Playground’s Not-So-Secret Recipe for Success

In a bid to better understand the evolution of Playground into the international poker powerhouse venue it is today, I sat down with their VP of Gaming Operations, Ryan Bevens. The venue, which opened back in 2010, boasts an impressive rise to prominence. Over the course of our conversation, it became clear that Playground’s continued excellence stems from their sticking to their main goal from Day 1: striving to create the best possible experience for players. When you visit this shrine to poker, you know you’ve arrived at a special place.

Playground Poker

Playground’s Humble Beginnings and Early Vision

Though only starting out with a comparatively modest 21 poker tables, right from the get-go Playground’s focus was on the player. “It was all about having a luxurious experience: having the best chairs, the biggest tables, the most comforting atmosphere,” Ryan shared. This vision of luxury and comfort set Playground apart from other gaming establishments right from the start.

Over the past 14 years, Playground has grown significantly, driven by player demand for more, bigger, and better facilities. Today, it boasts a plethora of features and amenities designed to ensure a first-class experience. These include, for instance, extra-large tables to prevent overcrowding. “We don’t want nine players at a table to feel like a tight squeeze,” Ryan explains. This type of attention to detail and player comfort is a hallmark of Playground’s approach.

Playground Poker

Relentless Ambition to Be a Great Poker Destination

The ambition at Playground has remained constant over the years. While many properties offer similar amenities—gaming machines, poker, etc.—Playground distinguishes itself through its relentless drive to provide the best guest experience possible.

A testament to this commitment is their policy of offering free food and drinks to everyone playing in the cash games, a rare perk in today’s gaming world. “You can sit down with $50 playing $1/2 No-Limit Hold’em and eat for free. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore,” Ryan points out.

A Game-Changing Partnership with the World Poker Tour

A pivotal moment for Playground happened back in 2012, when they first hosted the World Poker Tour. “This event catapulted us to international recognition. WPT bet on us even though we were a small operation; so that partnership has always been near and dear to us,” Ryan shares.

When we first hosted the World Poker Tour back in 2012 that was absolutely a game changer. It put us on the map!

The relationship with WPT has continued to flourish. The return of the WPT to Playground after a five-year hiatus is a testament to the strong partnership between the two organizations. The WPT Montreal event is unique, with Playground awarding a championship belt to the winner, in addition to their name being enshrined on the Mike Sexton Champions Cup.

Mike Sexton WPT Montreal

This tradition, with a wink and nod to the staff’s passion for wrestling, sets Playground apart and underscores their innovative spirit. “When you think ‘bracelet,’ you think ‘WSOP’. When you think ‘trophy,’ you think of the WPT’s Mike Sexton Champions Cup. When you think ‘championship belt,’ well, some other properties may have that now, but it all started with us here at Playground,” Ryan says proudly.

The 2024 Expansion: 128,000 Square Feet of Gaming

Recently, Playground completed a major expansion, adding two new floors to the existing space. This expansion included a dedicated poker floor, providing 42 luxurious poker tables, including two private VIP rooms. The property took care to maintain its distinctive black and red color scheme, ensuring brand consistency throughout. “Even though we’ve expanded, we’ve stayed on brand in every way,” Ryan notes.

Ryan Bevens

The new third-floor poker room features 44 tables, while an overflow area on the first floor can accommodate an additional 17 tables. Furthermore, a tent with 40 tables is set up for larger events. Although the tent is a temporary structure, it is equipped with climate control, security cameras, and high-quality amenities to ensure it meets the same standards as the permanent facilities.

“We wanted to build something that could properly ‘face the elements’, so it is fully heated and cooled, we brought in a full grab-and-go station and added an entire bar. But it’s temporary! The day that this event leaves, the tent comes down. Preparation time to get the tent fully up and running is a couple weeks,” Ryan explains.

Playground Poker tent

Playground’s Unique Offerings and Promotions

Playground continues to innovate and enhance the player experience. Beyond their unique offering of free food and drinks to every player, they also run a variety of interesting promotions. These include the largest Hold’em Bad Beat jackpots in the world, a separate PLO Bad Beat Jackpot, and a mystery high hand promotion, where players can win up to $25,000. Specifically, players who make a qualifying hand (aces full of kinds, as of this writing) have the chance to pull an envelope and potentially win a substantial prize if their hand qualifies. These unique promotions contribute to the vibrant and engaging atmosphere at Playground.

What It Means to Employ A World-Class Staff

A crucial element of Playground’s success is its highly trained staff. Ryan emphasizes that their dealers are considered among the best in the industry, thanks to rigorous and ongoing training programs. “Our trainers, our leadership and management team are extremely strong. Everyone goes through the dealer’s school, but also constant refreshers,” Ryan explains.

This dedication to continuous improvement ensures that the staff is always up to date with the latest rules and developments. “Every dealer, supervisor, dual rate – we all go through training every single week. I’ve been in gaming for 20 years and have never seen any level of ongoing staff training like what we do here,” he adds.

Measuring Success Beyond Revenue

Success for Playground is measured not just by revenue but by the volume and diversity of players it attracts. The goal is to be a world-class poker destination, welcoming players from around the globe. Continuous improvement is key to achieving this, with every aspect of the player experience meticulously reviewed after each event.

“It’s a matter of traffic; how many people are coming through our doors. Size and reach of the event is important to us. We like to see growth. We like to see players coming out here to our tables from lots of different countries. To consider ourselves a truly ‘world class poker destination’ means that people from all over the world have to come to us,” Ryan explains.

Playground Poker tent

Playground’s Ongoing Commitment to Excellence

Ryan’s closing remarks highlight the core Playground philosophy: “We want the player experience to be the best. We could do things cheaper and lower quality, but we specifically bring out the best equipment, even though it costs more; we want the best experience for the players and we will continue to set the bar.”

Playground’s journey from a small operation with 21 tables to a world-renowned poker destination is a story of unwavering commitment to excellence, innovation, and player satisfaction. With each expansion and every event, Playground continues to elevate the standard of what a premier poker experience should be. The dedication to luxury, player comfort, and top-notch service has solidified their reputation as a leading destination in the poker world.



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Written By.

Robbie Strazynski

Robbie founded in 2009. A veteran member of the poker media corps, in addition to writing and video presenting, Robbie has hosted multiple poker podcasts over the years, including Top Pair, the Red Chip Poker Podcast, The Orbit, and the CardsChat Podcast. In 2019, Robbie translated the autobiography of Poker Hall of Famer Eli […]

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