My poker playing friends and I have noticed a bit of activity on Facebook lately and it seemed like something was brewing up in Sihanoukville. Our senses proved correct as the WM Casino is reopening their poker room under the name of Top-Pot Poker Club. Judging by their advertisements it looks to be an aggressive attempt on their part to get this off the ground as they have planned a $3,000 free entry tournament on the 22nd of June and they have a slew of events, including a daily freeroll for the first two weeks. This plan is really ambitious as we have heard reports that they are planning to open with eleven tables. I have been invited by the room manager to come up and cover the event on my social media accounts. He’s given me a free hotel room at a lovely place called the Sea Breeze in Otres 1 Beach, along with a free taxi ride. I managed to get pops and another friend included in the deal and so we will all be going this Friday. Obviously I have yet to see the room and I do not know all of the details of the opening. I find myself in an interesting position now having received benefit from the room. Their generosity makes me hesitant in being too critical but then again I don’t want to be a mouthpiece for them either. There are some questions to be asked with the opening of this room and I hope to be at least one of the people asking them and finding answers in an objective fashion.
For those that do not know, I actually ran a poker room in Sihanoukville. It was located in the Bao Mai Casino and it barely lasted six months. It was incredibly difficult to run a room there and we certainly were not alone in our lack of success. At the time of our opening there were about fourteen other poker rooms in town. By the time we closed, there were only three. Several have come and go since, but something that a dealer of mine here in Kampot said is telling. She remarked the other week that she had been employed by twelve poker rooms in her time in Sihanoukville, and not a single one of them is still operational. This makes me wonder where this room is going to find the players for an eleven table room. Many of the expats have moved out of town already and it will be difficult to attract players in the long term from cities like Phnom Penh as the rental prices in Sihanoukville are so high ever since the Chinese migration. There has been a game at the WM prior to all this and it’s what one would call the bosses’ game. It’s a big game and I’m sure it will still go after the official opening of the room. And I suppose it is their plan to build around this game, but they seem to be using the same high rake, high benefit model that others have used prior such as free food and rakeback. As it has yet to work for any other room in the long run, I wonder about the prospects of it working here.
What they do have going for them is a manager who appears to be working very hard to ensure the success of the room. I’m sure that I am not the only one that he has reached out to in his attempts to market the room. From my efforts alone I know that at least five players will be attending the inaugural tournament, a number I am sure will be higher by the date of the event. From looking at their tournament schedule for the first two weeks, they have several events slated with guaranteed prize pools. While it can prove difficult to convert tournament players and freeroll chasers into playing cash, it should garner a great deal of exposure for the room. And whether or not the room can be sustained after the initial promotional period is one that should be left to be answered once the room opens. What can be said for now is that they are giving away a ton in the form of daily freerolls and other promos during this initial stage. It would probably behoove players to come and at least take advantage of all the giveaways and see for themselves if they can contribute towards the long term sustainability of a cash game.