Deadwood Poker Room Enters Dozens Of Freeroll Players Into $330 Tournament Without Covering Buy-in

The Lodge at Deadwood in South Dakota held its Spring Poker Classic last week.  The promotional material related to it did not tell the whole story about what the event actually was.

The advertising for the tournament stated that it had a $300+30 buy-in and that the house was adding $5,000, language that gave the appearance of an overlay.  That’s not what this tournament was at all.

The event was really a $5,000 freeroll that you could join for $330. That’s because the top five monthly leaderboard players from February, March and April each received a free seat. There were also four weekly tournaments during those months that each awarded a free entry into this event.

The house did not put any money into the prize pool for these awarded seats, something omitted from the advertising.  These players entered the tournament in a seat that contributed no cash.  The only cash that went into this tournament came from the $5,000 added by the house, seemingly to cover a fraction of the dozens of freeroll players, and the players willing to put in $330 in cash, of which $30 was rake.

The advertising material even described the free entries as having a $330 value.  That may have been the cost to enter the event, but that certainly was not the value of the seats. More on that later.

Dozens of Players Awarded Seats Where No Cash Went Into Prize Pool

A total of 15 leaderboard players entered the tournament for free.  By my count, there were 46 qualifying tournaments where a player from each received free entry.  That put 61 players into the tournament without an associated buy-in.  The house only put $5,000 to cover all of these players, instead of the proper estimated amount of $18,300, based on my calculations of 61 total players.

I called the poker room on Friday and confirmed that the house would not be putting a buy-in into the prize pool for the players that won seats.  I also asked the Lodge at Deadwood’s poker room representative how many players entered the tournament for free.  He would not give me a number even though it was day five of the tournament and that information must have been known.

Creative Math

The tournament advertised a potential prize pool of $72,800.  This number seemed delusional to me. It assumed 226 people would pay $330 to enter this tournament.  This is in addition to the 61 or so players that won free seats, meaning The Lodge at Deadwood was promoting a potential turnout of 287 people.

The poker room only has five tables.  It held six opening flights.  It could theoretically handle 300 players if every seat, every day, was occupied. That was never going to happen during a slow time of the year in Deadwood.  There simply aren’t that many poker players in the region to fill those seats, especially when most of the day ones were on weekdays.

For comparison purposes, the South Dakota State Poker Championship held at Silverado in Deadwood a few weeks earlier drew 136 players.

Tournament Results Not Released

I tried to find the results of the Lodge at Deadwood’s Poker Classic.  They were not posted on the casino’s website, social media or distributed to poker tournament websites. I asked the poker room and the casino for the number of entrants and size of the prize pool.  Neither one responded to me.

The poker room promoted that first place won $9,075 on its Facebook page.  That makes it clear that the prize pool was nowhere near the $72,800 displayed prominently in the advertising material.

Value of Freeroll Seats Not $330 as Advertised

It seems like a safe bet that fewer than 100 players paid cash to enter this tournament.  If we go with 100 cash entries, which is on the high end of the range, that made the prize pool $35,000 with the $5,000 the house added.  That would put 161 players in the event.  That made the expected value of a seat $217.40.  It also means that any player that paid $330 in cash to enter it immediately lost $112.60 in theoretical rake as $82.60 covered the seats of the freeroll players and $30 was the standard admin fee.

Always Inquire About Poker Tournament Rules

Many legitimate live and online poker rooms will post tournament rules on their website.  Those that don’t should have a rules sheet to give players that inquire in person or openly answer any questions about the tournament to those that phone into the room.

My phone call to the Lodge at Deadwood’s poker room made it seem like the representative was not forthcoming to me. He wouldn’t volunteer the information about the house not covering the free seats. When I asked directly about it, he would not tell me how many players qualified this way, even though all of those winners must have been known five days after the event started. The conversation ended abruptly. Those are all red flags to me.

If a poker room seems hesitant to answer simple questions about a tournament, or advertises freerolls as actual tournaments where many entrants will have no buy-in put into the pot by the house, it’s probably a good idea to look for another game.  If you don’t stop and ask questions, you may end up in a tournament like this one where you pay $330 for something worth $217.40.