For well over a decade, the poker world has become quite familiar with the high quality of 888poker LIVE events. Now the company has made an exciting announcement that they’re jumping into something new, starting the UK Poker League (UKPL) an all-new venture that will feature stops in half a dozen Grosvenor Casinos across the UK.
Stops will take place throughout 2024 in Coventry, Edinburgh, Luton, Manchester, Leeds, and London, respectively. The seventh and final stop (Grand Finale) will take place in October in Coventry once more.
Each UKPL stop will feature over half a dozen tournaments, with the Main Event buy-ins being £560 affairs. The company has further announced that $20,000 in prizes will be distributed to the UKPL’s top finishers as per final leaderboard rankings
To learn more about the new league, Cardplayer Lifestyle spoke with 888poker’s Poker Offerings and Live Events Group Manager Matan Krakow, the company’s Live Events Manager Joaquin Vidales, as well as Luke Hobbs, Poker Marketing Manager for Grosvenor Casinos. In our discussions, we talked about the partnership between the two organizations and the type of excitement that players can expect to have at UKPL stops over the coming year.
888poker LIVE have been staging their live poker events since 2012, and you’ve got a handful of great stops planned in 2024, namely Madrid, Bucharest, Barcelona, London, and Coventry. What was the catalyst for this decision to add another series of live events in the UK and begin an all-new poker league?
Matan: For 888poker, the UK represents one of our most strategic markets. Poker is very much part of the fabric of UK culture; it’s what we call a “mature market”. The live poker scene is successful there. Thus, it’s important to us that poker players there see good brand visibility from us.
This is our first time running a poker league in the UK. We’ve had a similar circuit in Spain (CNP) and have had some excellent experiences with it, so we are excited to now have the opportunity to do something similar in the UK.
How did you end up deciding to partner with Grosvenor Casinos?
Matan: We’ve been working with Grosvenor for the past few years. It’s been an extraordinary partnership, as they’re a major actor in the UK’s live poker scene. We’ve done live events together with them in the past, both in London and Coventry, and they were very successful. As our partnership has grown, we’ve had many good creative brainstorming sessions together, and it was natural to want to expand our partnership further.
When we were presented with the opportunity to do a true circuit of events (calendar) in the UK, we knew right away that it was something we wanted to do. Live tournament poker is booming now in 2024, so the UKPL represents an additional opportunity for us both to show the poker world our best face.
We know that UK players love patronizing Grosvenor Casinos and they have a sterling reputation; that’s the kind of partner we want to work with.
How about from the Grosvenor Casinos side? In what ways do you see 888poker as a fitting poker operator with which to partner for the UKPL?
Luke: We recognize the strong following that 888poker LIVE have achieved with both their online and Live Poker Events. As the largest Casino operator in the UK, we wanted to give this following an opportunity to play at some of our most iconic UK poker venues.
Thus, last year we initially ran a couple one-off poker events in London and Coventry, and after seeing the interest from players, we decided to create the UKPL with 888poker Live to give them greater opportunities to play these events.
Grosvenor Casinos have 53 locations across the UK. What factors went into selecting the six locations where the UKPL will be held throughout 2024? In other words, what stood out to 888poker management about Coventry, Edinburgh, Luton, Manchester, Leeds and London?
Matan: We wanted to reach as many locations throughout the UK as possible in different parts of the country. Plus, we had our eye on the bigger casino venues. So, it was both a geographical consideration as well as a matter of choosing the casinos that are most suitable for hosting such events.
Luke: The venues selected are best suited to live poker events of this nature, they feature big poker rooms that can accommodate a large number of players whilst also being relatively spread out across the UK, meaning that every player should be able to access at least one UKPL event during 2024.
In terms of the tournaments themselves, buy-ins range from £90-£125 satellites to the £560 Main Event, with a £1100 High Roller at each UKPL stop. How did you decide on those price points?
Matan: We wanted to have a price point for every type of poker player. The UKPL is intended to cater to both recreational players and grinders. Regarding the tournaments themselves, we wanted to give live players a sense of 888poker’s online offerings. So, that’s why we used the names “Big Shot” and “Voyage” for the UKPL tournaments, as those are some of the big tournaments we have on 888poker.
In addition, each UKPL stop will feature a final event on 888poker.com called the “Online Closer”. The event will carry a $109 buy-in and $20K guarantee, and players who cash in this online event will also accumulate points towards the NPL and UKPL Leaderboards.
Joaquin: Notably, our event structures are different than the Grosvenor tournament structures. It’s important to us that players feel the difference in playing at an 888poker-branded event. We’ll be paying 15% of the field, so here’s a practical example: In the UKPL Main Events, any player from any of the four Day 1 flights who reaches Day 2 is already guaranteed to be in the money.
Matan: The feedback we’ve gotten from our players indicates a certain level of prestige to have not just bagged up chips but to also have made the money. They’re more likely to share news of that nature on their social media channels. In short, to the players it’s a bigger deal, so we wanted to give them the chance to have that thrill and experience.
Those preferring not to shell out £560 from their pocket can instead attempt to win their way to a UKPL Main Event seat on the cheap, via the aforementioned live satellites during each UKPL stop. Online satellites are also available. Can you please elaborate on how someone could win themselves a UKPL Main Event seat via 888poker online?
Joaquin: Any player from any country can win a seat in the UKPL. If you make your way to the UK from abroad, your seat will be waiting for you. So, players from Spain, for example, can try freerolls or 1 cent buy-in events, and spin that up to a $8.80 satellite. Winners of those will get tickets to the final online qualifier step, which is a $55 qualifier event guaranteeing at least one seat in a UKPL Main Event. Satellites run three times a week.
Matan: The satellites run in a “passport format”, meaning that you win a ticket worth £560 and the player gets to choose which UKPL stop they want to play at.
What exactly is “Grand Finale” about the 7th and final 2024 UKPL tour stop in Coventry? Are there specific things happening there in October but not at the other six stops during the year?
Joaquin: The Coventry stop in October will be both a UKPL stop combined with an 888poker LIVE stop all rolled into one. This gives players the opportunity to play in many more additional tournaments. This will be the biggest live event that we run in 2024.
Last year we ran an event in Coventry, and it was absolutely massive. It was our biggest live event stop of the year, and we had almost 4,000 attendees!
It might not have as much name recognition as London or Manchester, but Coventry is a very popular POKER destination. In particular, it’s a great venue for tournaments. Plus, geographically speaking, it’s right in the center of the UK, so it’s easy to get there from basically anywhere.
Matan: Location-wise, the Grosvenor Casino is physically located inside the Coventry Arena, home to the city’s main football team. This naturally lends itself to attracting “passersby foot traffic”, as sometimes people will wander into the casino after a match, see that poker is happening, and take a shot in a tournament or cash game.
Beyond being a fun and exciting poker league for recreational players across the UK to partake in and win money, there are also several prizes on offer for some of the league’s top finishers across the 7-event series. Can you please share some additional details in that regard?
Joaquin: There will be a UKPL Leaderboard, where players get points for every tournament they cash in. The leaderboard will be awarding a total of $20,000 to top finishers.
Top prize will be a package valued at $10K to play in five 888poker LIVE events throughout 2025. The player who finishes in second place on the leaderboard will win a free UKPL Main Event seat in every event throughout 2025. Additional prizes include live event seats as well as seats in 888poker.com online events.
Matan: Notably, points accrued in UKPL events will also count towards Grosvenor’s national poker league (NPL).
Grosvenor Casinos are of course well known throughout the UK, with a history dating back over 5 decades. For those who have yet to experience poker at a Grosvenor venue, what can they expect in general, and at each of the half dozen UKPL locations?
Luke: Across all our casinos we seek to deliver great experiences for every customer that walks through our doors. When it comes to poker, we pride ourselves in providing best-in-class tournaments and cash games for every type of player.
Players can enjoy a comfortable environment and compete for significant prizes whilst taking advantage of a variety of food and beverage options which are all served by our dedicated team of valets.
Besides a solid poker strategy, with what other knowledge and tips should players come equipped to play at a UKPL event?
Luke: All UKPL venues except Edinburgh are open 24/7 with free parking for Grosvenor Casino Customers. In order to enter a Grosvenor Casino, you must be at least 18 years old and sign up with a valid form of identification, such as a passport.
Aside from the tournaments at each UKPL stop, cash games also run. Can you share some details of the side action available in the poker room? What stakes? Anything besides NL Hold’em spread? Any cash game promotions?
Matan: 888poker decides on everything tournament-related, while Grosvenor manages everything on the cash game side. In addition to Texas Hold’em, 4, 5, and 6-card PLO are very popular throughout the UK.
Luke: Essentially, all player demands are willing to be met, so no matter what you’re looking for in terms of stakes and format, if the demand is there, we can get the game open.
In terms of cash game promotions, our biggest is the National Bad Beat Jackpot. This is an always-on nationwide promotion which has paid-out £2.9 million in prizes since re-opening after the pandemic. Simply lose a hand with the qualifying combination to claim the often-sizable Jackpot. What’s more, if you’re playing cash in any Grosvenor Casino at the time the Jackpot goes, you will also claim a part of National Bad Beat Jackpot amount.
Note: For more information on what’s happening in all Grosvenor poker rooms across the UK, then head to the Grosvenor Poker Live App.
Cardplayer Lifestyle Will be at the UKPL, Too!
We hope you’ve all enjoyed learning more about the all-new UKPL. Thanks so much once again to Matan Krakow, Joaquin Vidales, and Luke Hobbs for taking the time to speak with us.
On a personal note, I’m excited to get a firsthand look and experience the UKPL myself, as Cardplayer Lifestyle will be covering the Edinburgh stop next month.
Looking forward to seeing you there from February 13-18!