With pandemic restrictions fading in the United States and life returning to normal, interest in live poker is experiencing a massive resurgence. Poker rooms around the country are answering the call with cash game table traffic approaching capacity, while long-missed tournament series are finally planning and staging live events once again. One such outfit prepping for their comeback tour is the two-time Global Poker Award-winning RunGood Poker Series.
Leading the charge is RunGood President Tana Karn, working night and day to ensure that the series’ upcoming trio of planned tour stops in California, Iowa, and Mississippi, offer the same top-notch experience to the hordes of players planning on attending. We caught up with Tana for a brief Q&A ahead of the return of his beloved mid-major events.
You had been all prepped for major collaborations with PokerGO (entitled “Showbound”) that unfortunately never materialized due to the pandemic. You’ve been weathering the storm and keeping very busy with many other activities and pursuits, and are now finally able to get out there and work with them to produce your RunGood live events. Describe what it feels like.
I don’t think anyone was truly prepared for the scale or effect the pandemic dealt us. There has been a barrel full of emotions canceling our events in 2020 to putting out our first schedule up for 2021. There is no doubt in my mind shelving the tour was the right thing to do despite how hard it was to be on the sidelines. Someone much wiser than me once told me that sometimes you can’t change a situation but you can always change your mindset. The best way to describe what it feels like to be back, I’d have to say is the same feeling as finally getting that nod from coach to warm-up, you’re going in.
It must feel exhilarating to be on the phone with the folks running the poker rooms at Jamul Casino in San Diego, the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, and the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica and hear the magic words “sure, let’s go for it and make the event happen”. Was there a particular moment or development that happened that gave you the feeling “the time was right” to begin prepping once again?
Beyond exhilarating. Most of the folks who work with me know I’m not one to hold back excitement and when you can tell I’m trying to hide it I assume they know I’m secretly fist pumping. A big turning point to really get things back into the planning stages was after my mother and father both got vaccinated. My parents both worked a ton to get their pursuits off the ground when I was young which helped shaped my own drive and ambition. However, it didn’t leave as much time for them to be able to come to my sporting events growing up. Now as semi-retired individuals, they’ve been at nearly every opening event of the tour as pops is a regular fixture on any given RunGood week. If we had run a stop any earlier there is no doubt in my mind pops would’ve been there. Now there is some peace of mind for everyone’s dad, son, mother, daughter, etc that they can come out and play safely.
— RunGoodGear.com (@RunGoodGear) May 15, 2021
Casual fans see the RunGood logo, the event dates, the locations, the schedule and the PokerGO logo. But to some it might not fully be clear exactly what the nature is of your organizations’ collaboration. Can you go into a little detail?
Our collaboration with PokerGO started with former President, Sam Simmons, and Director of Programming Brent Hanks. We all saw an opportunity to bring more to the poker industry by setting the stage with giving recreational players an opportunity, normally reserved for big names and high rollers, a chance to play where some of the biggest games are filmed. The first team-up was the Showbound campaign which saw qualifiers from all over the tour’s stops compete for two seats to be on Poker After Dark episodes featuring a $5,000 Sit and Go format. We all joked about our “back in the day” nights coming home from the bar a little tipsy with Taco Bell and turning on late night TV to find Poker After Dark. Getting to play on a televised cash game has always been a bucket list item for many, getting to play on a TV show many have watched growing up would be a dream.
This time around we wanted to open up the opportunity to more and therefore the All-Stars ProAm event was conceived. It brings participants from all parts of life and skill levels to a stage set to be watched by poker rooms across the country. The one thing I’ve picked up on traveling along the tour for the past six years has been there are no shortage of rails at events. Hometown heroes are a thing in the poker room and we want to make those heroes become legends on the biggest stage out there.
Your dedication to producing a memorable, enjoyable live poker tournament series experience is so clear to anyone who knows you or follows you on social media. You’ve also got a dedicated loyal fanbase of players. What has their reaction been thus far to the announcement that the RunGood Poker Series is finally coming back?
Since the beginning of the tour, every player knows how emotionally invested I am with everything that goes on and how accessible I am. I’ve met some incredible people growing up in this industry and my daily group chats, message apps, social media are chock full of excitement about the RunGood Poker Series’ return.
One of your series’ “calling cards” is that it gives participants the “big event feel”, but at a far more affordable buy-in level. For those who’ve never attended a RunGood Poker Series event before, can you describe the components that make up that big event feel and what folks can expect to experience when they attend for the first (or umpteenth) time?
Behind the scenes, there are so many things we try to do each time to put out the best experience possible for players. It starts from getting the room excited about us before we even arrive from the room regulars to the dealers. Add in the professional photography Hayley Hochstetler and Joe Garrett provide, promotional items given out during the week, top quality event prizes, Main Event coverage by PokerNews.com, and partners like PokerGO. The formula has everything needed to be successful. We want every attendee that comes out to have their moment during the week. Because at the end of the day, the most important person in the room is the player.