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When organizers announced the 2016 ARIA Super High Roller Bowl as a follow-up to last year’s inaugural event, there was no doubt it would be a success. But for a $300K buy-in tournament to sell out all of its 49 seats several months before the event is set to begin is unparalleled success. The poker history writers are taking note.

Timeline of a Sellout Tournament

It was on January 14 that Poker Central and ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas announced that a second Super High Roller Bowl would take place in Las Vegas.

The tournament wasn’t scheduled until May 29, but there was a cap of 49 players for the event, so the long lead time was ample enough for players to gather the $300K for the buy-in. That amount tends to be more than even the highest of rollers keeps on hand or in a casino box.


However, less than two months later, the field is capped. Tournament organizers announced on March 14 that all 49 seats have been reserved for the tournament. As happened in 2015 when the cap was 43 players, the event has sold out ahead of its start date. With more than two months before the cards are dealt, promotions can begin with nearly all of the players’ names released.

High-stakes poker players rarely have the opportunity to play in an event with this high of a buy-in, and when planned this far in advance, many of them relish the chance to reserve a place in the action. In addition, the tournament is set to take place just as the World Series of Poker begins in Las Vegas, so players will already be settled in to their desert digs and anxious to play some poker.

Another huge incentive to play the tournament is the airing it on Poker Central’s television network. This exposure allows players to possibly obtain sponsorship and gain notoriety.

The icing on the cake is, perhaps, the $15 million guaranteed prize pool. In addition, sponsors have added $300K to the prize pool, creating a tournament that is deemed a negative-rake one. The winner of the event should take home at least $5 million.

Players Gonna Play

Some of the names in the tournament are familiar to poker fans: Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Jason Mercier, and Phil Laak.

Other fans will recognize names like Justin Bonomo, Phil Galfond, Tom Marchese, Scott Seiver, Stephen Chidwick, Jake Schindler, Isaac Haxton, Igor Kurganov, Doug Polk, Dominik Nitsche, Fedor Holz, Haralabos Voulgaris, Dan Smith, Dan Shak, David Peters, Bryn Kenney, Byron Kaverman, Andrew Robl, Ben Lamb, Anthony Gregg, and Bobby Baldwin.

And of course, Brian Rast will play and defend his title.

Last year’s Super High Roller Bowl offered a $500K buy-in event and attracted 43 players. The prize pool was $21.5 million, and the final seven players cashed. Seidel min-cashed for $860K, Marchese followed, as did Peters, Timofey Kuznetsov, and Connor Drinan. Scott Seiver then lost heads-up to Rast, who came back from a large chip deficit to capture the victory and take home $7,525,000.


For the 2016 game, there are two unnamed players at this point, but so far, the only woman registered to play is businesswoman and high-stakes poker player Kathy Lehne.

ARIA’s Director of Operations, Sean McCormack, also noted that there is a “significant waiting list” for the tournament in the case that players must withdraw from the event before May 29. “I’ve never seen a high stakes tournament sell out three months in advance,” he said. “It’s unprecedented.”

More information about broadcast times will be announced as the tournament start date nears. The seven-table, seven-handed NLHE event is prepared to take place at ARIA on the Las Vegas Strip, and further details will be revealed in the coming months.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.