In the world of tournament poker, there are a litany of tours and series that a player can take part in. If you want to go with the “major leagues,” there is the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker. If you want to drop down a bit, there are the Heartland Poker Tour, the WPT DeepStacks, the WSOP Circuit and others. Now, a top professional who has worn several hats during his time in the game is looking to bring about the next great tournament series for the poker playing world.
Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace has been a poker coach with Real Poker Training, the author of a book (No Limits: The Fundamentals of No Limit Hold’em) and a plethora of magazine and online articles, and a sponsored playing pro with the “Shark Brigade” from Blue Shark Optics, and found the time to win a WSOP bracelet in 2014. It appears there was one thing that he hadn’t done in poker, though…start his own poker series. With the Next Level Poker Series, Wallace is looking to not only check that block on his poker resume but also give back even more to the poker world.
Poker News Daily had the opportunity to catch up with Wallace and learn about his new endeavor and what it holds in store for participants.
PND: When did you first have the idea of starting your own poker tour?
Chris ‘Fox’ Wallace: I’ve toyed with the idea for years. I’ve been an ambassador or team pro for three different tours now and seen what they do well and the mistakes they make. A lot of tours are using technology that is ten or twenty years old, dragging tables around the country or bringing in entire film crews, and casinos don’t want to pay for that stuff. When I got the technology worked out I realized that I should really go ahead and do this thing.
PND: What has your experience in playing different tours taught you? Was there anything that you’ll bring from those tournament experiences that you’ll implement in the Next Level Poker Series?
CFW: I was lucky to work with a few very different tours. I had a chance to see how they did things differently and was able to take the good and hopefully learn from their mistakes. I watched a tour grow into a powerhouse and I watched two others fail. Much of what we do is unique, but I certainly learned some things from those tours that made Next Level Poker possible.
PND: OK, that seems to be the big question…what will the Next Level Poker Series bring that the other poker tours and series don’t?
CFW: We are different in several important ways. As a tournament pro, I know what players want, and as a dealer and tournament director my business partner Brian Soja understands things from the other side of the equation. The technology I’ve worked out allows me to do a solid broadcast out of what is basically a backpack, and that allows us to charge the house less than many other tours. This means they can charge less rake, spend more on advertising, and have more stops for the same amount of money.
We are also engaging players to help us promote the events rather than spending so much on advertising. We are hoping that a year or two from now we will have a seriously loyal following (that) appreciate we are fighting for them and who will fight for us in return. We know there are a lot of players who don’t care and who will play tournaments with twice the normal rake just because everyone else is doing it, but we think that there will be enough players who care about what a tour actually offers that our following will become powerful enough to allow us to negotiate different deals with casinos that work well for everyone.
We also have a charity event at every stop, something that is very important to us. The poker community has a lot of money and we think it is a great place to raise some cash and give back to the communities that help us make a living. We hope other tours don’t catch on to most of what we do, but we would be very happy if the charity component spreads to other tours.
The most unique thing we do is the Pocket Fives Invitational. It is an invite-only single table tournament that we broadcast live on the first night of a tour stop. Some seats are given away as sponsor exemptions while others can be won through promotions on social media or by playing live games at the venue. The winner gets a seat into our main event, the Blue Shark Optics Championship, as well as a selection of gear.
We also make that player our featured pro for the week including covering their progress in our events and publishing a bio on our site. Because a player could win a seat on twitter or Facebook when they have never been in a casino, it could really take some someone from a complete beginner to a known player in the blink of an eye.
PND: It seems you’ve got some good ideas, but what is the most important thing that a poker tour can do to keep its players happy?
CFW: We actually have a poll up on our Facebook page right now. Simple two question poll about priorities when it comes to choosing a tournament. the answers to that poll will help us answer this question better, but I think it’s different for everyone. Some people primarily care about structure, while others focus on low rake or on how soft the field will be. Many recreational players only care about having a good time or how much money will be in first place. The chance to play on a broadcast “feature” table is also important to many players, but we don’t think most of them will admit it. I know I sure have more fun when I’m on a broadcast table!
Integrity is also very important. Some tours have had a surprising lack of it, a problem I have experienced firsthand with a couple of tours, and when players get to know us and see that we have a spotless reputation we think they will make it a point to play our events.
PND: The first event will begin November 5. How prepared are you for the tournament schedule?
CFW: We think we are ready, but I will admit that it has been a ton of work. More work than we imagined. There is a tremendous amount of red tape involved in these things as well as so much organizational work that I never had to deal with when I was just wearing patches for a tour and doing commentary on final tables. We have a test run of our broadcast equipment coming up on October 28th that should help make sure that we have things running smoothly. We are donating the broadcast to one of our favorite poker charities, All-In for Africa. Check them out, they do amazing work!
PND: Your choice of venue isn’t one of the bigger names in the business. How did you go about picking Diamond Jo as the casino for the inaugural event (writer’s note: Diamond Jo Casino is in Northwoods, IA)?
CFW: Diamond Jo was the first venue we approached and we were ecstatic that they said yes. It’s always nice to get a hit in your first at bat. We knew that there had not been a big tour there in quite some time and that they are a great card room that a lot of players don’t know enough about. They have enough space for us, a great casino, and they are close to Minnesota where Brian lives and where I am from until recently. It gives us a home field advantage and a chance to start on a clean playing field where other tours haven’t been recently.
PND: Can you give us some clues as to other stops that will be coming?
CFW: We are talking to venues all over the country and hope to be announcing a couple of big names soon. We are willing to go anywhere in the world and no poker room is too big or too small. We are in talks with venues in South America, Australia, The Caribbean, and all over the United States. If you want us to come to your area, please put your card room manager in touch with us and we will give them a great deal on a great series.
PND: What is your eventual goal for the Next Level Poker Series?
CFW: I want this thing to be huge. I want us to be powerful enough that other tours must adjust to us and offer players and venues more of what they want. Ten years ago, we were getting 5,000 starting chips in events with a $1,000 buy-in. Now we get four or five times that number. This is because tours started offering better structures and players came to expect better structures. We want to do that with everything. We want a happier interaction between players and venues where everyone benefits.
Poker News Daily would like to thank Wallace for his time and encourage interested players to check out the Next Level Poker Series website here, where a full slate of action for the inaugural event from November 5-26 can be found.
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