The Israeli Poker Championship, also known as IPC, is coming back to the Portomaso Casino on October 31st and will be hosting tournaments and cash games until November 3rd. Igaming.org will be covering the main event with live coverage all days and met up with one of the main organizers behind the IPC, Roy Even, to have a chat about how the IPC started, poker in Israel, the relationship with the Portomaso Casino and future goals.
There's no doubt that the Portomaso Casino in Malta is a special destination for the IPC, as they will be hosting their 7th event series since 2012 in October and November this year. The history of the IPC goes back to 2009 however, where the IPC hosted their very first poker tournament on an international cruise ship.
Q: Why did you decide to create the IPC?
A: Our first motivation was based on the fact that we all played poker for several years, but due to the regulations in Israel in regards to poker and gambling in general, no big multi-table tournaments were ever being held. We found a solution to provide the Israeli poker players with just that, by placing the tournament just outside Israel borders, and decided to create an organization to continue to provide players with that. The IPC was an instant success and the first three years we hosted a total of five poker cruises, before starting to go to casino's abroad.
Q: How big is the organization behind the IPC?
A: We are being seen as a mid-sized business here in Israel. We have tournament directors, event managers, marketing team, legal advisor’s as well as a logistics department. We need to keep a big team to ensure the quality of our tournaments, to promote it and ensure all legal issues are being taken care of.
Q: You mentioned that it was not legal to play poker when you started the organization. Is it still illegal to play in Israel and are the rules the same for online poker?
A: Gambling, both online and live, is in general illegal in Israel. The only legal gambling we have in Israel is sports betting through a government regulated sports book company.
Q: So does that mean that you don't have any casino's or clubs that you can play poker in?
A: The only thing we have is some underground poker clubs. No legal poker clubs or casino's to play in unfortunately.
One of the first IPC trohies
Q: If poker is not legal to play in Israel, do you have any communities where you talk and learn about poker, or is it up to the individual to find information about it?
A: We do have some online communities where players can share experiences and talk about poker and the newer poker strategies. It is far from enough unfortunately, but in the past years it has evolved in a positive direction with a poker academy started by the best Israeli poker players. We also hope to be able to help the community in the right direction with the IPC and bring a social aspect into poker.
Q: When and where was the first IPC tournament hosted?
A: The first IPC tournament was held in September of 2009 on a cruise ship going from Israel to Cyprus and back, where we had booked the entire ballroom for the tournament. Prior to the tournament we had trained our own dealers and tournament managers, who provided the players with a professional experience that they otherwise had to travel far to experience.
Q: How many players participated in the first tournament?
A: Our first tournament had an amazing turnout of 586 players in the main event, but with only two days to play it, it was also too big. We actually had to ask the cruise ship to stay in international waters for two hours extra to be able to finish the tournament, as poker is illegal in Israel.
The First Poker Cruise Hosted by the IPC
Q: How do you see the general skill level of poker players from Israel?
A: There's no doubt that for most players it is nothing more than a hobby, dedicating only a small amount of time towards playing poker in general. When you combine that with the very limited offerings they have poker-wise, you get hobby players who lacks experience in playing. That being said, we see that our players are very well-educated and quickly adapts the skills needed to play good poker and in the past five years we have seen an increase in good players and within the past two years we have seen more and more professional players winning good money, both live and online.
Q: Is the IPC mainly for the good players or do you also attract the players playing poker as a hobby?
A: We attract both types. In the IPC you will find the best players from Israel participating, but you will also find those who just enjoys playing the game and doesn't worry too much about winning large amounts of money every year. We have around 300 players who travels around Europe with us to our events and the numbers are increasing.
IPC Poker Cruise
Q: So you have chosen the Portomaso Casino in Malta for the 7th time to host one of your IPC tournament series. Do you or your players have a special relationship with Malta or why did you decide to go there?
A: When we decided to expand the IPC series outside of the cruise, it was natural to look towards Malta for us. It is only a 2-hour flight from Israel at a decent price, it's well known for hosting several smaller and bigger tournaments every single year and the contact with the Portomaso Casino has from the start been very good and professional, which made us choose them as our first mainland destination. The people working in Portomaso Casino are very skilled and well managed and it has become a go-to destination for us up to twice a year ever since our first visit.
Q: How does your players feel about travelling to Malta to play the IPC?
A: They love it. The weather is great even in the winter time, which many of our players are very happy about, and it also offers everything else they could desire such as great night clubs, shopping and high standard hotels at a reasonable price. When you combine that with our great tournament schedule, around the clock cash-games and an amazing staff at the Portomaso Casino, it is safe to say that the players are very pleased with the destination, as they feel like they get to play poker and have a small vacation.
Q: So do you offer your players a special travelling package with everything included?
A: Yes. One of our main objectives in IPC is to offer a finished “product”, which makes it easy for them to simply see if it is attractive and then book, providing them with a hassle-free trip. We provide packages which includes flights, transfer and a variety of hotels to choose from, ensuring that players can get exactly what they want or what's within their budget.
Q: Is the players travelling to Malta to play coming exclusively for the tournaments and sees the cash-games as a bonus, or do you have some who takes the trip exclusively to participate in the around-the-clock cash-games?
A: Most players travels to Malta to participate in the tournaments we are hosting and then also play some cash-games if they feel like it, but we do have some who travels with us to Malta to exclusively play the cash-games.
Q: You will be hosting the 7th edition of IPC in Malta from October 31st to November 3rd. How many players are you expecting to participate from Israel?
A: We are expecting around 100 Israeli's to travel with us to Malta to participate in the main event and in the side events. We also expect around 100 players participating locally from Malta, so overall around 200 or more players, making a total prize pool of €70,000. This is our goal and we believe that it will happen.
Q: How do you and your players feel about having the locals participating in the IPC?
A: We think it is great that we have seen so many locals participating in our events. With so many different cultures, playing styles and nationalities playing, it provides a unique atmosphere that we feel makes the events even better.
Q: Besides the main event, you will also be hosting some side-events. Can you give me your thoughts on them?
A: We will be hosting a total of three side events, providing tournaments for all types of players and to provide those who busts out of the main event with extra tournaments to play. We will be hosting a Super Side Event with a €300 buy-in, which will be deepstacked and we expect it to attract a big crowd due to it being on a Sunday, where most players are no longer in the main event.
On Saturday we will be hosting our Pot Limit Omaha side-event with a €200 buy-in and this is probably the most popular side-event we will host as our players simply love to play Omaha. Finally we will be hosting a Turbo side-event on Monday with a €200 buy-in, which is set to last for seven hours. The idea behind this side-event is to provide our players with a final fast tournament, which is finished before they have to leave for their plane back to Israel. Overall we believe we have created a great schedule, where players can play all four tournaments for €1,100 and have plenty of chances to have a great experience.
The Full IPC Schedule at Casino Portomaso
Q: Do you think that the live coverage we will be doing, will provide players with a more special and perhaps more international feeling and atmosphere?
A: We believe that having live coverage at our events will make the players feel more like they are playing a big international event and it will make it easier for their friends and family to follow them while they are playing. Furthermore we believe that it will help to attract more locals to our events, no matter which destination we are playing at.
Q: Besides Malta, where else do you host IPC tournaments?
A: Besides Malta we have been around Europe to play the IPC. We have been to the Kings Casino in Prague, International Casino in Varna, Platinum Casino in Sunny Beach as well as the Hilton Casino in Taba. In 2015 we will expand with new destinations, which we are looking very much forward to.
IPC in Varna, Bulgaria
Q: How do you see the future of the IPC? Which goals do you have for your organization?
A: Our goal is to continue to help Israeli's play poker and have great experiences all across Europe. We will continue to find new destinations and establish new relationships and partnerships with poker rooms and casino's.
Good luck to everyone participating in the IPC. We will be doing live reporting of the main event all of the days.