With less than three months to go before we kick off The Festival in Tallinn, we are delighted to announce our newest partnership with one of the best-loved brands in poker - The Hendon Mob. I spoke to THM’s head of partnerships, Roland Boothby about their plans for joining forces with The Festival Series.
“I’ve worked at The Hendon Mob in GPI for many years now,” Boothby tells me, “And one side of that is our tour, The Hendon Mob Championship - which is what got me involved with The Festival in Tallinn. I’ve worked on and off with Franke for the past couple of years, I’ve always enjoyed his company, and was excited when I learned he was launching this new concept.”
The idea is very simple, very sleek.
The Hendon Mob’s business is of course heavily tied to live poker, and Boothby is excited at the prospect of live events returning after what has been a pretty grim year for the industry. “It’s coming at a very dark time for live poker,” Boothby admits, but he’s also very cheerful about the future. “The Hendon Mob is fully immersed in live poker, which means that the last year has been very challenging and lacking in any cause for optimism. So this is the first real cause for optimism - in Europe, in particular. I got talking to Franke pretty much as soon as I saw the announcement. The idea is very simple, very sleek. They’ve got a great url as well,” he grins. All of us at TheFestival.com concur on that.
The timing for The Festival in Tallinn couldn’t be better, as far as Boothby is concerned. “We were at the beginning of starting to look at events ourselves because the roadmap for reopening in Europe had started to come out in the UK, so we were feeling a bit more positive about the summer. It was such a nice fit with Franke’s festival being announced and us looking to schedule some events. We’ve also got quite an affinity with Tallinn in particular. The first year we launched we did an event with Microgaming in Tallinn and we also did a side event at Kings Of Tallinn last year. We love Tallinn a lot, and the players always seem to love going back there.”
Boothby is sanguine about the risks posed by the ongoing pandemic situation. “I guess there is some lingering uncertainty hanging over all of us,” he says. “There’s an inherent risk in anything right now, but I don’t think that means you shouldn’t plan anything. Everyone involved in [The Festival Series] is doing the right thing - planning for the best case scenario while also making sure contingencies are in place for the worst case scenario, which is cancellation. I think the way they’ve gone about it with an unequivocal commitment to safety - players who qualify but can’t travel will automatically be rescheduled [for The Festival in Bratislava] - is great. We’ll be doing the same thing in terms of how we commit to The Festival as well - it’s a partnership.”
it’s going to be huge.
“The people behind it have a pretty good track record in organising other great events,” Boothby explains. “Acroud were involved in the Battle of Malta from the very beginning; this is a group of people who have a track record in growing events, and we want to be there from the start for something that could get huge. I’ve spoken with Franke about their vision for 2022, 2023, and they’re not messing about - they’re ready to do great things.”
Although largely an online business, The Hendon Mob are almost entirely reliant on live poker for new traffic to the site, so 2020 was a pretty tough year - but things are now getting back on track, with some big tournaments returning in the US and parts of Europe. “Certainly in the short term, you’ll see a very large bounce back from players - just the level of pent-up enthusiasm from people who’ve been locked down for a year and a half - it’s going to be huge.”
Online poker has of course been booming while bricks-and-mortar casinos have been shut, and Boothby is optimistic that this is going to boost the live game in the long term. While he agrees that some of the online traffic has been down to live players moving online out of necessity, he doesn’t believe that’s the whole picture. “I think we may have seen an influx of new players into the game, potentially playing poker for the first time, and it’ll be very interesting whether any of those players transition to the live game. Certainly in 2021 and 2022 we’ll see an uptick in numbers.”
Hendon Mob is a very established, very loved brand
The focal point of the partnership in Tallinn will be The Hendon Mob Championship - a multi-day, NLH deepstack event. “It’s going to be around €200-€250, and it’ll run over the Main weekend of the festival,” Boothby says. “The idea of The Hendon Mob Championship is an elevated side event - a ‘main side event’ to run alongside the Main Event. We try to make it feel like the Main Event in some of the things that surround it - the branding, the trophy, the media. It has a great structure, has something of a ‘main event’ feel about it, at a more affordable buy-in. We also add a few things for fun, like a unique Hendon Mob flag on their profile - certain things that players like. And that’s where we feel we add value to a tournament.”
Indeed, collecting flags on their Hendon Mob pages is something of an obsession among many players; the brand name is so well-known that the poker media often use it as a verb when looking up players’ results. “Hendon Mob is a very established, very loved brand - particularly among players at the lower buy-ins,” Boothby agrees enthusiastically. “We do have some standalone festivals, but our bread and butter is offering this kind of side event brand that we add to an existing festival to offer a little bit more to the players.”
Welcome to The Festival Series family, Hendon Mobbers! Looking forward to seeing you at The Festival in Tallinn and all our future events - and we can’t wait to add a few more flags to the collection.