- »APL Adjusts for Coronavirus and Plans Its Return
APL Adjusts for Coronavirus and Plans Its Return
When speaking of live poker in Australia, most people think of The Star Gold Coast or Crown Melbourne poker rooms. Those are the poker events, especially series like the Aussie Millions, that attract the most attention and massive prize pools.
And then there are the tournaments for the masses. Those are a product of the Australian Poker League (APL). It is the largest poker league in Australia, running about 800 poker tournaments per week across the country.
Ever-Growing Poker League
Its parent company, Full House Group, employs 30 full-time staff members and about the same number of licensees, as well as tournament directors and hosts at venues from New South Wales to Tasmania and Victoria. And the thousands of players who participate in the league range from grinders to first-time players…and everyone in between.
The APL held its first poker league in 2005, during the poker boom when everyone was curious about poker. The challenge was for the league to hold its own in recent years, when the boom settled and the Australian government cracked down on internet poker. And it did just that, continually growing.
Membership in the APL is free. There are entry fees to the league games, but most of that money goes back into the prize pool for that event.
Players must be 18 years of age or older. Though the league is predominantly male, which is in line with the rest of the world, there is 20% female participation. That one-fifth is much bigger than any other tournament series or poker room in the world, as even the World Series of Poker remains at only 5% or less female participation in its events.
In recent years, Full House Group grew by incorporating Pub Poker and 888 Poker League into the mix as well. Along with an already solid base of customers, there are now more than 400,000 players in the company’s database.
Halted by COVID-19
When the coronavirus began to spread throughout Australia and Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordered businesses to shut down on March 25, the APL had to comply. Gatherings of large numbers of people were at the top of the list of mandatory shutdowns.
The APL posted notices on its website and social media pages:
“Due to government advice and with consideration to community wellbeing, all APL events are on hold for now. … With your continued loyalty, we are in a unique position to support the employees of Australia’s wonderful pubs and clubs, and we can’t wait to get back to doing just that. The APL Team wishes you and your family the best of health during these difficult times, and we look forward to seeing you in your local venue once things settle down.”
Nearly one month later, there is no clear message about resuming activities like poker games.
APL Ready to Resume
Full House Group CEO Brayden Haynes recently spoke with Poker Media Australia to provide some insight into the APL’s anticipated reopening.
Before the shutdown, Haynes noted that the largest APL Million in years took place at The Star Sydney with 1,404 players. The 2020 APL Million had a record-breaking $1,755,000 prize pool for those players, and Kiavash Arbabi won it for $315,000. Moreover, the entire 11-event series awarded more than $3 million in total.
Not only had the APL just begun to recover from the September 2017 ousting of online poker from the Australian market, it was preparing for a new tour. All of that is now on hold indefinitely. Haynes explained that the extent of continued limitations on public gatherings will influence how the APL moves forward. “We really need to understand what the restrictions are going to be,” he said. “Pubs and clubs opening is one thing – and I’m sure that will be happening at some stage in the not too distant future – but how they open and what the restrictions are, particularly around social distancing, will be critical to whether or not poker tournaments can operate in venues.”
Haynes also acknowledged that some venues may have suffered too much financially to even reopen, while others may adjust their business models.
But, he maintains, “the poker market in Australia is very, very healthy.”
Meanwhile, the APL interacts with players on its Facebook page. There were daily competitions awarding $100 to the winner. The APL presented a scenario in a poker tournament and asks for the proper move and why. The page is the most direct way that the APL keeps in touch with its players – it has more than 13,000 likes and 13,000 follows – especially during the coronavirus shutdowns.
While most of the staff of Full House Group were stood down in recent weeks, Haynes tries to keep some of them working small projects to stay in touch and generate some income for them.