Justin Hammer talks about Prime Poker Open disaster

Jon Pill
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Posted on November 27, 2021 10:56 am EST

Justin Hammer made a mistake on the job. A mistake that cost his paymasters $200,000 dollars.

Hammer was the tournament director in charge of the Prime Poker Open, a large tournament series for the Prime Social Club in Houston. As the TD for the series, he was the man who set the guarantees for the series to a combined $2.5 million. He was also the man who had to watch over the course of three weeks as event-after-event failed to meet the guarantees he set.

It’s the sort of workplace slip-up that one might want to assign to the deepest oubliette in Texas. Instead, Hammer boldly knocked out 900 words on the subject and put it to a Twitter poll.

“If I did a blog post on what it was like being a TD who missed over $200k in guarantees in one series, would you read it?” Hammer tweeted.

73% of respondents said yes. The full article is now up on the Prime Social website and makes for fascinating reading.

It’s a rare honest look behind the scenes at what actually goes into making these series come to life. And full credit to the man, Hammer does not shy away from owning his error.

Hammer writes: “After the schedule is created, the dozens of responsibilities include staffing – from dealers, floors, cooks, security and cage to servers and bartenders – creating structures; marketing; designing/buying trophies; social media; live-stream schedules [etc…]. I get so much help from the great team at Prime Social with many of these tasks, but ultimately it falls on me if something goes wrong. Something like missing a guarantee.”

The Houston poker “boom”

The Prime Social Club is one of the more successful ventures in the wild South that is the Texan poker industry.

As the Prime Poker Open was underway, Johnny Chan’s 88 Social was beginning to show signs of the wheels coming off, sending ominous tremors through the Harris country poker community. This is something that Hammer does not comment on, but one imagines would have been on his mind in the last few weeks, when he wrote the words:

“This series involved more guesswork than usual, as Texas is relatively new to organized poker […]. The last year of poker events in Houston — and Texas in general — gave plenty of reasons to believe we could pull off a highly successful series in early November.”

“Well, that’s what I would have told you two months ago,” he adds.

Houston is thick with competition at the moment. Around two dozen poker clubs have opened their doors in the last few years. Even Doug Polk mooted the idea of opening a Texan poker room himself. Though it should be noted that Bart Hanson warned him off the project, apparently successfully.

Whether this explosion of poker venues proves to be a boom or a bubble remains to be seen. Either way, it is clear that Hammer saw it as a boom and got overconfident.

“73% was enough for me to go for it. My first blog post for @PrimeSocialTX. If it’s well-received I’ll do more. If not, well I still might. Enjoy,” Hammer tweeted.

Houston, we have a problem

Hammer doesn’t shy away from either his own culpability or the agonizing experience of slow-burn failure.

“When missing on an event with multiple starting days, the process is so slow and methodical it feels like receiving a punch to the gut that somehow takes four days to fully experience. We took those punches three weekends in a row.”

Despite the grueling, Hammer has got right back on the horse putting together a new event for the Prime Social Club to “replace a canceled event down the street” — probably the Winter Classic at Johnny Chan’s 88 Social.

One imagines that this time, the guarantees will be somewhat more modest. If they whiff again, I hope we get another report from him.

Featured image source: Twitter