The World Poker Tour recently announced its Season XV schedule. The casinos hosting the tournaments are not new ones, and the stops are familiar to last season’s players. What is new is the expansion of every stop on the schedule, as well as the incorporation of PartyPoker and other partners to magnify the player opportunities and the reach of the WPT around the world.
Main Tour Includes Second TOC
The 15th season of the WPT is already underway. It started days after the Florida festivities wrapped Season XIV with the PartyPoker.net Canadian Spring Championship in Montreal and WPT Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
A break in the schedule is currently underway so players can focus on the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, with the next WPT stop scheduled for July 14 to August 2 at Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. From there, the tour heads to Los Angeles for the Legends of Poker, Atlantic City for the Borgata Poker Open, and then hits Maryland, Florida, Nottingham, Montreal, Punta Cana, Prague, and Las Vegas to finish the year. The full schedule, which runs through April 9, 2017, can be found on the WPT website.
The season-ending festival in Florida this year was such a success that it will be repeated next year. Again, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will host a $3,500 Showdown, $10K Finale, and the WPT Tournament of Champions. While the recent TOC failed to garner much publicity or even many players with only 64 in the field, WPT executives aren’t giving up on the idea so quickly. The TOC is scheduled to close the next season with a three-day event April 7-9, and it is likely to see even more build-up to the action throughout the poker year.
From Main Events to Festivals
Many of the WPT tour stops in the past coordinated with casinos to host the WPT Main Event at the conclusion of the casino’s own tournament series. The Legends of Poker, L.A. Poker Classic, and Borgata Poker Open are famous for their own series and lead up to the separate WPT event that wraps each set of events.
For the upcoming season, however, each and every stop will host a “festival” followed by a “main tour.” The next stop at Choctaw, for example, will begin its festival on July 14 and conclude with the WPT Choctaw Main Event from July 29 to August 2.
Each festival will then host a WPT Festival Championship. Each player who wins a preliminary event at a particular stop will win a seat to the WPT Festival Championship, and the victor in that event will win a seat to that stop’s Main Event, as well as a trophy and access to VIP activities away from the tables. This will encourage players to compete in every event leading up to the Main Event.
It seems that the WPT has taken a page from the European Poker Tour, which has hosted ever-growing festivals at each tour stop for several years now. Instead of players flying in for one tournament, they are able to make it a vacation, get settled, and play numerous tournaments, which not only benefits the casino but the tour and main event itself.
The WPT and PartyPoker have been together for years, and online satellites to WPT Main Events are nothing new. However, the WPT Passport as explained for Season XV has more to offer than in the past. Numerous $5K prize packages will be awarded on PartyPoker, as one is guaranteed each and every Sunday going forward.
Combatting Tough Times
Live poker tours have had their share of troubles in the past several years. Black Friday in the United States, from which most tournament players hail, hit the World Poker Tour stops quite hard, as did recent years of economic hardships. The WPT saw registration numbers decrease and responded with a fairly consistent lowering of buy-ins at many stops.
With only three American states having legalized online poker – and only one of them (New Jersey) allowing PartyPoker to participate – it has become difficult to expand the WPT to the numbers it once garnered. Online satellites are nowhere near as abundant as they once were to bring players to the live events.
However, the WPT has gone in the right direction with its Season XV announcements. With efforts to promote the festivals and player opportunities, it is likely that WPT Main Event numbers will increase once again with what could be the beginning of an uptick in the tour’s popularity.