Matt Savage is a world-renowned Tournament Director for tournaments around the world, in addition to being the Executive Tournament Director for the World Poker Tour. While there’s no questioning Savage’s prowess (which earned him a spot in the BLUFF Power 20 once again in 2013), he likely wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful without the help of Sam Quinto, his righthand man in coordinating tournaments. Otherwise known as @SkinnyTD, Quinto keeps things running smoothly at tournaments like the LAPC and Bay 101, among many others.
Quinto and Savage have turned the LA Poker Classic into more than just a prestigious WPT event, molding it into the biggest and most popular tournament series outside of the World Series of Poker every year. BLUFF sat down with Quinto as play winded down on Day 1 of the 2013 WPT LA Poker Classic Main Event to learn a little bit more about him.
BLUFF: How did you get first get into poker?
Sam Quinto: I started way back in 1997. I was actually a senior in college over at the University of Santa Cruz and I discovered there was actually gambling in the city of Santa Cruz. It was a small two-table poker room, I went in there and I learned how to play Omaha Eight or Better. After playing there pretty frequently they eventually asked me if I wanted to learn how to deal, which I found interesting. I said sure, and I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be a great job for additional cash, especially for a struggling college student and, wow, it just turned into career and 18 years later I’m still in the casino industry.
BLUFF: How did you work your way up, and what path would you suggest for people trying to break in?
SQ: The best way to get into this industry is to start at the bottom as a chip runner or a dealer and work your way up, so that you can get to know all of the facets of the industry. I started as a dealer, and I found that as a dealer you can only go so high, there’s a definite ceiling. I eventually moved on to working the floor, to start learning how things run, how to start games and how things go from an operational standpoint. After being on the floor for a couple of years at a San Jose card room I moved up to becoming the lead floor, then supervisor, and eventually went on to a couple of different casinos.
Working on the floor was a great experience, you talk to a lot of players and get to know them on a first name basis. You get to know a lot about them, and there are some interesting people in this business. Years later I moved on to doing tournaments, and here I am today.
BLUFF: When did you first meet Matt Savage?
SQ: I met Matt Savage back in 2001, in the card room at Lucky Chances. It was very weird, at several of the previous casinos I worked at I had just missed him. He had previously worked for Garden City and Bay 101 before getting to Lucky chances and I was working at Garden City when he went to Lucky Chances. I eventually got to Lucky Chances too, where he was the Tournament Director and I was working on the live game side. We met, but we weren’t really working together too much. I eventually left there and went back down to Bay 101.
In 2003, Matt returned to Bay 101 after spending six years at Lucky Chances. That’s when he asked me if I wanted to learn how to do tournaments with him, but I was hesitant about it. I was moving my way up towards management at the casino, but there was something about Matt’s charisma and attitude that just intrigued me enough to give it a shot.
BLUFF: Why do you think the two of you work so well together?
SQ: I think we’ve developed a relationship where we understand each other. Matt can do the job that I do and I can do Matt’s job, but we understand what we enjoy doing, and we let each other do what we’re good at. Matt’s a great person for external communication, he’s the best player’s tournament director you’re ever going to find. Whether it’s getting the message out there on Twitter and Facebook or just texting players, his ability to communicate is his biggest strength and it’s what makes him so good at his job.
On the other hand I’m more internal, I deal with the casino and make sure that you have a great product when you arrive. Whether its the staffing, the products, the visual aspects, making sure that the chips are good, it’s about making sure everything works. I handle that part. We work so well together, we don’t invade each other’s space and it’s amazing how much we think alike. We know just where we need to be and what we need to be doing at each step of the tournament, and I think that’s why it works so well.
BLUFF: The LA Poker Classic has become the biggest tournament series outside of the WSOP, and obviously you and Matt have a lot to do with that. Why do you think it’s been able to grow so much over the last few years?
SQ: It all started with Matt’s reputation, networking with all of the players and asking them when we arrived in 2009 to give us a chance. We promised them that we would come up with new and innovative ideas with our tournaments. A lot of tournament series’ got complacent and started spreading all No Limit Hold’em events. We assured the mixed game players that they would get their share of tournaments, and even the players who were only interested in No Limit Hold’em events were getting a little tired of the standard formats, and we figured out a few ways to change things up.
Whether it was the Mixed-Handed events, an Ironman tournament, the Eternament or a tournament with a shot clock, we keep finding new ways to spice things up. That’s what the players want to see, something different and new. As a player, if I want a regular No Limit Hold’em tournament I can go almost anywhere and find it, but if I go to the LAPC I can be sure that I’ll find something different.