It is Day 1A at the World Poker Tour Bay 101 Shooting Star $10,000 no-limit hold’em main event in San Jose, California and Card Player will bring you unique news stories from the tournament floor. We caught up with WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage this afternoon and he discussed the unique aspects of this fan-friendly tournament. The interesting extras include six-handed play when the field reaches the final 36 players, a cash prize of $10,000 for the end of Day 1A and Day 1B chip leaders, and $5,000 bounties placed on the heads of 50 professional players who are the tournaments Shooting Stars.Ryan Lucchesi: What goes into choosing who will constitute the stable of players who are Shooting Stars each year? Obviously you have locks, like Phil Hellmuth will always be a Shooting Star, but what do you look for in rookies to include?Matt Savage: We definitely want to get some new blood in there. We’re really excited about having Daniel Cates out here. He’s just turned 21 so getting him out here to play in this event was really good.It’s a chance for us to show the local players the flavor of having international players here, the biggest names in poker here. I think we have been able to do that. Our locals here are very supportive of the club. It was Marko Trapani’s goal to have it that way. We really wanted our locals to have a chance to play against poker’s biggest stars.RL: Do you feel that the setup of the tournament has made it a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of the high number of fans in attendance we see each year here at Bay 101?MS: There is no other place in the world like this for fervor from the fans here at the Shooting Star. Every day there are people out here looking for autographs and they have cards to sign. They bring pictures and shirts. It is crazy. Our final tables here are the rowdiest I’ve ever seen. They are loud and really enthusiastic about poker. It has been great to come back every year and be a part of the excitement of the Shooting Star.RL: There are certain sports arenas around the country where you know you can count on fervent fan support each time there is a game. Somewhere like Madison Square Garden for pro basketball or Cameron Indoor for college hoops? Has the Bay 101 become that location for professional poker tournaments?MS: We always see new customers here for this event or it is the one time during the year where we see them. They come in during this time because they are fans of the game. With the World Poker Tour changing this year with new additions to the show, I think it will bring even more people out. I think it is an exciting time for poker. There are a lot of things going on and I hope to see a resurgence of the game. I’m excited about it.RL: We hear a lot about the fun fan experience at this event, but what feedback do you get from the players?MS: Coming from the L.A. Poker Classic , which is the second largest event during the year with 54 tournaments running, and then coming to this event here in my hometown and it has a hometown feel to it. I think that is part of the experience. I spoke with Greg DeBora, who is a PokerStars online pro from Canada and he said this is the first time he has played in this event and he really likes the experience and the feel of the place. He said he will never miss another one and he has only played a few levels.It is one of those things where even though it is a decent-sized casino, it is not a casino as you’re used to seeing one. There are no slot machines or any of that stuff, it is more of a poker room and people feel really comfortable when they come here.RL: Do you think that poker room feel is something that is representative of the California poker scene in general? Do the L.A. Poker Classic and this event really give poker players from all over the world a good sample of the California card scene each February and March?MS: Definitely, there is nothing like Commerce as far as size and the cash games there are just unheard of. You don’t see that, even at the World Series of Poker . The action during the L.A.P.C. is bigger. When you come up here and we are now to no-limit hold’em, we just got it last year. It is a different experience. We have nine more tables in the poker room now and for the first time people can come here and play no limit. This tournament really brings out the locals and the stars really feel like stars when they come here.RL: Is it flattering to see the model you guys have established with this event here in new incarnations like the bounty shootout events that have become popular?MS: Yeah, even things like the six-handed tables when 36 players remain. You see a lot of six-max events now and we have been doing that here for years. We really wanted to do something different with that setup. We wanted to really give the players a chance to test themselves.Even though we are a four-day tournament with the Day 1A and Day 1B, because we go to six-handed play and the two hour levels it gives the final table a lot of deep play. People that study structures and don’t understand how a four-day tournament could have better structure than a six-seven-eight-day tournament, it is all about condensing it to six handed and making the levels longer later in the tournament. It is a really unique experience.The people who have won this event over the years have been some big names. We always have a lot of big names at the final table because the Shooting Star is the way it is people are gunning for those guys and if you pick up a few hands you’re going to makes some pots. Daniel Negreanu has already up today and John Juanda has as well. It shows that people here are shooting after that $5,000 more than what you see anywhere else.RL: Is placing the big-name professionals in action situations the best way for a poker tournament to put its best foot forward for a general audience?MS: Exactly, and the fact that regular people are able to take a shot at those $5,000 bounties gives the locals a chance to win money after they win a $125 satellite. For them capturing a bounty is just like winning the tournament.Another thing we do is that the chip leader after Day 1A and Day 1B gets $10,000. You don’t see that at other tournaments. How many times do you see that the Day 1A chip leader doesn’t even cash. It really changes the dynamics at the end of the day. People are looking around and seeing if they need to play some pots in order to win. It’s an exciting thing at the end of the day.I don’t flatten out the money as much as other people do. I leave things fairly top heavy but there are other ways that people can win money in this tournament. And again, any money that gets put back into our poker economy is always good for us.
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