Poker chips

Austin Gamblers fans have a chance to nab special poker chips at PBR Team Series events

From: Justin Felisko

PUEBLO, Colo. – The Austin players The organization is committed to finding different and unique ways to build fandom in Austin and across the sports world in this year’s inaugural PBR team series.

General director JJ Gottsch was encouraged by team owners Egon and Abby Durban to ensure Gamblers are “interactive and accessible” in every way possible.

That goal has been on Gottsch’s mind since he was named the team’s general manager last winter, and the first-place Gamblers have found several ways to publicize Austin’s new professional sports team.

Gottsch was at a gig earlier this year when an idea popped into his head.

“Every good idea is one you can steal,” admitted Gottsch with a laugh at Stampede Days in Nashville. “I was at a concert two or three months ago and at the end of the concert, what does the band do? They throw their picks into the crowd. We were going to have some poker chips made with our Gamblers logo on them anyway, so I thought, ‘What if our guys had them in our pocket, and in the event that we got a qualifying round, that would be thrown in the crowd like a pick?”

“It wasn’t entirely original, but it’s one of those things. I’m an outsider (to the sport), so I’m going to bring some things to the eye. If the guys think it’s awesome, awesome, but if they think I’m crazy, I’m not going to push anything, but those guys really enjoyed it.

Fans attending this weekend’s Gambler Days at the Moody Center — Austin’s first homestand in team history — won’t just have the chance to grab a poker chip bearing the team brand. In fact, each chip is autographed by the runner who throws it into the crowd.

“It’s great for the brand,” said Austin coach Michael Gaffney. “If you look at it from the fan’s perspective, it’s cool. If you’re here with your 12-year-old, you know, it’s cool as hell, especially with the signature on it.

Two-time world champion Jose Vitor Leme said he liked the idea behind the poker chips when it came up during a team meeting. During the Unleash The Beast season, fans got used to watching Leme throw his bull helmet in football helmet style in celebration.

Leme said he hopes the chips will bring a sense of joy to children or fans who are lucky enough to nab one during Gambler Days (August 26-28) at the brand new Moody Center.

“We were talking about different things and we thought maybe we were going to throw these chips at them,” Leme said. “It’s great when you have people around you cheering and supporting you because it brings more energy to the rider and the bulls. Austin has been a great city for us. This team is a new thing for them, and everyone is so excited and I’m sure we’re going to have a good crowd there.

Leme, the PBR league leader in qualified runs (10), helped Austin win six straight games before his homestand.

Austin starts Gambler Days against the Nashville Stampede (3-7) Friday nights (10 p.m. ET RidePass on Pluto TV).

The Gamblers have also won consecutive event titles (Anaheim and Stampede Days).

Gottsch explained that Austin wanted to continue slowly building fandom not just for his team, but for the entire PBR Team series.

A little thing like a fan snagging a poker chip could easily be a lasting memory for a fan.

The timing is similar to when a kid catches a foul ball or home run in a baseball game, something Gottsch has seen a lot during his professional sports career.

Gottsch has spent the past eight years as chief operating officer of Ryan Sanders Sports and Entertainment. During his 24 years with the company, he was instrumental in creating two of Minor League Baseball’s most successful franchises – the Round Rock Express and the Corpus Christi Hooks – as well as the post as executive director of “Big League Weekend”. a series of Major League Baseball spring training exhibitions at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Now, Gottsch brings his expertise and creativity to the Western sports world.

“For all of us, every day, what we’re trying to do is build not just Gambler Nation, but this whole sport,” Gottsch concluded. “Everything we do, we’re going to do to the best of our abilities every day. There are actually two types of conversions. There are traditional bulls fans, who we hope live in central Texas and who we hope can convert to be Gamblers fans, but there are also fans who are either casual or who don’t didn’t know they were fans of the sport.

“That’s really the important part for us, because we feel like, as one of eight teams, where PBR has done a great job over the last 30 years of developing the sport, where I think all eight individual teams are going to help this sport and really help it grow is when we ask a casual or non-casual fan to come and tell their own community – their friends, their family, their neighbors – what it means a lot more for people. It’s going to be the most important thing for all of us, not just in Austin, but in every market.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

Photo courtesy of Josh Homer/Bull Stock Media

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