South Florida series earns national recognition at 2nd Annual GPI APA; Director of Poker Operations Bill Mason and Tournament Director Tony Burns sit down to talk about the achievement
The 2nd Annual GPI American Poker Awards took place at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. Thursday, February 25. The awards were preceded by a conference featuring panels of industry standouts weighing in on everything from poker media to e-sports. Additionally, the first-ever Global Poker League Draft took place as 12 team managers selected their four-player squads in a major step toward “sportifying” poker.
For South Florida and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, the unique night was made special by the fact the SHRP Showdown Championship, the SHRPO Big 4 and the property’s Director of Poker Operations Bill Mason were up for awards. In addition, SHRP team member Faraz Jaka captained the San Francisco Rush in the first-ever Global Poker League Draft and fellow team member Matt Stout went home with the award for the Charity Initiative of the Year.
In the end, the SHRP Showdown Championship took home the award for Event of the Year (buy-in over $2,000). Seminole Hard Rock staff sat down with Mason and Tournament Director Tony Burns following their trip out West.
First off, congratulations on a great showing. How much fun was it to represent the Seminole Hard Rock at the 2nd Annual APA?
Bill Mason: We’re very proud of our events and it was definitely an honor and privilege to be at the show alongside the game’s biggest influences. We put in a lot of hard work and are thankful for the players we have and their loyalty to our product. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have had the honor of representing Seminole Gaming at the APA. It was definitely a great experience I won’t soon forget.
Tony Burns: I spent many years on the outside looking in at the work Seminole Gaming was doing. I’m very excited to be where I am now and to have the privilege of influencing these series and this brand. Bill and I had a great time California. Alex Dreyfus and his team put on a wonderful event and we’re thankful for the work they do promoting the game.
The APA is in its infancy as an industry festival. Talk about the overall experience of attending it.
BM: [GPI][CEO] Alex Dreyfus and his team made it an incredible experience from the discussion panels in the morning, to the GPL draft in the afternoon and to the awards at night. With all the lights and cameras we felt like we were at the Oscars. I want to thank Alex and his team for hosting us and putting on a spectacular showcase of our industry.
TB: The moment we stepped foot into the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, we could feel the electricity in the room and knew we were a part of something special. The panel conversations that preceded the draft were very insightful and tackled key issues to the growth of the industry we know and love. I’ve never been inside an NFL draft room, but the environment the GPL created mimicked what it must be like. Alex and his team extended everyone first class treatment and created a special vibe throughout the event. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced a red carpet entrance and walked into a room filled with all of poker’s biggest names.
What are your thoughts of the vision Alex Dreyfus and the rest of the GPI team have in regard to the future of poker?
BM: I definitely want to take a moment to thank Alex and his team for their efforts in promoting and expanding poker on a grander scale. They put on a world-class event and we were honored to be there.
TB: It was a great experience being out there and seeing first-hand the steps they’re taking toward “sportifying” poker. Their hard work is much appreciate. They’ve already made a big impact and I’m excited to see their future impact on the game of poker.
What was your take on the day’s events, specifically, the Global Poker League Draft?
BM: It was great to witness the draft in person. Everything went very well and we are excited that team member Faraz Jaka will play an integral role in the GPL’s opening year. The GPL will help grow the game and I’d love to see a team in Florida next year.
TB: When you walked into the draft room you were instantly greeted by poker greats Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth doing commentary for the Twitch live stream. The amount of camera coverage in the room was impressive as they were well mixed into the sea of team logoed banners and table toppers.
In addition to Event of the Year, SHRP received nominations for Poker Innovation or Initiative of the Year (SHRPO Big 4) and Industry Person of the Year (Mason). Talk a little bit about what the company is doing right and give us a preview as to where the brand is headed.
BM: We definitely want to thank not only our crew at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, but the entire Seminole Gaming team. It’s a group effort that wouldn’t be possible without team work. Their support and hard work are why we’re able to run these events year in and year out. We’re going to continue to grow the brand with events not only in Hollywood, but at other Seminole properties in the coming years. With the backing of management and the ability to be creative and innovative, the sky is the limit.
TB: Still in my first year at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, it has been impressive to witness and be a part of the events first hand. The support we get from top to bottom – the executives to front line team members – is amazing. Bill has been a part of SHRP from the beginning and has paved the way for people like myself and the rest of the team to succeed in running these tournaments.
The SHRP Showdown Championship was up against some pretty tough competition and bested the game’s premiere tournament – the World Series of Poker Main Event. When the first SHRP series kicked off in 2011, did you ever dream of something like this?
BM: Our vision from the start was to become one of the must visits on the WPT tour. We have been able to take that and expand it to four events during the year highlighted by the SHRPO and Showdown. We’re excited to be where we are now. It is amazing to see how much support the property and the players have given us and without that we would not be where we are today.
TB: I wasn’t here back when this all started, but am incredibly proud to be part of the team now. The future is bright for both SHRP and poker as a whole.
Seminole Gaming is a big player in the poker world in and of itself, but the company has partnered with others such as the World Poker Tour, WPTDeepStacks and Poker Night in America. What have those relationships meant for your brand and your events?
BM: It’s great to work together with industry leaders and some of the best people in the business. I think we have a unique vision here at Seminole Gaming and our partnerships have played a huge role for us as a company to make that vision a reality. Being able to work with Matt Savage – who also won an APA – has been a great experience as has been the opportunity to work with Chris Torina from WPTDeepStacks and Todd Anderson from PNIA.
TB: Our relationship with those companies is fantastic. It’s a pleasure to be able to offer some of the largest events, not only for SHRP, but for WPT, WPTDeepStacks and PNIA. They are all great to work with.
The SHRP Showdown and its Championship event – the reigning event of the year – are just about a month away. How do you follow that up?
BM: We’re always looking to improve year-over-year and give our players an experience that’s not offered anywhere else. This year’s SHRP Showdown will introduce the first-ever WPT Tournament of Champions and two WPT Main Tour stops. The addition of a $10,000 buy-in is really exciting for us and it will enhance the reigning event of the year – our $3,500 WPT SHRP Showdown Championship. We think the series as a whole will be a true standout on the tournament circuit.
TB: We’ve received phenomenal feedback from the players in regard to the addition of the new events for this year’s SHRP Showdown. I’m excited for the series to kick off and to run another great event.