Wednesday, September 18, 2013

West No Longer Best for WPT World Championship

Last month I was making reference to all of the new tours getting cranked up once again, with the World Poker Tour -- now in its 12th season -- among them. Only the first half of this year’s WPT schedule (which will ultimately run from August 2012 through May 2013) has been announced as yet, although I imagine the second half is more or less fully in place already.

Already announced for the final months of 2013 are events in Paris, South Africa, South Korea, Prague, and a few in the U.S. including in Jacksonville and Las Vegas. The WPT will be going back to the Playground Poker club in Kahnawake, Quebec, too, in a few months, one of the Canadian poker sites that has now found its way into the regular tourney tour schedule along with other tours’ stops.

There was some news yesterday, though, regarding the season-ending WPT World Championship which has traditionally taken place at the Bellagio ever since the tour debuted. This year that event will instead take place at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, which is where the WPT not coincidentally happens to be at the moment for the WPT Borgata Open.

The move made me think of a post I wrote last May about the WPT World Championship, “The Shifting Place of the WPT World Championship,” the title of which today sounds like it has a different meaning than the one I had intended.

I was speaking figuratively, of course, referring to how the once prestigious tournament had receded in significance over recent years. In that post I noted in particular how the turnouts had declined dramatically since peaking in 2007 with 639 entries. Last year there were just 146 entries in the event, with 26 of those coming from players re-entering, thus meaning there were only 120 players involved. Meanwhile, the fields for many other big buy-in events have been growing over that same period.

Those shrinking numbers were no doubt a big part of the reason for the WPT making this move. In the announcement yesterday, WPT President Adam Pliska referred to the Borgata having been “home to four of the five biggest tournaments in WPT history,” and indeed it does seem relatively certain the event will have a better chance of thriving in its new location.

Initial response to the decision to move the season-ending eastward was met with what sounded like a lot of positive buzz from players over Twitter. Part of that positivity being expressed the Borgata was inspired by criticisms of the Bellagio, which has certainly fallen from favor over the last several years as a destination for both tourney types and cash game players.

Thinking beyond the relative merits of particular casinos and poker rooms, though, I wonder if the WPT moving its championship might prove a significant moment in the larger Nevada-versus-New Jersey discussion already ongoing thanks to online poker legislation and the concomitant launching of casino-affiliated sites. In other words, will there be more “shifting” to talk about occurring in the poker landscape, perhaps sooner than later?

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