The World Poker Tour has announced that it is returning to China once again this year in November in hopes of fanning the flames of growth in one of the world’s largest countries. The WPT’s return to China also aims to promote the tour’s new national stop in South Korea a month later. The second half of this season’s schedule was also announced and features some new stops, as well as a price change to the championship that had already been moved to the Borgata in Atlantic City, much to the surprise of many.
The event in China is a little bit different than what people normally think of when they hear about poker in China. This event is not in Macau, but instead is on an island off the southern coast of China. It represents the second year in a row that the WPT is holding an event there and is hoping to grow the game in another region of China. There will be a guaranteed prize pool of nearly $1.5 million and many pros including David Chiu, Liz Lieu, Xuan Liu, and Maria Ho have committed to attending. The final table will be played on Jeju Island in South Korea a month later to help cross-promote the new event there. It’s a unique tournament that allows for a unique kind of promotion.
The most exciting news from the schedule is the addition of the Seminole Hard Rock Showdown that will take place April 11-17. The reason this is so exciting is because it will offer a $10 million guaranteed prize pool, similar to that offered earlier this year, and happens just before the WPT World Championship. The inclusion of the Florida stop increases the tie between these two industry players, which had already been close with the Alpha8 series having its first stop at the Fall Seminole Hard Rock tournament.
One other interesting note from the WPT official schedule is that only two events have a buy-in of $10k or more, which is a sharp change from where the WPT was just two years ago. It’s a smart move, as field sizes have been increasing steadily on the once-troubled poker tour. The LA Poker Classic has been a staple of the tour since its inception and always garners a huge field, normally over 700 players. The second tournament is the WPT Championship that in the past had required a $25k buy-in. Recently, player numbers have decreased substantially, prompting the WPT to move the event and change the buy-in to $15k.
There is a lot of evidence to show that this was an intelligent move because the buy-in is low enough to attract many more players, but remains high enough that it still has a cachet that separates it from the other events on the schedule. The location is also a good move as the East Coast tournaments have been generating large fields and prize pools. Las Vegas hasn’t been generating the excitement around events near as much as it did in the past, and that is shown in the schedule with no tournaments scheduled there during the second half of the year.
The WPT also announced the other national and regional events that have started to become a standard fixture on the schedule in recent years. The latest additions include three events in the U.K., three more in Florida, and an event in Denmark, Belgium and Mississippi. The buy-ins range from $350 to $2,000, depending on the event. They are a little less spread out than the first part of the year in terms of locations, but are hitting large markets that either have a very strong poker economy already or have a burgeoning ecosystem that the WPT wants to make sure they can be part of.
All of these stops are exciting for the WPT, which has had problems in the past being accessible and inviting to all types of players. Continuing to offer tournaments in growing regions at buy-ins that encourag growth is seemingly becoming the normal operating procedure and it will surely pay off for the tour in the long run.