Borgata’s Presidents Day tournament on 20 Feb was met with criticism from poker players who were sent home after waiting for hours to register for the event. The feedback on social media was generally that of frustration and disappointment from those who had a first-hand experience of what turned out to be a registration mess.
Players Waited for Hours Only to be Sent Home
The tournament, which had a $400 buy-in, and featured $200,000 in guaranteed prize pool, got underway on Sunday morning, with the first starting flight attracting more than 800 players. But many more were forced to leave the casino without getting the chance to take part in the tournament.
Day 1a was scheduled to start at 10am, but players had been showing up in droves since around 7am, resulting in a long line that extended to the Old Homestead steak house, about a quarter-mile away from the poker room.
Many of those who did not manage to get a seat into the first starting flight waited in the queue hoping to finally enter Day 1b which was scheduled for 7pm, but the long hours of waiting went to waste as the casino didn’t have enough tables to accommodate the influx of players.
Early Monday, Borgata’s Twitter account announced that all flights were already full. Day 2 of the event was due to begin at noon.
One player shared on Twitter that he traveled for three hours to Borgata and stayed at the hotel for the whole weekend to register for the tournament, but he was also stuck in the long line that by the time he was finally able to secure a seat, he only got 25 big blinds in starting stack. He said he waited in line longer than he played.
There were also reports that some players near the front were selling off their spots for as high as $800.
World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Ryan Depaulo wasn’t in attendance, but someone sent him a video of the actual scenario inside the casino showing a long line of hopeful participants.
The poker pro shared the clip on Twitter, warning fellow players who were still about to go to the casino to register for the tournament to cancel their plans as seats for both flights were already filled up as early as 12pm noon Sunday, ahead of the second starting flight.
The fiasco sparked an uproar on social media, with Borgata drawing a lot of flak for what appeared to be a poorly organized tournament. One player said he waited hours just to be told the seats are filled, only to find out later that the casino continued accepting players.
Scheduling Mistake, Inadequate Staff Could Be the Issue
Like most of the casinos that were forced to close in 2020 due to COVID-19, Borgata let go of thousands of employees. Among the nearly 2,300 workers laid off by the company were experienced poker dealers and staff who worked for the casino since it opened in 2003. The shortage of staff had a huge impact on Sunday’s tournaments as there weren’t enough dealers to facilitate the game.
Organizers also committed a scheduling mistake, putting up just two starting flights which ran on the same day. The last time Borgata hosted a similar event in February 2020, players entered via four starting flights across three days.
Also, the casino did not have an online pre-registration system which could have prevented the long queue. The fiasco should serve as a lesson for poker rooms across the country to anticipate huge turnouts, especially now that live poker is officially back up and running after going on hiatus for nearly two years due to the pandemic.