World Poker Tour Plans for Expansion, Announces Major Stops for Season XVIII
16 June 2019
PokerBrave (1056 articles)
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Last week, the World Poker Tour wrapped up its 17th season with a batch of final tables held at their new home in the HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas. As they close out another season, the WPT reflects on yet another strong year and looks to continue innovating and expanding their reach into Season XVIII.

“Season XVII was ground-breaking for the World Poker Tour,” said WPT CEO Adam Pliska. “With WPT events held for the first time in Russia, Vietnam, and New Zealand, we continued to set records across the globe. The WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open and WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic drew record-setting fields. Erkut Yilmaz won two WPT titles on his way to winning the Hublot WPT Player of the Year award. As always, the best is yet to come, and we are thrilled to begin preparing for another season of premier global poker events.”

Erkut Yilmaz narrowly beat out Dylan Linde, James Carroll and Ping Liu for WPT Player of the Year, and was presented with his honors before the season-ending Baccarat Chrystal WPT Tournament of Champions played out on the HyperX stage. On his road to POY, Yilmaz cashed in four WPT events in the season, including finishing first in both of his final table appearances in the WPT Borgata Poker Open and WPT Rolling Thunder.

Delayed Final Tables Here to Stay

The company’s ongoing experiment with delayed final tables is showing increasing promise and all signs point to: they’re not going anywhere. Consistent with their plan, the WPT learned from the first final tables they held in the arena and made changes based on observation and feedback from players and attendees. Many who attended both batches of final tables reported major differences with more palpable energy in the most recent ones.

“First of all, it’s been a great learning experience, and I mean that in the most positive way,” Pliska told PokerNewsJeff Platt when asked about this past year leading up to and hosting the delayed final tables. “I feel like once we announced what we were gonna do, and we told everybody, ‘Look, we want to have realistic expectations, we know we’re going to learn a lot.’ We got great feedback, and we had feedback that was constructive, that was not cynical, and it helped us to refine a lot.”

Players seem to have come around on the idea too, and in their learning process, the WPT ensured an improved experience for the second and final batch, with extra hype, break time entertainment, crowd giveaways, personal touches for players, chip counts displayed on the big screen, and the like.

“We got great feedback, and we had feedback that was constructive, that was not cynical, and it helped us to refine a lot.”

“I think it’s just becoming a better and better experience,” said Pliska.

In addition to creating more of a sporting event feel surrounding WPT final tables held in the arena, Pliska told poker media members at a press conference that the new venue is also saving the company millions. The costs previously incurred by transporting all the equipment required for filming the televised final tables at multiple venues have been eliminated as players are now brought out to where the equipment is permanently set up. New costs for flying players out and putting them up in Vegas are minuscule compared to the previous price tag.

The delayed final table experiment seems to be here to stay for the WPT, who is just scratching the surface of the potential that the state-of-the-art sports-like arena offers. As they fine-tune the HyperX final table experience, the WPT continues to expand its horizons in more literal avenues as well.

Primed for Expansion

For the WPT, social gaming is a key driver of revenue and of course, increasing the customer base. The healthy numbers in their ClubWPT, PlayWPT and now Zynga are vital to the company’s success, and the iconic TV show they put out is a great way to increase membership and retainment of those subscribers.

Pretty soon, the WPT’s customer base will be growing substantially, as they head south of the border to Mexico, to be broadcast late night, Pliska told members of the press. He expanded upon just what the deal means for the WPT on the PokerNews Podcast, which you can listen to here.

“I’d say it’s transformational,” Pliska said. “I mean if you look at television in Mexico right now… First, their position is second to none when it comes to sports in Latin America, and the numbers of people who watch free TV, and the ability for us to be on Channel 7 down in Mexico when they’re controlling 45% of all free television – puts us in a position that we weren’t in even in 2003. So it’s probably more analogous to if poker had jumped on the scene in 1960. The ability to get out there and talk with a mass audience is profound; I think we’re taking this as a serious responsibility – but it’s incredibly exciting.”

“The poker boom never ended. It just kept going around the globe.”

As the show expands its reach, the World Poker Tour continues its trend of adding more stops – and more countries – to the calendar year after year, reaching 25 countries in the upcoming season.

“The poker boom never ended,” Pliska said on the PokerNews Podcast. “It just kept going around the globe.” And they continue to follow it.

The WPT has also announced a new partnership with the Taiwanese company CTP, Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Association, which is serving as a conduit into the poker booming country of Taiwan. The WPT’s first foray into Taiwan will take place when WPT Taiwan is hosted at the CTP property in Taipei City from July 12-22, 2019 with the Main Event carrying a buy-in of approximately $1,000.

“What we have learned at the World Poker Tour over the years is you have to have strong partners in the region. They have to know the region – just like TV Azteca – if you’re going to be successful. We’re very happy with this partnership.”

Another new stop at The Star Gold Coast Casino in Australia also adds a new continent to the tour calendar, putting the WPT officially in every habitable continent on the planet. Much of this expansion is credited to VP of Global Tour Management for the World Poker Tour, Angelica Hael, who fittingly was named 2018 Industry Person of the Year at the Global Poker Awards. Being from Australia, Hael was especially excited about this company announcement, and she credits Danny McDonagh with making it happen.

“Australia is such a unique place, and not just because I’m an Aussie, but you know, it’s an island, it’s a country, it’s a continent,” Hael told Platt. “And so, really wanted to make sure that they are part of the WPT ecosystem of events and so when we announced that, when we finally got the signed contract, it was a culmination of so many conversations over the last couple of years… so stoked, so happy to be going over to The Star Gold Coast property.”

Season XVIII Schedule Preview

Looking ahead to Season XVIII, the WPT has announced many of the Main Tour stops including those that will be included in the roster of delayed final tables to be filmed for FOX Sports Regional Networks at the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. You will also notice that the WPT is continuing its partnership with partypoker LIVE for the second year running, coming together for WPT UK, WPT Montreal, WPT Russia and WPT Germany, which will be held at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic.

The delayed final table stops have also been announced. The first batch will include the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, and the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, which will be played on March 31, April 1 and April 2, respectively. The late stops of the year, WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and WPT Choctaw, will also have delayed final tables held at HyperX with the final table dates to be announced later.

As an added incentive for the first event of the year, the Gardens Casino stop in July will also have a brand-new BMW X1 added to first place, compliments of the casino. Have a look at the schedule, with more stops to be added later:

World Poker Tour Season XVIII Schedule

Date Venue Location Buy-in/Event
July 20-25 Gardens Casino Hawaiian Gardens, CA $5,000 WPT Gardens Poker Festival
Aug. 31-Sept. 4 Bicycle Casino Bell Gardens, CA $5,000 WPT Legends of Poker
Sept. 15-20 Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa Atlantic City, NJ $3,500 buy-in
Sept. 28-Oct. 2 Maryland Live! Casino & Hotel Hanover, MD $3,500 buy-in
Sept. 30-Oct. 6 Dusk Till Dawn Nottingham, UK £3,300 buy-in WPT UK
Oct. 11-15 bestbet Jacksonville Jacksonville, FL $5,000 buy-in WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble
Oct. 28-Nov. 3 Playground Poker Club Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada CAD $3,300 WPT Montreal
Nov. 29-Dec.4 Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, FL $3,500 WPT Seminole Rock & Roll Poker Open
Dec. 16-20 Bellagio Hotel and Casino Las Vegas, NV $10,000 WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic
Jan. 20-26 Casino Sochi Sochi, Russia ₽198,000 ($3,025) buy-in WPT Russia Main Event
Jan. 11-15 Gardens Casino Hawaiian Gardens, CA $10,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Poker Championship*
Jan. 26-30 Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa Atlantic City, NJ $3,500 WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open*
Feb. 17-23 King’s Casino Rozvadov, Czech Republic €3,300 buy-in WPT Germany
Feb. 29-March 4 Commerce Casino Los Angeles, CA $10,000 buy-in WPT L.A. Poker Classic*
March 7-10 Thunder Valley Casino Resort Lincoln, CA $5,000 buy-in WPT Rolling Thunder
April 30-May 5 Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, FL $3,500 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown*
May 15-18 Choctaw Casino & Resort Durant, OK $3,700 buy-in WPT Choctaw*

*Events with delayed final tables to play out at HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor in Las Vegas.

Pliska also announced at the press conference two new WPT Honors award nominees, to be inducted into their in-house Hall of Fame at a date to be determined. Matt Savage, longtime Tournament Director extraordinaire, along with the man who is third on the all-time money list, Erik Seidel will be added to an illustrious group of WPT movers and shakers.

“The WPT and its wonderful players and casino partners celebrate an incredible Season XVII. We are excited for another great schedule of events in Season XVIII along with our return to HyperX Esports Arena,” said Hael. “We once again thank our players for supporting the major changes in Season XVII and look forward to continuing to provide the best playing experience.”