By Sean Chaffin
A big venue calls for a big voice, and what better person to emcee the debut WPT final tables in the new Esports Arena than Vegas Golden Knights emcee Mark Shunock.
A poker fan himself, Shunock has been a big part of the Stanley Cup season for the Sin City expansion franchise. For two days in May, while the World Poker Tour took over Esports Arena Las Vegas, he served as WPT emcee, introducing the festivities for fans in attendance for both the final table of the WPT Bellagio High Roller and WPT Tournament of Champions.
“It’s been unreal,” Shunock said. “To have a final table of the WPT Tournament of Champions and esports here is thrilling. I’m honored to just be a part of the WPT family. I think this is going to change the way we watch the game. It’s fun to watch it on television, but when we can activate an arena like this and do some fun stuff with fan interactions, it’s going to be sick.”
Those fan interactions included getting fans on stage for cup-stacking contests, the occasional Tito’s Vodka shots at the bar, and a special grand entrance that involved a marching band the Chance, the mascot for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The new $20 million, 30,000-square-foot Esports Arena Las Vegas features a state-of-the-art gaming and broadcast venue catering to gamers of all levels, as well as high-tech nightlife, high-stakes poker action, and more. The facility features a competition stage, 50-foot LED video walls, daily gaming stations, food and beverage offerings with a menu specially designed by José Andrés, and high-tech production capabilities.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, Shunock spent a decade in New York City working as a Broadway theater actor before making his way to Las Vegas to star in the Rock of Ages show. Shunock grew up playing hockey and when the Vegas was being considered for an expansion franchise, he knew he had to get involved.
After an early phone call to ownership before the team even had a name, Shunock was soon helping with the season-ticket drive as a member of the Founding 50 group. The group eventually gathered 14,000 commitments and the NHL approved the new franchise.
“I met with the entertainment team not too long after that, and now here I am,” Shunock said.
When not revving up the crowd at T-Mobile Arena, Shunock still works as an actor and producer. He also has a regular gig doing a 10-minute nightly stand-up comedy act and serves as the emcee at the Hard Rock’s “Magic Mike Live” show. He and his wife also own a local community arts center called The Space, which caters to local theater groups, bands, fashion shows, and private parties.
Despite landing the announcing gig, Shunock and many other fans couldn’t have imagined the team’s success. The Golden Knights have so far rolled through the playoffs and find themselves in the Stanley Cup finals against the Washington Capitals.
“It’s been unreal, an historic ride and I really don’t think it’s set in yet,” Shunock said. “I’ve been a part of hockey my entire life, and played up until I was 20 years old in the Canadian Hockey League. This isn’t supposed to happen. Runs like this just aren’t normal, but these guys are incredible. The organization has incredible ownership, management, coaching staff, the entertainment staff – they’re all amazing people and I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.”
After the two teams split in Las Vegas over the first two games of the Stanley Cup finals, Washington took Game 3 in the nation’s capital. The puck drops for Game 4 on Monday, June 4, in Washington, D.C., and then the teams are scheduled to return to Las Vegas for Thursday, June 7, to play Game 5. Come Thursday, Shunock will once again be manning the golden mic helping to whip the crowd into a frenzy. No matter the ultimate outcome, this season is something Shunock and Vegas fans will never forget, and one that the World Poker Tour is happy to be a little part of.
“It’s been a really cool trip,” Shunock finished.
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