WPT Seminole Rock ‘N’ Roll Open: Tony Burns’ big bet on himself

Paul Oresteen
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Posted on: November 25, 2023 10:09 pm EST

A familiar face to the staff and players in the $3,500 World Poker Tour Seminole Rock ‘N’ Roll Poker Open took a seat in the field for Day 1B. He knew every dealer, every floor and every player as he spent nearly eight years of his life growing the Hard Rock poker brand. Tony Burns used to run the show here as the former tournament director.

While Burns was at the helm for the Seminole Hard Rock, its brand grew into one of the premiere poker destinations in the country. “Before I got here in 2015 Bill Mason, the director of poker operations, and the team had a vision,” Burns said. “I got to come in and put my touch on things. Obviously, I was very big on being on the forefront for the brand, but I give all the credit to Bill Mason and now Jason Heidenthal; they continue to do big things here.”

Tony Burns looking over one of his events

The big bet

In January, Burns bet big on himself by leaving one of the top jobs in the industry for the upstart Moneymaker Poker Tour as executive manager. “It was a gigantic leap of faith,” he said. “Chris’ win in 2003 was about the same time I go into poker and his success was big part of that.”

“I first met Chris in 2018, we established a great friendship and kept in touch over the Covid years,” said Burns. “He told me what he was doing but I had a great position here as director of poker marketing on the corporate level. There are big things still happening with Hard Rock with the expansion of poker and new properties.”

“So, it was an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with Chris. I jumped and went with it,” he added. “I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘What if?’ I knew there would be additional travel, but I looked at it as a way to provide for my family.”

The upstart tour held four events in 2023, which hit Moneymaker’s goal for the first year. “Chris wanted to grow to between eight and 12 stops in 2024,” Burns said. “I think eight is definitely obtainable. I want to get out to the West Coast, we’re exploring Texas, Las Vegas obviously and also looking at some international stops. Chris has a social club in Kentucky where he had to comply with a cease-and-desist order but there might still be some hope to get it open in 2024.”

A man of the people

Burns spent nearly every free moment on Saturday with players and former co-workers. “It’s definitely weird coming and seeing everybody from the other side of the felt,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun; the players are happy to see me and I’ve always enjoyed playing the game.”

Burns feels that by playing events he can better relate to players. “I hear what players are looking for, what they’re asking for, what they like and what they don’t like,” he said. “But it also gives me a little street cred.”

“The more poker, the better,” Burns said about competing tournament events. “Everyone is going to want to have their own identity and there’s only so many months on the calendar. I wish them all the best. I left the hard Rock on great terms and still love the brand today.”

Images courtesy of WPT