As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I made time in my busy schedule of online micro-stakes poker, writing a novel no-one will ever read and scratching myself to go to the GOLIATH festival at Grosvenor Casino at The Ricoh Arena in Coventry UK.
The GOLIATH Main Event is £120 ($150) to buy into, and in terms of runners, is the largest tournament in the world outside of Las Vegas.
It breaks its own records year on year since it started and this year more than 5000 players rocked up to play, doubling the gtd prizepool to over £500k.
A while back, I wrote a blog on “My Fantasy Low Stakes Poker Festival”, and this week I decided to write a few words on whether or not The GOLIATH lived up to the dream.
In the interest of clarity, I am an ex-employee of Grosvenor, but this in no way influences what I’ll say about their product.
I do think they consistently prove themselves to be the best live poker operator in the UK, and I know for a fact that they have an absolute box of glistening gems in the ground level team of Cardroom Supervisors.
That said, I have no loyalty to them, they’re not paying me now, and if I thought their product was a bag of shite, I’d happily say it.
Even when I worked with them, I was a gobby bitch, but I felt I was encouraged to be so. My boss, Head of Grosvenor Poker, Russell Tamplin, believed I had the customers’ best interests at heart, and he was VERY tolerant of me ranting, shouting, throwing my toys out of the pram and telling him he was a bell-end when I thought he’d got something wrong.
Nope. Still a bit of a fail here- given that Grosvenor, like any major casino chain anywhere in the world now, has been largely infiltrated at the top by people who have no clue what goes on in casinos or any idea how the mind of a punter works, but are ostensibly experts in the world of marketing and business over all, this surprises me.
I’m a member of many online groups and forums that are populated by micro/ low-stakes players and I didn’t see much about the festival until just a few weeks before. I knew it was happening, but I’m already a massive fan! What about some posts/promotions I could share on FB/Twitter with borderline poker lovers or noobs?
Are the dates for 2017 sorted Grosvenor? As soon as they are TELL US.
We need to book holidays, we need to convince our non-poker loved ones that buggering off with our poker mates for a few days is a great idea, we need to get cheap deals on hotels to make it worthwhile.
Everyone’s got stuff to do, and I know there is a year’s worth of running a business between now and then, but if you want us to prioritise your festival, make us think it’s a priority for you!
I should be seeing GOLIATH teasers creeping in by Xmas at the ABSOLUTE latest.
Are Grosvenor gonna pop their bollocks on the block and guarantee GOLIATH 2017 at £500k? I hope so, and I can’t wait to hear about it. Literally, can’t wait… TELL ME NOW!
The GOLIATH is now big enough to have a “celebrity” who becomes the face of the event. There is the inimitable Phil Heald (The Tower), but he’s a bit of a brand whore and also works for Genting, the Northern Tart. I noticed Joe Beevers and Jeff Kimber knocking about playing events and getting involved, loved that!
BoM has Maria Ho, and perhaps it’s time for Grosvenor to try to get a really big poker name to get on board, specifically with the festival, rather than the whole Grosvenor brand. Surely there must be one very well-known player who is passionate about grassroots poker and bottom-end growth?
Joe and Jeff have 5k Twitter followers between them, Maria Ho has 61k on her own… you see my point?
This is the perfect event to push to people who love games, beer and getting away from it all for a few days without breaking the bank, and I think Grosvenor could break even bigger records if they pushed harder, earlier and to a wider market.
The GOLIATH nailed it with side events. A good few events at £30-£60 and a higher buyin 25/50 at the start of the week; a full range, and some hilarious formats.
I player the “Joker Poker” event on the Thursday and having Geordie Mike repeatedly say “Joookeer Poookeer” into the microphone was a stroke of comedy genius.
It’s the details that matter to the micro players, and the added value bounties and prizes was brilliant.
There were a couple of hooded regs moaning that “it wasn’t proper poker”… well spotted, dipshit, THAT’S THE POINT!
The event was maximum lols, entirely ridiculous, totally worth £35 and was a cleverly sly online registration acquisition tool as well, hopefully building low-stakes traffic for future satellites to live events.
The side events structure was really good, and exactly in line with the level of buyin of the main event. I couldn’t afford the 25/50, with a £220 buyin, but I didn’t care, because there was plenty that I could afford, and it offered something “serious” for the big-boys in the middle of the micro-stakes playground.
The only thing I might have liked to see was some £12, 10-handed flips for GOLIATH main event seats in the breaks of the side events. They’re always raucous good fun, can be easily recorded manually, and the dealers are sitting there anyway; this allows players who’ve busted their bullet and have friends who’ve made day two another shot at the main event without forking out another £120.
The Grosvenor team nailed the staffing in terms of dealers, or it appeared they did. I have absolutely no doubt that somewhere in the building there was a dealer controller ripping her hair out and sobbing, but as a customer, I didn’t see evidence of it.
On the final day1, there were over 100 tournament tables and at least 15 cash tables, and we weren’t stuck with the same dealer for hours because the dealer controller knows her shit.
It was also amazing that we got some world class dealers, the same guys on the EPT, WPT and WSOP circuits at a £120 event. That makes low-stakes players feel like they’re important, which is key if the operator wants them to return.
The valet service was not high class, soft drinks were on trolleys and valets were walking about with a tray of a type of drink and asking if anyone wanted one. It got the job done, I was never thirsty, and I didn’t have to pay for water/lemonade etc.
I was getting charged £1 for coffee, although with a bit of investigation, I discovered a free coffee machine. I heard the valets were “charging” £1 on top of the price of a pint to go and get beer, but the bar was never so busy that it wasn’t easy to jump up and get one, and as long as those valets were getting to keep that money, then I don’t see that is unfair.
Grosvenor definitely went down the efficiency route as opposed to the aspirational route in terms of drinks table service, and I think that is the right choice in a low-stakes festival.
In addition, I think Grosvenor nailed the food. There were street market type stalls all over the place with a variety of foodstuffs from reasonably healthy to super-lardy and a range of prices from just £2 for a giant sausage roll, £5 for a burger and chips meal and £10 for a full buffet ticket.
I opted for the cheapest, the sausage roll, and smelled of Gregs for four days, but it works for me; even at the busiest break times, it only took a maximum of 15mins to queue for any food.
I’m not saying you’d take a date there for dinner, but it suited the market, fed the masses, and that’s what needed to be done.
There was plenty going on, from draws, competitions and the wandering magician, Sean Heydon, who is a fixture at GOLIATH and I always look forward to seeing him, with his mix of sleight of hand and mentalism.
The casino at Coventry is well laid out to accommodate anyone who likes a bit of punt, although with UK gaming law restricting casinos to 20 slot machines on the gaming floor, it was coming under pressure. I’m not sure what an operator can do about that until the UK Gambling Commission stop being so uptight.
I would say the smoking area was a bit rough and ready, and I feel very sorry for the dealers who have to have their rare breaks surrounded by punters, but smokers are such social pariahs these days that no operator in the UK seems to be trying very hard to impress them; and due to the position of the Ricoh, at least they weren’t all piling out into a street.
I would suggest that next year they have someone to whip round every couple of hours and pick up the cigarette butts, cos it is a bit gross when you just want to get 5 mins fresh air!
Until the week of the event, I wasn’t a customer in Grosvenor, because I had to wait a year after leaving the staff before I could get membership. I know from experience they run in club satellites and I’m sure this happened again in 2016.
There were online satellites with feeders starting at 25p, but many of these did not run. On the face of it, I should be happy, because when they did run, there was normally a bit of value, but I know “short-term value” is another way of saying “long-term unsustainability”, so I can’t be too overjoyed about it.
I would recommend Grosvenor guarantee LESS seats per satellite and run MORE satellites next year, ensuring that the satellite starts and it doesn’t get cancelled because 10 players are needed for it to run and only 8 register with 20 seats gtd!
I guess this is symptomatic of the extremely low main event buyin of £120. I satellited in for £5, but if I hadn’t luckboxed a seat (in a satty with 4 seats of added value!) even I can afford to squeeze out £120 for a one off buyin in such a fun event.
I noticed the total lack of package satellites… what is the deal with UK operators not offering package satties for low-stakes events?
I know we’re a small island, but I came up from London, and I wasn’t doing a seven hour round trip!
My Goliath expedition cost me £500 including hotel, petrol, main event buyin and extra expenses. I would have definitely starting working on the satty route earlier if I could have won a package, and I think I’d have had more fun in my hotel if it had been booked by Grosvenor and I was surrounded by other poker players.
As it was, I had quite a laugh doing karaoke with a random 86 year old man in the hotel I did end up in, but that’s another story.
Packages are attractive, and they take away the low-stakes players’ bother of organising everything themselves. I really hope to see some for GOLIATH2017 available by Jan/Feb next year, and you can bet I’ll be playing them and starting at 25p like the fishy little microtard I am!
There were no hot chicks walking around in feathered costumes. Part of me was a bit sad, but actually I’d swap them all day long for the volume of suited, easily identifiable team members who knew what was happening and when.
In addition, Grosvenor seemed to have spent a few beans on proper signs with all the info on them, I only had to open my eyes and look; at no time during the festival was I confused as to what my poker options were.
It wasn’t just that the information was useful, the branded posters and POS everywhere made me feel like I was at a proper, important festival, and that my £120 presence was as valuable to Grosvenor as if it was a £5k buyin. I can’t play £5k buyins, so to be made to feel important at the level I can afford was brilliant.
There were massage girls knocking about, and I know many players took advantage of this service, although I wasn’t in my seat long enough to do so!
Everyone who entered the Main Event got a little booklet with a few extra promotional offers, and I think it’s the right choice to spend the budget this way. I’d rather have a free rake or an online deposit offer than a tight, feathered arse; my hotel had wifi, I can go back there and watch porn after I bust.
I think it’s vital that low-stakes festival operators don’t waste money on costs that low-stakes players don’t want, need or appreciate, and it’s fair to say that Grosvenor didn’t do this at GOLIATH.
Despite running badly, playing even worse and winning absolutely nothing, I had a brilliant few days in Coventry, and I will 100% be back next year. The very second they release the dates, I’ll be booking my hotel and starting to get excited for it.
If you are a low stakes player, you absolutely must be there! It is the ultimate festival for an online microtard to play live, and because it successfully attracts people who are not “serious poker players”, you will not be out of your depth, as you might be in any live main event £1000+.
Nothing is ever perfect in my eyes, there’s always room for improvement, but GOLIATH2016 was as near perfect as any low stakes festival I’ve been to. It’s not the only one in Europe, but it’s the best in the UK.
I cannot wait for next year, and I hope everyone playing at my level will get involved; the festival is already a success, let’s make it a permanent UK poker institution!