The Festival Series Promises Poker, Sportified Casino Games, and Passports of Fun

  • 2023 marks the first occasion in three years where poker pros can properly plan schedules
  • The Festival Series has garnered plenty of praise, particularly the 2022 Bratislava edition
  • Organizer von Zweigbergk explained to VSO News why the poker offered is so diverse
  • The series also sportifies casino games, something Zweigbergk believes dials up the fun
  • Players can even purchase a “Passport of Fun,” providing access to excursions and attractions
The Festival Series
According to its organizer, this year’s The Festival Series promises its attendees competitive poker, sportified casino games, and passports that guarantee players all the fun they can handle.

New year. New schedules. Normal service resumed. 

Poker players love to work out their poker schedules. Doing so well is a soft skill that professional players benefit from for both online and live play. The new year normally brings a raft of announcements from poker organizers about events in the year ahead and 2023 is the first year in three in which this has been possible. Normal service has been resumed. 

Personally, I love to keep my ear to the ground (my eye on the Hendon Mob website) as to what poker festivals are upcoming so that I can plan out the year, usually about six to eight months in advance. Last minute impulsive changes do happen as some FOMO rears its head on occasion but generally I stick to the following four-pronged plan. 

growing the game is everybody’s responsibility

Firstly, I make sure that I am free for all the Unibet festivals. Secondly, I pencil in travel to all the ‘must-play’ events – The World Series of Poker, The Irish Poker Open, and EPT Barcelona. Thirdly, I find out what big poker events will be on my doorstep in Malta. Fortunately, I reside on an island where almost every operator likes to visit – The Malta Poker Festival, The Battle Of Malta, and The Poker One. Fourthly, I try to find a few off-the beaten track stops or new tours to support. After all, growing the game is everybody’s responsibility. 

Variety is the spice 

One such ‘new tour’ is not actually brand new. ‘The Festival Series,’ a descendant of ‘Cash Game Festival,’ ran tournaments in late 2021 and 2022. It’s new to me though and I am keen to support a couple of its stops in 2023. 

‘The Festival’ in Bratislava last October proved a huge success. It smashed the €500,000 ($538,230) Main Event guarantee and received plenty of praise from players regarding its variety.

No Limit Hold’em, PLO, Sviten Special, and Chinese Poker

There were two dozen tournaments varying in buy-in from €150 ($161) to €1,100 ($1,184). There were knockouts and vanillas. There were fast and slow structures. There was No Limit Hold’em, PLO, Sviten Special, and Chinese Poker. There was even some fun crossover with the other casino game tournaments – roulette, blackjack, slots, and sports betting.   

The Festival Series Twitter account shared highlights from each day of the event:

A sit down with Franke

VegasSlotsOnline News sat down with ‘The Festival’ tour founder Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk to talk about his plans for 2023.

Franke, your first stop of 2023 is taking place in Nottingham’s Dusk Till Dawn venue. How confident are you that you can get midlands Englanders to play different games like Sviten Special? 

Well, as you know, a growing amount of poker players, including myself, are in poker mainly for mixed games like HORSE, PLO8, and Open Face Chinese (OFC) due to the lack of action when you only get two cards with which to play – at least that’s what an action junkie like me tells himself.  

the variance is higher with people screaming the word “POT!

Texas No Limit Holdem is of course a great form of poker but when you compare the excitement to your opponent drawing and placing their cards in OFC, it is nothing in comparison. Also, don’t get me started on variants like Sviten Special, which has a strong foothold in Scandinavia but is increasingly spread around Europe and even over the Atlantic. In that game, the variance is higher with people screaming the word “POT!” over and over again. It is music to my ears.

With the ambiance that can be created around the mixed game tables, especially in cash game format, I am confident that my new friends from the midlands won’t be able to say no to the fun and action.

Some poker players have no interest in the casino’s table games and many even think of them as a bit of a trap. You are sportifying those games, essentially making tournaments out of them so that the competitors aren’t playing against the house but rather against each other. Can you talk about your reasons for including those games?

The simple answer is I like roulette! However, I am also focused on including the different types of players. These games can be fun and I’ve seen many times now how poker players who had never played blackjack really get into the strategy around the blackjack tournament. 

As you said, you are not only playing against the house so a lot of the skill is adjusting to the strategy of your opponents. We are currently dabbling with tournaments in blackjack, roulette, and sportsbook (sadly no sportsbook tourney in Nottingham). In fact, the most popular request from players is to include backgammon tournaments so we are considering that for our Malta stop.

For this season, you have partnered with Unibet Poker. Can you tell us about the importance of that synergy between online and live?

As a player, I think we all like the speed that online brings. For me, live poker delivers the ultimate thrill but of course there are fewer hands per hour. Traditionally, online qualification for live events has been a great way to bring more players to live stops and we are fortunate to have a partner like Unibet.

They always treat the players really well

Unibet gives us an additional reach via their player base and I like the way they are so player experience focused. If you have ever been to a Unibet Open, you know what I mean. They always treat the players really well and that is the same ethos as The Festival.

Later in the year, you will be going to Malta and Bratislava. How do choose destinations and how much of it has to do with player feedback?

Player feedback is vital. Since Brexit, we Europeans have travelled a bit less to the UK hence why it’s so important for me to have a Nottingham stop. 

Then of course there will be Malta in early summer. What beats that? Then later in the year, there will be the Bratislava stop – a favorite destination for my players who love both the city and the Casino Banco.

Finally, on a personal note, you have been described in the past as ‘a force of nature’ and you have described yourself as a ‘party organizer first.’ Your vision for ‘The Festival’ has always been to create poker vacations. Can you elaborate on that and the creative ways that you have added fun side attractions to the overall experience?

Well, the truth is that me and another 80% of the players that come to an event will not win at that stop. That’s just poker. So why even bother to go? For me it is about experience first. To travel is amazing. To see new location or revisit old favorite restaurants is a big part of what makes life worth living. That is why The Festival focus not only on the gaming but we arrange our ‘Hospitality Packages’ which people can win at some of the online qualifiers or buy straight from us at a rate of €200 ($215) per person.

We have been skiing, Go-Carting, and ping-ponging!

Holders of this “Passport of Fun” are treated with at least one daily excursion or attraction, sometimes inside but usually outside the casino venue. There are fancy dinners and crazy parties. We have been skiing, Go-Carting, and ping-ponging! We did a painting session and went to a concert. We hired a yacht! These different activities are at every stop and I can guarantee you that the holders of these “passports” are VERY entertained at each stop.

The Festival Nottingham runs from February 12-19. The Festival Malta is scheduled for May 15-21. The Festival Bratislava will be later in the year. You can qualify online via both Seat-Only and Package satellites on UnibetPoker.com.