The 2021 Tournament of UFA Champions (“TOC”) final event is about to get underway under the bright lights of film crew cameras at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. The TOC has drawn hundreds of players from the four corners of the globe. Many are unknown champions from thousands of miles away, who travel here to pit their talents against the regulars, the tournament circuit pros and poker’s most accomplished UFA players and renowned personalities.
The three day long event tests the broadest range of skills of any poker tournament on the planet. Every player here is a champion! In order to play in this event each player has won a TOC designated qualifier. From small towns and big cities, one time lucky winners and tournament circuit pros face off in the rotation of various forms of limit poker games; Limit Hold’em, Stud, and Omaha Hi-Lo Split. The nine finalists will then turn to the “Cadillac of poker games,” No Limit Hold’em, to decide the TOC Champion.
The TOC was founded with a vision; a gathering of sturdy gladiators – from private clubs in small hamlets to the giant poker rooms of the Americas and the growing poker meccas from Austria to Australia – for the most rigorous competition invented in the Land of Poker.
Every year the TOC brings innovations and surprises and this year has been no exception. TOC President Chuck Humphrey called a first ever “Town Meeting” of poker players in the Champion’s Lounge. He challenged the movers and shakers to rise and shine early in the morning on July 25th to take part in a player/management gabfest to determine this year’s pay-out structure for the remaining TOC events – even including the “Big One.”
Everyone was asked to do their homework and to bring written proposals of their ideas. At 11am (dawn for a lot of poker players), Humphrey called the meeting to order by naming “yours truly” Chair for the meeting. He had warned me of his plans privately before the meeting. He said there would be plenty of poker heavyweights in the crowd and that my lion-taming prowess was about to be tested. I smiled slyly and insisted that no such warning was necessary for this business meeting with the likes of tournament experts T. J. Cloutier, “Miami” John Cernuto and Eric Seidel a poker star of Rounders in attendance. The participating crowd swelled to more than sixty. They listened to presentations from top tournament pros including Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu, and Ian Dobson who was a Poker Million finalist last year and a spokesperson for the Europeans.
Linda Johnson, Poker Ambassadoress extraordinaire and TOC founder Mike Sexton did their homework and set forth their similar proposals that were roundly applauded and built a consensus. TOC Boss Humphrey was a man of few words during the meeting. But while it was in progress he put pen to paper and made a few adjustments to the recommendations and returned to the table to announce that the input at the meeting was at the heart of adopted revisions for the prize pool distribution for the remainder of the 2001 TOC.
The revisions enhance the pot of gold for the top finishers while insuring respect for those who place in the money at the bottom of the totem pole. Under the revised plan, the top dog in the final event is likely to earn more than $200,000 – a heck of a payday, no matter how grueling the work. The finisher in 45th place (based upon sufficient entries) will be rewarded with double his/her Buy-In for a cool $4,000. Now, that’s more than a drop in the bucket for a lucky recreational player who has come from afar – maybe a small club in Birmingham or a casino in Sydney.
Ah, first these finishers qualify for the indescribably delicious TOC Championship, and then they get to play with the masters of the trade (probably knocking out a poker celebrity or two in the process). They have a fabulous time, a free vacation and money left over for gifts – maybe enough to buy a car, or with skill and a nod from Lady Luck, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Personnel and players are very pleased by Humphrey’s exceptional efforts to bring prestige to the poker industry while upgrading respect for all players within the poker community.
In addition to the unique Mixed Games championship, and the first ever Tournament Participant Town Meeting, Humphrey will once again electrify the TOC Championship arena with the opening ceremonies at the final event. The pageantry of contestants parading into the arena with their country flags will be a filmed celebration of the game and a tribute to the poker greats and dark horses who make up the tournament mosaic.
The TOC’s innovations have been non-stop. This year, Humphrey incorporated a Seniors TOC with the inimitable promoter “Oklahoma” Johnny Hale who did the hosting chores and brought the baby boomer in to rock ‘n roll. It was one of two events with a charitable component. Humphrey turned over the reins once more to Linda Johnson who hosted an international charity event that was played by teams from the competing nations. Vietnam was the winner with Men “The Master” Nguyen championing “Children of Vietnam” for 50% of his winning proceeds. Not to be outdone, a Japanese contingent set up a money tournament that drew lots of extra attention when the team challenged Pokerpages President Mark Napolitano to become Japanese for a day. Napolitano anted up his $120 and went on to become vested in the Japanese tradition with a first-place finish.
As we go to press, there has been a filmed weigh-in for tournament punters who dare to diet and wager $2000 on their anticipated success based upon a formula and timetable that was kept secret until their arrivals at the scales. Those who succeed will share in the proceeds from those who don’t. Yours truly was among the brave.
Tune in for a list of those who promise to become newly svelte at PokerPages.com during the exclusive Internet broadcast of the TOC final table action beginning 8pm Sunday, July 29th or you’ll have to wait until the video comes your way!
Wendeen Eolis’ accomplishments in business, politics, and poker have been profiled this past year in The New York Times, on A&E;’s Biography, and on Court TV, as well as in GQ Magazine and Poker Digest. Her legal consulting company, Eolis International Group, Ltd. reviews law firms and selects counsel, worldwide — for companies, governments, and individuals. Wendeen has also been among the most effective advocates for smoke-free poker rooms in the United States.