Kenney to play Day 1C this Friday in WPN’s biggest tournament to date
Ebony Kenney has made a deep run in the Venom before, and she’s planning on doing that again today. Kenney plans on playing on Day 1C of the $8 million guaranteed tournament, which offers the largest guaranteed prize pool of any U.S.-facing online poker tournament in history.
You can cheer on Kenney in this weekend Venom action by tuning in at her Twitch channel. The Americas Cardroom Team Pro took the time to chat with Poker.org about her approach to the $8 Million Guaranteed Venom, as well as the future of online poker in the U.S.
This transcript is edited for clarity and brevity.
Interview with ACR Team Pro Ebony Kenney
Poker.org: So The Venom $8 Million Guaranteed; biggest guaranteed prize pool in the history of U.S. online poker. What do you think that says about the future of online poker in the U.S.?
Ebony Kenney: I think it says that we’re here. I think a lot of people post-Black Friday, and everything that happened with PokerStars and Full Tilt having to leave the U.S.; I think it shows that poker in America, specifically in the United States, is here to stay.
And on top of that, ACR is a force to be reckoned with. And the fact that they can hold these events several times a year and far exceed the guarantee, it shows that it’s not just a one-off thing.
Poker.org: Which (Venom) flight are you going to play?
EK: I’m playing Day 1C, and hopefully only Day 1C. I will play Day 1D if I need to.
Poker.org: The prize pool is already almost halfway to the $8 million, and of course those later two flights are probably going to get way bigger turnout than the first two flights. Where do you think this prize pool is going to end up in this tournament?
EK: I think if it stays on pace the way that it is now, I think it might hit the $10 million mark. I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit the $10 million mark. I’d be ecstatic actually.
Poker.org: That would put it in the ranks of the biggest poker tournaments of all time, online and live. Some of those high roller live tournaments have ridiculous prize pools, but $10 million would be a big mark, definitely.
EK: And for such a comparatively small buy-in. When you think about a lot of these tournaments that have a $5 million prize pool, $7 million prize pool, the buy-in is traditionally $5k, $10k. The Venom is $2,650, and there are so many different ways to get into the tournament.
Last night I was playing a $32 satellite to get into The Venom, and they were giving away five seats. So the barrier to entry is practically nothing if you are committed to grinding and trying to get in there. To be able to have access to a prize pool like this, a tournament like this with such an amazing structure, I think is something that, if you love the game of poker, you would be remiss to not play it.
Poker.org: On that note, when you sit down for a tournament like The Venom, does it feel different than your regular everyday tournament?
EK: Oh yeah, for sure. It kind of gives me the feeling of when I first walked into the Rio for the World Series of Poker a couple of years ago, the first time I was there. You get hyped. It’s like you wake up and it’s Christmas morning almost.
It’s good and bad. You get that feeling of excitement, and you try to make sure that excitement doesn’t turn into nerves and take over your ability to make good decisions. But it is very exciting, it is very different. Waking up for Venom day is completely different than just waking up for a normal grind day.
Poker.org: What about if you make a deep run in a tournament like The Venom? Can you describe the electricity of how that feels?
EK: The summer  Venom I got 147th or something, so I ran pretty deep. It was a nice deep run, and the excitement and every decision just felt one step closer to this life-changing opportunity. It’s one of those things where you just have to remember where you’re at, but also not let that put you under too much pressure.
You definitely feel it, it’s like static electricity. You can just feel it, and everybody’s so hype. When you’re streaming it, everyone is rooting for anyone that’s running deep in The Venom, especially when they’re streaming.
It’s so fun and it’s really exciting because, over the past four or five Venoms, I’ve known one or two people that have made the final two tables. You just can’t help but get so excited, so pumped. It’s for a lot of money, and on top of the money, you’re going through such a massive field. And either one of those things is a massive accomplishment.
Poker.org: What do you think makes Winning Poker Network the go-to place for tournaments like this in the U.S.? There’s no other U.S. site that’s coming even close to these big guarantees that WPN puts on.
EK: I think even asking it that way puts WPN in a smaller bubble than it even belongs. I don’t think it’s just the go-to place in the United States. I think it’s the go-to place in the world.
Because they are actively engaging with their players and getting feedback. And working on tournament structures that are good for the players. Not just good for their bottom line. They always pay out their guarantees, even if they don’t meet them if there’s an overlay. They are constantly engaging, getting feedback, making changes.
When you have a brand that has so many moving parts, things can get bottlenecked pretty easily, and get lost in the system. But what they’re doing is really making decisions and keeping themselves vulnerable and open for criticism, and negativity, and backlash. But they understand that in order to create real change, and create a better environment for poker players everywhere, that they need to do that.