Austin’s Lodge Championship Series main event misses guarantee by wide margin

Haley Hintze
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Posted on May 23, 2022 8:53 am EDT

Figuring out how large an event guarantee can be offered by live-tourney operators continues to be an inexact science, especially in a nascent marker such as Texas, where social poker clubs continue to thrive — at least most of the time. However, wild misses can happen, as evidenced by Austin’s Lodge Poker Club, where the ongoing Lodge Championship Series $2,000,000 guaranteed main event fell fully one-sixth short of meeting its guarantee.

With a $334,000 overlay remaining in place when the last of six starting flights’ late registration closed, the event turned out to offer a healthy bonus for those who attended and made the money. 617 entrants (including re-entries) paid the $3,000 buy-in, of which $2,700 of each entry went into the prize pool. The $185,000 in rake the Lodge collected from those players went right back into the pool, with the venue having to chip in an additional $149,000 as well.

Such a hit drains the profitability out of any such series, even if the Lodge’s owners, which include Andrew Neeme, Brad Owen, and Doug Polk, appear to be well-financed to handle the setback. Though significant, the big overlay isn’t a record, though the signs of below-hoped-for turnout were present from the opening flight. Well into Saturday’s final (1F) starting flight, co-owner Owen offered a bit of gallows humor on the situation:

Increased entry fee, high rake cited as contributing causes

The Lodge’s big miss on event of this nature quickly stirred opinions as to why the overlay situation occurred. Online chatter focused on two possible contributing factors. One was the Lodge’s decision to increase, by a wide margin, the buy-in for this main event, compared to earlier series the venue has offered. The second theme involved alleged higher-than-market-average rake being charge by the Lodge for some of its events, which some local players viewed as simply making the events a less-attractive offer.

Of the two, the Lodge’s attempt to boost its main event to a new price point carries the greater weight. Most previous series at the venue had offered a $1,200 ($1,100/$100) main event buy-in. In early March, as an example, the Lodge offered a $1,200 main event as part of its Millionaire Spring Mayhem series. The event carried a $1.5 million guarantee and it smashed that, eventually paying out $2,100,806 in prize money.

Why the Lodge attempted to mess with success, as the saying goes, is unclear. It’s possible that the venue’s capacity was strained to the max by the March event, and that moving the price point higher was a necessity. However, a jump to 2.5 times the previous main event buy-ins put the event into a new category of attendees, while freezing out many of the local players who might buy in directly or try a couple of satellite entries for a relatively small fee.

The current main event’s list of surviving and busted players shows that the Lodge did attract several dozen tournament-grinding pros from other parts of the country, though probably not nearly as many as the venue’s owners hoped. The downside, however, quickly became evident, as the Lodge essentially froze out a large portion of its own local player base, and thus suffered a $334,000 mistake.

Yet all isn’t quite lost. This being Texas, there aren’t any rules against owners playing in their own events. Co-owner Neeme played and ran middling deep before busting, while Polk is the main event’s chip leader entering Day 3, and thus has the inside track on the tourney’s $417,800 first-place prize.

Featured image source: The Lodge