Buckle Up for the Merit Poker Western Series 

  • The Merit Poker Western Series runs January 16-27 and has over $3m in guaranteed prize pools
  • The new poker room at Merit Crystal Cove Hotel in Kyrenia, Cyprus has been a hit with players
  • A Triton Poker stop and the Mediterranean Poker Party have already been featured at the venue
  • Merit Poker should benefit from focusing on the player experience 
The highly anticipated Merit Poker Western Series is slated for January 16-27. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Unique selling point

There’s an old cowboy phrase… 

“Don’t squat with your spurs on.”

Essentially it means don’t do something without thinking or it’s better to plan ahead. I believe that this especially true these days when it comes to poker. In my last article, I highlighted “The Festival” and the ways that they are putting effort into creating something different for their upcoming poker stop in Nottingham. In partnership with Unibet Poker, Martin “Franke” von Zweibergk is bringing poker and casino games together in a palatable way by sportifying the latter.

brand spanking new state of the art poker room

Another poker brand with a strong understanding of the value of a unique selling point is Merit Poker. Strong festive themes have been a feature of Merit events in the Merit Crystal Cove Hotel in Kyrenia, Cyprus for many years but now, with a brand spanking new state of the art poker room, the operator is planning to become one of Europe’s premier poker destinations. 

Last November, “The Vintage Series“ was a huge success with three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Georgios Sotiropoulos outlasting 766 other players to claim victory in the $3,300 Main Event and walk away with $384,150, the lion’s share of the $2,122,440 prize pool. Now it is the turn of the “Western Series,“ a cowboy themed poker extravaganza, the highlights of which will be the $500,000 guaranteed $2,200 Warm-Up, the $1,500,000 guaranteed $3,300 buy-in Main Event, and the $5,300 High Roller. There will be livestream coverage hosted by the all-VegasSlotsOnline News team of Dara O’Kearney and yours truly, so buckle up for an exciting twelve days of live poker action.  

The Mediterranean Poker Party

When the new poker room opened in September, there was high hopes that the first big international event would make a splash and the host venue couldn’t have been happier with the fledgling Mediterranean Poker Party (MPP) and established Triton Poker Festival, offering a schedule of tournaments from mid-stakes all the way up to the nosebleeds. 

The $1,100 MPP Open went first, boasting a $920,000 prize-pool and crowning Belarusian Vadzim Godzdanker as the champion after he defeated Alessio Isaia heads-up to take home $150,000. Then it was the turn of the MPP EAPT, another $1,100 buy-in which attracted 675 players, with Eduard Barsegian the last one standing. He bested Aleksandr Pak to win a cool $100,000. 

As the festival progressed, the price of poker steepened with the $2,200 buy-in MPP Warm-Up reaching a total prize pool of $1,924,640. When the dust settled, Russian Arsenii Karmatskii was victorious, having beaten Serbian Milos Skrbic to claim $310,000 and the trophy. The big one, however, was the MPP Main Event, a $5,300 buy-in with a $5,000,000 guarantee. This one would be a sweat for the organizers, but in the end, a big day 1C field got them to 1,032 entrants. After five long days of play, German player Hannes Jeschke emerged triumphant, cutting himself a check for $543,142. 

Triton Poker delivered glitz and glamour

Triton Poker is a brand synonymous with quality. Big buy-ins, big prize pools, the most famous players, and a cutting-edge livestream coverage promises glitz, glamour, high quality play, and more than a few heart-in-mouth moments. It says a lot, then, that Triton decided to come to Cyprus in September, confident that their players would get the first-class experience to which they have become accustomed. 

The $25,000 Super Highroller attracted a whopping 131 entrants, generating a prize pool of $3,275,000. In the end, it was a feather in the cap of the old school as poker legend Patrik Antonius pulled off a famous victory, booking an $825,000 win. 

Double the price tag did not mean half the attendance, as the $50,000 6-max Super High Roller got 117 runners to create a $5,850,000 prize pool. Pieter Aerts beat Sam Grafton in that one for a career-best $1,472,000 score, but the English PokerStars ambassador was not finished for the trip.  

The next day, Grafton took his seat in the $200,000 Triton Coin Rivet Invitational – a unique format that pitted businesspeople against invited poker professionals, segregating the two groups initially before combining the field to play to a winner. In the end, Grafton turned over a final table featuring Fedor Holz, Tom Vogelsang, Seth Davies, Ebony Kenney and runner-up Linus Loeliger to book a mind-blowing $5.5m score. 

Hungry to get a piece of the poker pie

Online poker thrived during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 and while nobody would have wished for it to happen under those conditions, this great game of ours was given an opportunity to find a new audience. Now, with those enthusiastic newcomers augmenting the existing player base, live poker has never been healthier with record fields and record prize pools being set on an almost daily basis somewhere in the world.

it is those who cater to the players, treat them well, and spoil them a little who will emerge victorious

With operators hungry to get a piece of that pie, I believe that it is those who cater to the players, treat them well, and spoil them a little who will emerge victorious, earning the loyalty of traveling pros and vacationing recreational players. As someone who has played 100 live tournaments per year for over a decade, I know well what it was like to be herded like cattle to a grim poker venue and then flung into turbo structured main events with egregious rake. 

Far too much of live poker devolved to that in the period between 2015 and 2019 and it is my prediction that organizers like Merit Poker will reap the benefit of a renewed focus on player experience. 

To quote another cowboy saying…

“If you’re ridin’ ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it’s still there with ya.”

The Merit Poker Western Series Warm-Up event runs from January 16-20. The Main Event is from January 20-25. The High Roller is from January 25-27. Livestream coverage is free to watch on the Merit Poker YouTube Channel or the Merit Poker website.