The latest WSOP Circuit event has just taken place, and it was at one of the most popular stops on the global circuit that takes the World Series of Poker to some of the furthest flung destinations on the planet.
Marrakech has long been a venue that players love to visit, and the most recent winner in the Casino de Marrakech at the luxurious Es Saadi Resort was Samiyel Duzgun, whose victory on Sunday evening earned him €150,400. The Swiss player toppled a final table that featured French player Edouard Piquet and his eventual heads-up opponent, Israeli poker player Ayman Jarrar.
The entry fee of just €1,400 is an obvious attraction to playing the event, and that was backed up by the 625 players who took part in the Main Event. Others to reach the final day included Ivaylo Panev, Andrew Hills and Frederic Ayadi. It may have been the Swiss player who win, but as he told PokerNews after the event, “I would return to Marrakech even if I didn’t win this event.”
What is it that makes Marrakech – and the WSOP circuit event Duzgun won – so special? The money certainly helps, as of course does the prestige, but the overall feel of a Main Event is more than simple numbers and trinkets. To find out a little more about it, we spoke to Arron Fletcher, who famously won the event back in 2017 for €130,755 when 511 entries left only the Cambridge-based player in his seat with the WSOP Circuit Championship ring.
“My 2017 started off horribly,” Fletcher admits, “My first poker stop of the year was in North Cyprus, where my suitcase was sent to Iceland by mistake. I decided to fly back early – it was one of my most forgettable poker trips. Undeterred, as soon as I got my case back, a group of us headed to Morocco for the first time.”
That decision turned out to be a fortuitous one to say the least, and Fletcher arrived in the bustling heart of Morocco. He was immediately taken with the venue itself.
“The Es Saadi casino hotel complex is a pretty decent poker venue and the city has grown on me during my last couple of visits. Inside the smoky Es Saadi casino is a large convention room where the tournaments are held, possibly the only smoke free area in Marrakech. It’s one of the best run tournament series I’ve ever been to, with the best floor staff and dealers from Europe. The tournament schedule is great, the structures and the start times, everything.”
The familiarity Fletcher felt inside the venue helped him get over his failed trip to Iceland… ahem, Cyprus, immediately. It wasn’t just the poker, but the way the festival helped him relax during his stay.
“Included in the rake you get decent nibbles, coffee and Moroccan tea on the breaks and you get a very good buffet for dinner breaks. I think it’s nice to have everyone at large round tables, all sat at the same time to eat.”
The convivial atmosphere extends right down from the casino general manager Jean-Alexandre Bauchet-Bouhlal right down. Bauchet-Bouhlal comes down to take pictures and meet the winners of any tournaments held at the Casino de Marrakech.
“No matter what the buy-in size or time the event ends, he’s very proud of his poker events and you can tell he’s a big fan of the game.”
When Fletcher got his victory at the venue, it was a magical moment in his career and he had dreamed of it for many years, working his way up the rankings tirelessly, both in online tournaments and live cash games in central London.
“It felt great to get my first big score there after envisioning winning a tournament like that for many years. It was my first trophy – and ring – ever. The winner gets free entry to the $10,000 Global Casino Championship in Cherokee, North Carolina, which was another great experience.”
Clearly, the event had a huge impact on Fletcher. After Marrakech, he went on something of a heater.
“I went to Vegas for the World Series of Poker that summer, not wanting to return to the U.K. and then fly all the way back for the Global Casino Championship. I stayed in Oklahoma to see family friends and there was a WPT series taking place in Durant. I ended up winning the $350-entry, 5,000+ player field event for $177,000 It’s crazy how things can work out.”
Marrakech is to many people from different cultures, a place of dreams. This week is just the latest to come true in a city that welcomes players in a way nowhere else in the world can.