Paradise Million Dollar Freeroll
2005 Jason Kirk  

Promotions are a way of life for operators of online card rooms. Poker players are generally a fickle bunch, going wherever the money is, and any card room who wants to keep its player base generally has get as creative with its promotions as possible. Earlier this year Paradise Poker, one of the internet's oldest card rooms, set up a promotion unlike any other ever seen - a free tournament open to anyone who wished to enter, with a first prize of $1 million. Paradise went out of its way to push this tournament like it never had before, even airing commercials on American cable and satellite television during poker tournaments. An extended qualifying tournament schedule was set up and emails were sent out to anyone with an account at Paradise inviting them to play.

As expected, the response to Paradise's promotion was enormous. Thousands of people entered the freeroll, and after weeks of qualifying rounds the final tournament was set. Those who made it through thousands of opponents to reach the final table were not only guaranteed $10,000 in prize money, but they also received an added bonus: they were given an all-expenses-paid luxury vacation to a five-star resort in Costa Rica to play out the rest of the tournament live in front of TV cameras. The action was posted live to the internet on the Team Paradise Poker blog for the players' friends back home to follow along. When the action was all finished, one man remained to claim the $1 million prize: Lee Biddulph, a 28 year old chef from Blackpool, England.

With the success Paradise enjoyed from this promotion, it's no surprise that they're running a 2nd edition of the Million Dollar Freeroll. As before, there is no way to buy directly in to the Main Event - anyone wishing to play for the $1 million first prize must make their way through a qualifier before playing in the Main event. The qualifying structure for this tournament is very similar to that of the first one. Players are given one free entry into the qualifying heat of their choice; these tournaments run three times daily at 4 PM, 9PM, and 1 AM ET and award 10, 15, and 20 seats to the Main Event, respectively. The fields for these heats are extremely difficult to outlast - up to 4,000 players can enter each one, and they usually fill up quickly with registration beginning 2 hours beforehand.

Players who use their free entry into the qualifying heats and fail to win a seat in the Main Event can earn more chances to give it another shot by earning Million Points. These accumulate in a player's account in much the same way as bonus points accumulate at most poker sites - they are tied to the amount of rake a player generates in cash games at Paradise Poker. One point is awarded every time the player sits in a hand that generates $.50 in rake at .5-1 fixed limit games, $.75 in 1-2 fixed limit games, and $1 in no-limit games and fixed limit games 2-4 and higher. Players also earn 5 points for every $1 in tournament fees that they pay at Paradise. Once a player has accumulated 100 Million Points, he can play in another qualifying heat for the Main Event. The qualifying heats will continue to run three times daily through November 30th.

Those players who manage to outlast the thousands of competitors in their qualifying heats will play in the Main Event on December 3rd online at Paradise Poker. Due to the sheer size of the event, play will be stretched out over two days; after 10 hours of play have elapsed, play will break and resume at 2 PM ET on December 4th. From there the field will be narrowed down to the final 10 players, who will all be guaranteed $10,000 in prize money and a trip to "an exotic Paradise location" to complete the tournament live in front of television cameras in January 2006. Those who don't make the final table are still eligible for some prize money: 11th place will take home $500, 12th through 50th place will win $500, 51st through 100th will win $100, and 101st through 500th will win $50.

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