The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey is hosting its first major live poker tournament in roughly two years over the long 2022 Presidents Day weekend. The Borgata, which has awarded nearly $440,000,000 in tournament paydays since first opening in 2003, resumed poker operations in October of 2020, but had not completed a major tournament series since February of 2020.
This weekend’s $200,000 guaranteed, $400 buy-in no-limit hold’em Presidents Day event apparently got off to a rocky start, with the high demand apparently outstripping the amount of tables the venue was prepared to run. The tournament is scheduled for Feb. 20-21. Sunday saw two starting flights take place, one beginning at 10:00 a.m. local time and the second at 7:00 p.m. A massive line formed in the morning hours, with New Jersey resident Jamie Giunta posting on Twitter that the line wrapped all the way around to the Old Homestead Steak House, which is essentially on the opposite side of the casino.
With the massive turnout resulting in lines that stretched hundreds of yards in length, it didn’t take long before players began to hear rumblings of the event being sold. Indeed, both starting flights were announced as sold out by the official Borgata Twitter account, @BorgataAC, later in the afternoon.
POKER TOURNAMENT UPDATE: All flights for today’s Poker Tournament are full committed. There are no available spots at this time.
— BORGATA (@BorgataAC) February 20, 2022
According to a Card Player contributor who was on site, some players had been waiting for more than 4 hours or more when the announcement was made that the event was full, with an alternate list growing into the hundreds.
Ultimately, hundreds of players were either turned away or only were able to take a seat hours after they hopped to enter. Twitter user @HomieSenior was one of many to share frustration about the situation online, saying, “…[I took a] 3 hour ride, I spent all weekend here just for this tournament only to wait in line for 3 hours and buy-in for a 25bb stack. I waited in line longer than I played.”
2015 World Series of Poker main event champion Joe McKeehen also weighed in, asking, “Have you considered getting more space or more starting flights in the future? Also bring back the WPTs and stuff and series and get the event center. Look how many people they’re bringing in.”
WSOP bracelet winner and popular poker vlogger Ryan Depaulo shared a video that he was sent that showed just how long the line got in the early afternoon.
I’m not even there just trying to help.
I guess they are still taking people but this is what I was sent earlier. Just tryna help, BE WARNED pic.twitter.com/gQXY9I7GXJ
— Ryan Depaulo: Degenerate Gambler (@depaulo_ryan) February 20, 2022
As previously mentioned, the Borgata has paid out hundreds of millions in poker tournament prize money, with plenty of large field events going off without a hitch in the past. They have been hosting smaller daily events in the fall of 2021, but had not tried their hand at a larger event like this since the pandemic began.
The event ultimately drew nearly 1,000 entries, but could have blown away the guarantee by an even larger margin if these issues that resulted in players being turned away were addressed.