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In 2010, PokerStars launched the North American Poker Tour (NAPT), a multi-stop poker tour focused on the U.S. market. The NAPT was fairly successful for an upstart poker tour created as the Poker Boom was waning, but alas, the NAPT was short-lived, folding in 2011 following Black Friday.

But could the NAPT, or some variation of it, return when PokerStars goes live with legal online poker in the U.S.?

With PokerStars ready to reengage in the U.S. via New Jersey, I’d say it’s almost a certainty. And the tour will likely be a lot bigger than you think.

The original NAPT

PokerStars’ original NAPT stops were held at The Bicycle Casino, the Venetian (of all places), and Mohegan Sun, as well as incorporating the already established PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) into its four-event schedule.

All four events took place in 2010, and all four were quite successful (particularly when you consider this was the inaugural year of the tour) and broadcast on ESPN2.

The $10,000 buy-in 2010 PCA attracted 1,529 players

The $5,000 buy-in 2010 NAPT Venetian attracted 872 players

The $5,000 buy-in 2010 NAPT Mohegan Sun attracted 716 players

The $5,000 buy-in 2010 NAPT Los Angeles held at the Bicycle Casino attracted 701 players

Season 2 of the NAPT was far more tumultuous, with only the PCA and NAPT Mohegan Sun events taking place.

The LA event was re-branded and dropped from the official schedule over regulatory concerns, and the NAPT Venetian never occurred as the tour was suspended following Black Friday.

Considering the success of Season 1, it would be quite surprising if PokerStars didn’t relaunch the tour in some capacity, and in fact, they seem to already have the chess pieces positioned on the board to do just that.

Former NAPT venues that might return

The PCA switching from the European Poker Tour (EPT) to the NAPT (or perhaps the two tours would share the popular event on their schedules) would seem to be a lock.

The PCA doesn’t really fit in with the EPT considering it takes place in the Bahamas and not Europe, and would give the tour instant credibility and a proven tournament to showcase. The EPT also has its own season-ending stop in the EPT Grand Final, so it doesn’t necessarily need the prestige of the PCA as its showcase tournament.

The new NAPT would almost certainly have a stop at the Bicycle Casino as well, as The Bike is one of PokerStars’ California online poker partners; along with Commerce Casino, Hawaiian Gardens, and the Morongo Tribe.

California could actually see several stops considering the number of partnerships it has with top notch land based cardrooms in the state.

Mohegan Sun is also a viable partner for PokerStars and a strong candidate to host another NAPT stop in the future as the casino doesn’t have any current affiliation with the WPT or WSOPC. In its two year run, the $5,000 buy-in NAPT Mohegan Sun attracted a strong 716 players in 2010, and a respectable 387 players in the topsy-turvy 2011. Vanessa Selbst won both of these events, by the way.

The Venetian… Well, not so much. But there are likely several willing partners in Nevada if PokerStars doesn’t run into regulatory hurdles due to their “Bad Actor” designation in the state.

Potential new venues

In addition to its California partners, PokerStars has also partnered with Resorts Casino in Atlantic City to launch an impending online poker client, and was rumored to be considering building a $10 million live poker room at the property.

Considering the company’s track record, it pretty much goes without saying that Resorts would host some type of PokerStars-branded tournament series once the partnership is officially launched.

PokerStars has also been forming relationships with several other casinos on the continent, including the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida, where PokerStars offered a live stream of their recent Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open and advertised the event on their website, as well as with the Playground Club in Montreal, where PokerStars hosted the Canada Cup tournament series (a recurring tournament series at the casino), before pulling out in August, likely due to Canada’s unclear (or better stated, unenforced) regulatory issues governing offshore online poker sites.

In all, it’s not hard to envision PokerStars launching a North American Poker Tour with perhaps eight or more stops in its inaugural season, and with their history of creating regional poker tours in markets they are active in, the return of the NAPT (or whatever acronym it will use) seems like a good bet.

The bwin.party-owned WPT should definitely take note of this, as they have pretty much been the only game in town (in terms of high buy-in tournaments) since Black Friday.

 

 

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.

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