet hundreds of new people who like what I like.
I don’t get my chance to use a £120 slingshot to take down a giant £50k+ 1st place prize.

If you can play, you should. If it’s a bit late for this year, then plan ahead for next year. Book the hotel at the lowest price when the dates are released, start saving your silver in a jar for the buyin, you’ll probably get enough for two bullets, and prepare to enjoy a holiday in a poker player’s paradise. I’ll definitely be there next year.

How am I so sure that The GOLIATH will be there next year? Because when something is that big, someone will want to take it down again, and again, and again. Next year, I hope it’s me. Will it be you this year, the one warrior who destroys the giant?

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