The World Poker Tour has had enough of this pandemic. The live tour has been almost completely on ice since the mandated shutdown of casinos around the world – and travel and gathering prohibitions – in March 2020.
Some casinos have been cautiously reopening recently, with poker rooms as the last to make the leap back into live games. Casinos like the Venetian in Las Vegas have been offering live poker since the summer and tournaments for several months. Some states issued mandates that kept casinos and poker rooms closed or too limited to offer poker, while other states (looking at you, Florida) took an anything-goes attitude months ago.
While there is another surge of coronavirus cases raging across the United States, poker players want to play. The World Poker Tour is going to try to accommodate, starting later this month at the Venetian.
Testing Waters in Japan, South Africa, and Taiwan
A few months ago, the World Poker dipped its toes into the international waters by hosting a WPT Japan tournament in August. Japan hadn’t been hit by Covid-19 nearly as hard as many other countries. No top WPT executives traveled to the event, but they got the job done.
At the beginning of December, WPTDeepStacks hosted the WPTDS Johannesburg at the Emperors Palace Hotel Casino in South Africa. The festival of tournaments actually began on November 26, but the WPTDS Main Event ran from December 2-6. The results:
–Event buy-in: R$15,000 (approximately US$1K)
–Total entries: 260
–Total prize pool: R$3,432,000 (approximately US$229,572)
–Winner: Roy Bitton for R$808,000 (approximately US$54K)
WPT Deepstacks presented by ShuffleUp Poker @EmperorsPalace pic.twitter.com/sSfl2T7PUZ
— WPTSA (@WPTSA) December 6, 2020
WPTDeepStacks then went to Taiwan to host a festival at the Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Association (CTP) in Taipei City. The event was supposed to take place earlier in 2020 but…well…pandemic.
The festival began on December 11 and culminated in a WPTDS Taiwan Main Event from December 15-21. Players could satellite in via Natural8, but there were also three starting days at the venue. Players were excited to get to the tables there, as shown in the results:
–Event buy-in: TW$15,000 (approximately US$532)
–Total entries: 526
–Total prize pool: TW$6,888,000 (approximately US$244,386)
–Winner: Huang Chyan Pu for TW$1,317,800 (approximately US$47K)
Congratulations to Huang Chyan Pu for winning #WPTDSTaiwan for TWD 1,317,800 ($46,756)!
Thank you to Chinese Texas Hold’em Poker Club for an incredible series 🤝
Read more about the event 🏆https://t.co/x3tU352hAn @DavidTa08276943 |@CathyZhaoyuan | @WPTDeepStacks pic.twitter.com/y3NtMHV9qn
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) December 21, 2020
WPT Online a Hit in New Jersey
Meanwhile, the World Poker Tour hit the online tables in New Jersey with an event that served as a part of the Main Tour, complete with an official WPT Champions Club membership, Hublot watch, and name etched on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup. It was the WPT Online Poker Open, similar to the event held at the Borgata in Atlantic City in pre-pandemic times.
The Main Event ran from December 27-29 and offered a $1M guarantee. The results left the guarantee in the dust and produced a new WPT champion.
–Event buy-in: $3,500
–Total entries: 395
–Total prize pool: $1,264,000
–Winner: Soheb Porbanderwala for $239,820
Soheb Porbandarwala (MyCousinVinny5) claimed #WPTOnline victory last night on @partypokerUS!
Read about @Spewheb’s win in the longest final table in WPT history (350 hands) 😅
🇺🇸 https://t.co/2XoNSSeDGQ pic.twitter.com/iAVd48NGEF
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) December 30, 2020
Crossing Fingers for WPT at Venetian
On December 30, the World Poker Tour announced its return to the live tournament arena in the United States. The Main Tour will host a Season XVIII event – WPT Venetian – in March at the Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip. That will be a $5K buy-in with a $1.5M guarantee.
Prior to that, though, WPTDeepStacks will head to the Venetian even earlier. The WPTDS Venetian will offer a $1,600 buy-in event with a $500K guarantee. Play will start on January 29 and run through February 1. There will be a festival along with it, boasting of more than $500K in guarantees for the side events.
DeepStack Showdown January 18 – February 1, 2021 features more than $1 Million in guaranteed tournament prize pools. $1,600 NLH @WPTDeepStacks $500K guarantee kicking off January 29, 2021.
Structures: https://t.co/CXewoRGlf4 pic.twitter.com/q2C5WSPDZb
— Venetian Poker Room (@VenetianPoker) January 4, 2021
The choice to begin its foray back into the live tournament space was a tough one for the World Poker Tour. One of the major factors that contributed to the decision to bring the action to the Venetian was the casino’s Venetian Clean Commitment. The entire resort implemented more than 800 initiatives pertaining to safety for patrons and staff. Some of those implemented in the poker room include:
–Players must sanitize their hands before sitting down at any poker table.
–Everyone in the entire resort must wear a face mask at all times.
Venetian Poker Room Tournament Director Tommy LaRosa expressed excitement for the WPT to return. He said that they have been working hard to deliver a familiar poker experience “but in a Venetian Clean way.”
WPT VP of Global Tour Management Angelica Hael echoed the excitement. “We look forward to a great event in a safe playing environment thanks to the hard work from the Venetian team.”
But Wait, There’s More
The World Poker Tour has more on the schedule.
As for the WPT Main Tour, it just revealed today that it is preparing for the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock in Florida. That one will actually start its festival in little more than a week, on Thursday, January 14, though the Main Event won’t begin until January 22.
The next event is actually the WPT Montreal, which is scheduled to take place online at PartyPoker for players outside of the United States. As for the live events, let’s look at the schedule as it stands…with poker players crossing their fingers:
WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open
Location: Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida
-Festival: January 14-26
-Main Event: $3,500 buy-in January 22-26 ($1M GTD, two starting flights)
-Festival: January 18-February 1
-Main Event: $1,600 buy-in January 29-February 1 ($500K GTD, two starting flights)
-Location: Casino Sochi in Sochi, Russia
-Festival: February 19-28
-Main Event: February 24-28, buy-in to be determined
-Festival: details to be determined
-Main Event: $5K buy-in March 5-9 ($1.5M GTD, two starting flights)
WPTDeepStacks European Championship
-Location: Casino Barriere de Deauville in Deauville, France
-Festival: April 24-May 2
*All provisional, details to be determined and finalized
WPTDeepStacks Gold Coast
-Location: The Star Gold Coast in Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia
-Festival: April 23-May 3
-Main Event: $1,500 buy-in April 29-May 3 (details to be determined)
WPT and @HardRockHolly are back this month for #WPTLuckyHearts!
The $1 million guaranteed event starts on January 22. #TheCupAwaits
♥️ https://t.co/VNcVtFY9zb pic.twitter.com/NHKbOA5jeL
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) January 5, 2021