Thursday, May 17, 2012

WPT Takes Center Stage

World Poker Tour Takes Center StageThe World Series of Poker is about to consume our collective consciousness for the foreseeable future, with the summer’s first events kicking off just 10 days from now. Between now and then, however, we’ll be distracted a bit by the wind up of Season X of the World Poker Tour at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

The traditional WPT World Championship event starts this Saturday, the $25,000 buy-in tourney that has served as a culmination for the tour ever since it started a decade ago. There will also be a three-day $100,000 buy-in “Super High Roller” event beginning next Wednesday which will surely draw a lot of attention as well.

Season X saw a record 23 events on the WPT schedule (including both the Bellagio ones coming next week). Over the last year the tour has visited Spain, Slovenia, France (twice), Malta, Morocco, Prague, Italy (twice), Ireland, Austria, in addition to numerous U.S. casinos.

Yesterday the first half of the Season XI schedule was announced, and it appears there’s no slowing down as far as the number of WPT events are concerned nor its extending to new places to visit, with stops in Cyprus, Copenhagen, and one in Casablanca (rather than Marrakech) on the schedule this time around.

Kind of amazing, really, to think about how the WPT has thrived over such a long period. There was that stretch a few years back when the tour seemed on relatively shaky ground, having scaled back in events and been forced to move around from the Travel Channel to the Game Show Network and finally to Fox Sports.

But things today appear better than ever for the WPT, one of the few constants in the poker world since the “boom” began around 2003 when the show first debuted. By the way, if you’re curious to read more about the WPT’s remarkable decade, I did a brief overview for Betfair poker last week, noting how the tour has fared over the last ten years and significantly grown in scope of late.

A WPT title remains a much-coveted goal for pros and amateurs alike, having retained its cachet despite the tour’s expansion and other changes -- both to the WPT and the poker world in general -- over the years. Indeed, whoever wins those two WPT events next week will be justly regarded as having achieved something of value and celebrated as such.

At least until the WSOP begins, anyway.

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