Rookie Tournament format gets poker community seal of approval

Jon Pill
Published by:
Posted on 12/19/2021

There is a lot of discussion about how to make new players more comfortable at the poker table. Not all of them are successful and fewer still become popular.

One idea that is getting approval from the poker community right now is the Rookie Event at MGM National Harbor’s Potomac Winter Poker Open.

The series will run in February 2022 (omicron willing) and will include 16 events. The MGM National Harbor has a decent-sized poker room with 37-tables and an 8-max limit. They normally keep 8 tables reserved for high rollers, but with their tournament running it’s the low-rollers who will be getting special attention. The Rookie Event (Event #13) will be a $200 buy-in event, with $10,000 guaranteed, and only amateurs will be allowed to play.

The idea is getting a lot of traction. Ashley Sleeth tweeted a picture of the Potomac Winter Poker Open with the caption, “Love this idea! Best way to get new people into poker. IMO.”

Lon McEachern replied, “Yay! More of this needed.”

Building a shark cage

Some of the newbie-friendly rules, like the shot clock, are aimed at keeping the game fast-paced and fun. In online poker, the focus has been on stripping away the tools that give pros an additional edge. These include bans on things like table selection and heads-up displays.

Then there are limited entry events. Some tourneys like Senior’s and Women’s events are about creating a less intimidating space by corralling similar kinds of players together.

With all this effort spent trying to make new players comfortable, it seems strange that rookie events aren’t already a major thing. One problem with setting up this sort of tournament is working out how you decide who counts as a rookie.

MGM National Harbor opted to keep it simple. A player may enter the Potomac Winter Poker Open Rookie Event if they have less than $25,000 in live tournament cashes on the Hendon Mob. Other places that have run similar events use different metrics.

It’s not an unexploitable entry requirement. There are online crushers and cash game killers who probably qualify. But the number of expert players who would be willing to travel to Washington D.C. for an ROI bump in a $200 tourney is unlikely to break the integrity of the tourney.

Mind you, it raises the excellent question posed by one Twitter user: “Who is the best player who has a Hendon Mob profile but also qualifies for this event?”

Perhaps we’ll find out in February 2022.

Feature image source: Flickr by Ron Cogwell, used under CC license