Thursday, January 07, 2010

The North American Poker Tour Debuts (The Return of PokerStars-vs.-PartyPoker?)

The North American Poker Tour DebutsAm following with interest the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure play out down in Nassau. Checking in on PokerNews’ live reporting as well as the PokerStars blog for all the latest.

Sounds like over 1,500 runners sat down for the two Day Ones, a new record for the PCA. Of course, yesterday the big news coming out of the Bahamas was how the PCA is in fact the first event of the new North American Poker Tour (NAPT). The tour’s next stop will be in Las Vegas in February at the Venetian, then over to the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut in April. Oh, and it sounds like ESPN might be shooting these NAPT final tables for broadcast, a not-insignificant part of the story.

Our buddy B.J. Nemeth has written some about the new NAPT and its challenge to the World Poker Tour (for which Nemeth does live reporting). Check out Nemeth’s post “NAPT vs. WPT: The Battle for North America” for some of his thoughts on the subject. As Nemeth notes, that next NAPT event at the Venetian will compete with the WPT’s L.A. Poker Classic in February, so we’ll see right away how the first round of this here fight will go.

Nemeth also alludes in his post to the purchase of World Poker Tour Enterprises by PartyGaming from last year, which reminds me that I had wanted to write a little something on that story again here.

I wrote a couple of those “top ten” lists at the end of 2009 -- one compiling the top stories of the year and another listing the top moments of the decade. Such lists are more difficult to pull together than they appear, especially if one is trying to rank the items against one another in some fashion. They’re certainly fun, though, as debate starters. Hell, I immediately felt like challenging my own choices as soon as I made them.

There were at least a couple of stories from 2009 I had considered including in my “Top Poker Stories of 2009” list but ended up leaving out. One was Daniel Negreanu having passed Jamie Gold as the all-time tournament money winner, thanks to the Canadian’s runner-up finish at the 2009 WSOPE Main Event. (Phil Ivey would pass Gold as well following his seventh-place finish at the WSOP.)

Another story I had in the list for a while but then ultimately dropped was the one regarding the purchase of World Poker Tour Enterprises by PartyGaming back in late August 2009. I know several others kept this one in their top ten stories lists for 2009, but I ended up deciding that for the average poker player or fan it hadn’t really registered all that much. I could certainly see, though, how some might view this “insider”-type story as having real some importance down the road.

The news of Party’s purchase of WPTE came not long after we’d heard a story that WPTE had been sold to a group called Gamynia Limited (for $9.075 million). Then Peerless Media Ltd., a division of PartyGaming, came along with a better offer and was able to buy the WPTE for $12.3 million. Steve Lipscomb, WPTE’s President and CEO, noted at the time how he looked forward to PartyGaming being able “to provide a strong vehicle for the WPT brand to continue its global expansion and return to online gaming.”

I did write a little something about the purchase here at the time, noting both the relatively small price tag and how it seemed kind of interesting how the fate of poker no longer seemed all that closely tied to the livelihood of the WPT. Such wouldn’t have been the case just a couple of years before, but in 2009, with the European Poker Tour and a host of other tours thriving all over the globe, the fortunes of the fading WPT just didn’t seem as crucial, big picture-wise.

The reason why the purchase -- which includes Party getting the WPT branding rights -- is viewed by some as a potentially big story is tied to the possibility that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 could get either overturned or pushed out by new legislation to license and regulate online gambling in the United States. It is thought that by purchasing the WPT brand, PartyPoker will have themselves a handy “vehicle” with which to reenter the U.S. market.

Seems like a lot has to happen, though, for that sequence ever to play out in quite that way. Someone who knows a lot more about these things than I do, Bill Rini, offered some thoughts on the story as well back in August. Rini outlines some of the difficulties Party might face when it comes to returning to the U.S., with or without the WPT brand as a kind of protective shield. Not at all a sure thing, it seems, but perhaps we’ll see.

The North American Poker TourGoing back to Nemeth’s post, the new NAPT -- sponsored by PokerStars -- now means we have kind of a “PartyPoker-vs.-PokerStars” thing happening again here in the U.S. in the form of these competing tours. Kind of recalls what our little world of online poker was like when I first started this blog in the spring of 2006, back when Party & Stars were the big dogs in the U.S. (with Full Tilt just starting to yap at their heels). Will be very interesting to watch how it all plays out, and, of course, what effect the UIGEA getting overturned and/or bumped by new legislation could have on the competition.

If you’re interested in more on this “insider”-type stuff, I’d suggest listening to some of our fave industry insiders over on The Poker Beat, who return this afternoon (I believe) with a new episode.

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Anonymous BJ Nemeth said...

Thanks for the shoutout!

I don't know if my blog will ever be as prolific (or as good) as yours, but I hope to settle into a rhythm of 4-5 posts a week.

And yes, we will be discussing the NAPT on today's episode of "The Poker Beat."

1/07/2010 2:51 PM  

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