Poker players beware: The new tour created by Full Tilt Poker is not for the faint of heart or for the amateur just wanting to give poker a shot. This is going to be a challenge for players that we've never seen before and a real test to bankrolls everywhere.
Full Tilt Poker announced on Monday the creation of the ONYX Cup Series, a six-stop tour that will feature buy-ins ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. The tour is aiming to find the best poker player in the world and that means those that can afford to play in the biggest buy-in events in the world.
"In crowded tournament fields ... great players rarely have the opportunity to compete against one another and the rest of the poker elite," said Ali Nejad on the video posted on FTP's website. "So we wondered, how would these players fare if their only competitors were the other giants of the game?"
The tour is open to all players (who have the buy-in), consists of six no-limit hold 'em tournaments and will have an estimated total prize pool of $30 million. The top three finishers in each event earn points and at the end of the "Grand Finale", the player at the top of the leaderboard will be awarded the ONYX Cup, earn a "luxury sports car" and will be "acknowledged as the player who conquered poker's elite." The "Grand Finale" will have a buy-in of $250,000 and there will be $1 million added to the prize pool.
The tournaments will take place in the United States, Europe and Asia. It will be broadcast in more than 20 languages and 40 countries with more information on that sure to come. With the players and talent sure to be in the fields, this will definitely be must-watch poker TV.
"I think it was just a matter of time [that something like this would be created]," said Patrik Antonius. "It's been too many years that poker has been running the same cycle and it just needed to step a little bit further."
The first event will take place in Las Vegas, NV on May 11 and 12. Players already confirmed for this event include Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel, Erick Lindgren and John Juanda.
"There's never been a series of tournaments like this where it's just the elite of the elite," said Erik Seidel. "It's going to get everyone's blood flowing."
"We're going to have a tremendous amount of respect [for the champion]," said Phil Ivey. "We know they've had to grind and play really tough to beat us."
This is the second new league/tour created in 2011 with a similar focus of bringing the best together, the first being the Federated Sports and Gaming league of which Annie Duke is the Commissioner. While the idea is an incredible one, here are some initial questions that will be answered as the tour progresses:
• Who is going to play? - We've seen High Roller and Super High Roller events around the world get a couple dozen players. Yes, we know that Team Full Tilt will be in attendance, but who else from around the world will show?
• Is it sustainable? - These events currently happen only a couple times throughout the year and now with six of them scheduled, who really has the bankroll to sustain an 0-for-6 on this new tour? This will be a hit on not only the players who fail to make the money, but the backers who are trying to strike it rich with a good horse in these events.
• TV? - They said 40 countries, but didn't say which ones. I'd hope that the U.S. would be one of them and that the air time it would receive isn't around the 2 a.m. hour. Also, online streaming could be an option that I think many would like to see.
• FS+G - Well, FS+G wanted to create a poker league for the pros and give them a chance to compete. Now they have direct competition in that space. You can bet that many of the cardholders for the FS+G league will be potential players in the ONYX Cup events and I'd assume that if the two were scheduled up against each other, ONYX would reap the benefits.
• Qualifiers? - So Full Tilt is going to award seats into the events through online qualifiers. Good luck to whoever makes it through and has to take the awarded $100,000 (or more) and sit down at a table with Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, Gus Hansen, Patrik Antonius, etc. I like the idea of including amateurs, but it just doesn't seem right in this case.