The DeepStacks brand has come a long way. From a side project for Chris Torina when he was working full-time in the Florida law enforcement community, DeepStacks University developed into DeepStacks Live and then expanded to include the DeepStacks Poker Tour. In 2012, Torina entered into a partnership with the World Poker Tour to create WPTDeepStacks.
And as 2017 got underway, the brand went a step further as the WPT announced that it officially acquired WPTDeepStacks and all of its assets. The press release hit the internet just two days before the start of Season 4, and both companies seemed to exude a great deal of pride about the deal.
According to Torina and the WPT, the result of the acquisition will be an expansion of WPTDeepStacks. The events will be bigger and better, the tour will expand to new regions, and the entire brand can grow with new partners and sponsors. And some of that is already evident, as the first event of its first tour stop of 2017 at the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida set a record with the largest field in the tour’s history. To top it off, Jerry Wong of the most recent World Series of Poker Main Event final table won the tournament for $250,000, just beating Nancy Thomas out of the title.
The WPTDeepStacks tour is set to leave Hollywood, Florida this week before hosting events in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Maryland, California, and again in Florida, and those are just the initial stops in the first half of the year. But it seems that the momentum behind the series continues to grow, so it remains to be seen if the current schedule will expand to include even more tournaments.
Meanwhile, PokerUpdate caught up with Torina to discuss the new deal and what it all means. When we talked to him a little more than a year ago, he demonstrated the same excitement and momentum as he exhibits today, but he now has an even bigger brand to show for it.
PokerUpdate: Now that DeepStacks is under the WPT umbrella, what will be your overall role as Executive Director going forward? And how is this different from what you did for the tour before?
Chris Torina: Not much will change in terms of my responsibility post-acquisition. I will be leading the WPTDS brand as I have for the last two and half years as its President, only now with some added focus on projects that are important to WPT’s overall global initiatives. WPTDS is a well-oiled machine with not only a great staff operating it but also great casino partners that we work exceptionally well with. As far as we are concerned, it’s business as usual.
PokerUpdate: Will players see any difference at DeepStacks events other than the obvious WPT signage?
Torina: Players can expect some added marketing and promotional features to the tour, as well as expanded efforts to further intertwine the experience players have on the main tour with what we offer at the mid-major level with WPTDS. The key to WPTDS’s success has always been our ability to give our customers a world-class experience for a fraction of the cost of larger buy-in events.
PokerUpdate: The press release about the acquisition mentioned expansion into new regions and new partnerships. Can you give the audience any hints about what might be in the works?
Torina: We are always working towards expanding the WPTDS footprint in markets where the interest for WPTDS stops are the strongest, while also looking at regions of the country that are strategically important to us. We are also focused on corporate and brand sponsorships that are mutually beneficial for our players and how those partnerships can further enhance the overall quality of the WPTDS live event experience.
PokerUpdate: The WPTDeepStacks running at Seminole right now is already seeing record registration. Do you expect the same trend at other events on the 2017 schedule?
Torina: Yes, absolutely. Our partnership with the Seminole Tribe of Florida is one of our most important relationships and that has translated into not only in record numbers but also in the ability for both teams to work so well together. That trend can not only be seen here in Florida but throughout our tour. 2016 was a banner year for us, and we expect that momentum to continue for many years to come.
PokerUpdate: How will the WPT ensure that DeepStacks remains a strong entity apart from other WPT events?
Torina: The best part of the acquisition was the opportunity to keep my entire staff in place. It was very important for me that Jeanine, Tristan, and the rest of the WPTDS team remain in place to continue their work that has ascended WPTDS to one of the premier poker brands in the world. WPT is committed to the mid-major market and the players that support our industry. The WPT acquisition is a strong message to the community that WPTDS is here to stay!
PokerUpdate: For you personally, how did you feel when the deal was first placed on the table? Were you at all fearful of losing control?
Torina: Actually, I was never fearful of losing control or felt anything resembling uncertainty. In fact, I was excited and humbled that the company that inspired me to initially start DeepStacks in 2007 was now knocking on our door nine years later to acquire us. It was a testament to all of the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears that everyone put into growing this from an idea to what it is today. It was also amazing for me to show the naysayers and detractors who said we couldn’t do it that, in fact, we can…and did. It is proof that if you work hard and do things the right way, your results will speak much louder than words ever can. Quite simply, we did it!
PokerUpdate: Did you do anything special to celebrate the completed deal?
Torina: I sent a note to my staff to thank them for their hard work and commitment. I wanted them to know how much I loved them.