Entrepreneur, poker player, beer connoisseur. Alleged farmer, loudest man in any given card room, and all-round force of nature. Whatever you choose to call him, there is only one Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk - creator and driving force behind The Festival Series.
For Franke, it’s all about the live experience - the party is as important as the gaming side of things. “I need the socializing, the laughter and light that comes from connecting with people,” he says. “This event will give us that and so much more.“
It is difficult to talk to Franke for any length of time without feeling a bit tired, such is the pace at which he operates - yet he also leaves you somehow energised. Always full of big ideas and never short of an amusing anecdote, Franke’s enthusiasm and energy is - if you’ll pardon the expression - infectious. We are not even slightly surprised that he is launching a completely new festival concept in a pandemic.
Parties since the age of 16
“I’ve been throwing parties since the age of 16,” he explains. “I’m a party organiser. Or travel organiser. An organiser.” He is also an innovator, it would seem. Having accrued extensive experience in live tournament poker events, primarily in the Nordic market, Franke saw a gap in the market for cash games. “I realised that cash games are fantastic, so I started the Cash Game Festival,” he says easily. “That has run around Europe for a few years now, and it’s great. But still, four years ago, I thought: we need to figure out a way to engage the sports bettor and engage, you know - the backgammon player, or the roulette player. So this was the idea.”
This mixed game format - incorporating competitive casino and other gaming events into a full poker festival schedule, with the focus on fun throughout - is at the heart of Franke’s plans for The Festival Series. The inaugural event in Tallinn includes blackjack and roulette events, but this is just the beginning, as Franke sees it. He has big plans for future events in The Festival Series - although he is careful to acknowledge that this kind of innovation could be - if you’ll forgive the phrasing - a bit of a gamble.
“So to mitigate the risks that we fail in some format - because all these things are new - we start [in Tallinn] with roulette and blackjack and variants of poker. Then in Bratislava we add in slots and competitive sports gaming. Third stop, wherever in the world that will be, we’ll then add, maybe, Russian poker and backgammon.”
Literal game changer
It’s hard to overstate just how much of a literal game changer Franke’s vision for The Festival Series is. How do you take a classic casino table game and rework it into a structure that works in a tournament format? It turns out it requires a lot of creative thinking. “I love craps,” Franke tells me, by way of illustration. “It’s the best game ever - it’s amazing. But how do you make a tournament of that, the format? So there is a lot of thinking. So we in Acroud, with partners, we have small committees setting up the rules, what is the best format. I’m excited to publish the tournament rules in May.”
Looking beyond the tables, Franke’s main concern is that The Festival Series - particularly after a year of lockdown across Europe - should be overwhelmingly fun. His years of experience running poker festivals has helped him put together a dream team to run the events. “I treat people the way I would like to be treated,” he says. “But of course, sometimes people don't want to be treated like me so every now and then there is an epic failure, but most of the time people have fun around me..." Here your reporter maintains a diplomatic silence; Franke continues. “So basically The Festival Series - it’s a festival, full stop. Who knows, maybe in the future it will include a rock festival. Also it’s a poem festival at the same time, because we all need to live and be happy and there are so many aspects of being happy! So of course in Tallinn we will go to breweries, and we will have some cultural aspects, guided tours, the history… It’s seven days. So I don’t expect you to play games Monday to Sunday - no. Take three, four, five days - see the city! It’s an amazing city. Same with Bratislava.”
Tonight at 8pm CET the first online qualifiers to The Festival In Tallinn are taking place on our partner site Olybet - click here for details. Package winners will be treated to six nights at the Hilton Tallinn Park, as well as buy-ins to the blackjack or roulette events and the €550 NLHE poker main event. Carefully thought through covid contingency plans are in place, making sure that all our qualifiers are safe and all our events are covid-proof. As Franke said: “We all need to live and be happy!” We look forward to seeing you online tonight, and we look forward to safely welcoming you to The Festival Series soon.