Full Tilt Poker announces Onyx Cup poker tournaments

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Mar 15, 2011 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

With the largest stable of high stakes poker pros it’s not surprising that Full Tilt Poker is behind the first major bump-up in tournament buy-ins since the 70’s when the World Series of Poker introduced the poker community to the $10,000 buy-in tournament. In a video press release sent out today Full Tilt Poker unveiled their plans for a 6-stop high-stakes poker tournament series known as the Onyx Cup.

The Onyx Cup will feature five preliminary tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, followed by a Grand Finale tournament featuring a $250,000 buy-in with $1 million added to the total prize-pool by Full Tilt Poker.

The tournaments are open events –so if you have a few hundred thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket here is your chance to get rid of it—and will take place in North America, Europe and Asia, with the only announced location being in Las Vegas, Nevada from May 11th to the 12th. Other likely stops include London, Macau, Monte Carlo, and Sydney.

In the past few years we have started to see more interest in higher buy-in tournaments, and following on the heels of the successful $100k tournaments at the PCA and the Aussie Millions, as well as the $250k tournament at the Aussie Millions it was only  matter of time before someone saw the potential in an ultra-high-stakes poker tournament series.

For more information on the Onyx Cup you can view the Full Tilt Poker press release hosted by poker commentator Ali Nejad at www.fulltiltpoker.net.

Why I’m excited for the Onyx Cup

Full Tilt Poker’s latest announcement of a six tournament series featuring six-figure buy-ins called the Onyx Cup is one of those poker decisions that will either change the face of the game, or will fall flat on its face. First let me talk about the good things the Onyx Cup will bring to poker.

The Money Matters

Finally the money matters again. Since sponsorships invaded the poker world, and with most of the top players were now playing with house money –or with money that was insignificant to them—I think the pressure cooker atmosphere of the WSOP tournaments of the 70’s through the 90’s has disappeared. Especially when you consider if they bomb out of one $10k tournament there is likely another one the following weekend. When the money simply doesn’t matter, you are no longer playing high-stakes poker –even if the money is significant to the average person—and I think poker fans are starting to realize that the top poker players don’t have a couple million dollars; they have tens of millions.

It’s Different

If you’re as tired as I am of watching basically the same poker telecast for the past eight years than hopefully the Onyx Cup will take televised poker in a new direction. Honestly, how many times can I watch a WPT or WSOP episode? It doesn’t matter what year the coverage is from, it’s all the same, the only thing that changes are the players involved, but this is like exchanging a red t-shirt for a blue one; in the end it’s still a t-shirt!

But now I will have the chance to watch something more akin to a multi-table Sit & Go with the best players in the world involved. The decisions will cause players to sweat, and tempers and emotions will likely bubble over –not because they are playing for a $2 million first prize, but because they have anted-up a quarter of a million dollars of their own money for the chance at that prize –not a mere $10k—the Return on Investment is much smaller in these high-buy-in tournaments.

I’m hoping the Onyx Cup can make the high-buy-in tournament work, and after the successful $100k and $250k buy-in tournaments at the PCA and Aussie Millions it seems entirely possible; especially if Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars can come together once again… Which will be the focus of my next column outlining my fears regarding the Onyx Cup.

Why I’m worried about the Onyx Cup

In my previous section of this article I went over some of the aspects of Full Tilt poker’s recently announced Onyx Cup Poker tournament series that I’m excited about, but like everything in poker you have to look at the bad as well as the good. So, here is my fear when it comes to the Onyx Cup.

The Rift

With the current rift between PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker I have serious concerns that the Onyx Cup tournaments are just going to look like a high-priced showcase of Full Tilt Poker Pros –and I’m sure the forums will light-up with rumors of Full Tilt doing this to get all their players atop the all-time money list and other conspiracy theories.

In order for the Onyx Cup to work, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars are going to have to bury the hatchet and once again combine their sponsored player pools for the betterment of poker. Without some combination of Daniel Negreanu, Vanessa Selbst, ElkY, Jason Mercier, Viktor Blom, Vanessa Rousso, Barry Greenstein, and virtually every WSOP Champion who might partake in these tournaments since 2003, Full Tilt Poker will seemingly be playing a 20 person Team Full Tilt Poker sit & go.

Aside from Team Full Tilt and some rich poker enthusiasts there are very few players not on the PokerStars roster who would be willing to take part in these tournaments –which are going to set each person back $1 million just in entry fees:

·    Phil Galfond
·    Phil Hellmuth
·    Andrew Feldman
·    Sam Trickett
·    Daniel Cates
·    Tony Bloom
·    James Obst
·    Alexander Kostritsyn
·    Sorel Mizzi
·    Tony G
·    Antonio Esfandiari
·    Phil Laak

In a perfect world all of the above –and a few others I left off like possibly Tom Marchese, David Baker, Andrew Robl, and others—would make it to all the stops. But this is just wishful thinking, which is why I think they need that third player pool of PokerStars to make this work, so when you add the 20 possible players from Team Full Tilt, with the 20 possible businessmen and non-PokerStars players, along with the 20 possible players from PokerStars you have a chance at consistently drawing 40 players to these tournaments.

Full Tilt is expecting about $5 million in prize money per tournament (going by their $30 million figure for all six stops) which means a $100,000 buy-in tournament is going to need 50 players, and the Grand Finale would need to pull in 20 players to reach that number.

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