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World Poker Tour Releases Slimmed-Down Schedule

Season Seven Has Seven Fewer Events Planned Than Season Six


The World Poker Tour Enterprises (WPTE) released its tournament event and production schedule for its seventh season today, and it contains about one-third fewer tourneys than were scheduled in its previous season.

In season six, WPTE filmed 20 tournaments for broadcast, including several specials and all of its open events. Season seven’s schedule carries 14 events that, except for a quick trip to Niagara Falls in Canada, won’t see players leave the United States to play. The full schedule is published at the end of this article.

The tournaments that were cut were the Mirage Poker Showdown, the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship, the Ladies Night invitational, the Turks and Caicos Poker Classic, the WPT Spanish Championship, the World Poker Challenge, and the World Poker Open.

The WPT, once the only player in tournament poker series television and production, now shares the calendar with PokerStars, which sponsors the European Poker Tour, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour, and the soon-to-be-launched Latin American Poker Tour. That, along with the proliferation of major tournaments across the globe, forced WPTE to cut back its schedule in order to remain competitive and to keep its major tournaments filled with as many players as possible, which helps to ensure that they are truly big-time events, says Steve Lipscomb, founder, president, and CEO of WPTE.

“Well, I can say that mostly what went into that decision has lots to do with the market. Players let us know [where they prefer to play] verbally, and they also vote with their tournament dollars,” Lipscomb said. “I think we’re trying to be mindful of places that people really want to go, where they want to play, and the properties that really have the resources and the dedication to be able to grow substantial events over time.”

Globally, Locally

Even though WPTE has scaled back its production schedule for next season, Lipscomb gave a hint of what international poker fans may soon see from the WPTE. Lipscomb says that locally-grown programming does better in certain parts of the world and WPTE is in discussions to develop locally-based events for regional broadcast. Because of the competitive poker market, Lipscomb wouldn’t say where those talks are taking place, but it’s something WPTE expects to tackle in the near future.

Despite the fact that the WPT was a ground-breaking television show that played a huge part in fueling the firestorm that is now international poker, the company has yet to cash-in. A publicly-traded company, WPTE floated at $8 in August of 2004. A little more than a year-and-a-half later, its stock price more than doubled at its peak. Today, its stock traded at $1.47.

Nearly all of the quarterly financial reports from the company outline losses in the millions of dollars, although the WPTE reported at the end of 2006 that the company had total cash, cash equivalents, and investments in marketable securities of approximately $39.6 million. The report for 2007 is due out next month.

As a publicly-traded, U.S.-based company, WPTE is naturally left out of the most lucrative sector of the poker industry, online poker. Ironically, the show that helped build such a large fan-base of online poker players has not, until recently, been able to cash in on online poker. The company is just getting back into the online poker industry and was forced to change its revenue-producing strategy.

“World Poker Tour came in and reinvented poker so that it worked in a different way on television, and it really started making profits in a number of different areas, from consumer products and television licensing and sponsorship, and then the online gaming market in the United States literally became the profit center for the entire industry,” Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb says online poker decimated its consumer product revenue stream because it flooded the market with freebies that came with playing on the site, schwag that the WPTE had for sale in malls across America. It forced the WPTE to change its ways. Lipscomb believes it’s inevitable that online poker will become regulated in the U.S. When that happens, he says WPTE will have a very different profit experience.

“But, until then, we’ve had to really reinvent our company where we had to refocus on areas where we could make money,” Lipscomb said. “We no longer look at consumer products as something that’s going to be a huge growing market for us because online gaming sites will give hats away, they’ll give DVDs away, they’ll give all of those things away, which completely undercuts and destroys the market.”

WPTE has also taken steps to get involved in the online poker world. A new subscription-based online poker school has opened, joining a fairly new real-money site in jurisdictions and countries that allow it.

A recent foray into China through the nationally-sanctioned Traktor Poker Tour will also give WPTE another revenue stream. Lipscomb hopes that the seeds for great business success are now being planted in China through the regional events that have been taking place there. Lipscomb says that the Traktor Poker Tour has the potential to become the biggest part of the entire WPTE.

A Move to Mondays

The move to GSN from the Travel Channel has both its positives and minuses, the biggest minus being that GSN reaches 26 million fewer subscribers than the Travel Channel. Lipscomb shrugs at the figure. He says GSN has about the same number of viewers that the Travel Channel did when the WPT first was aired there at the end of 2004. He feels confident that WPTE will help grow GSN just as it did for the Travel Channel.

He also says WPT viewers are some of the most loyal out there and believes that they will make the move over to GSN easily, attracted, no doubt, by the double-fisted dose of poker that will be served up Monday nights on GSN starting March 24, when it joins High Stakes Poker.

A big plus that comes from moving to GSN comes in the form of promotion. GSN, Lipscomb says, is happy to have the WPT, and its putting up a few million dollars as proof. Although GSN pays less per episode than what the Travel Channel did, it’s contractually required to invest $3 million in promoting the WPT on GSN this year.

Despite the financial struggles WPTE has faced, Lipscomb has faith in the company he helped form.

“I guess my optimism, the reason I still get up every day and come in and believe that the World Poker Tour has an awful lot to offer — not just to the poker community, but the shareholders — is that we had a challenging experience of having the market that we really helped create develop in such a way that we couldn’t participate in the most lucrative form,” he said. “I would say that every poker player who has gone through a bad streak, they go back to the table because they know the luck has to turn. I could literally go through a series of bad beats that we’ve had along the way, and you have to take those. In tournaments, you have to take at least one or two bad beats, and I think we look at this in a long-term way. Lyle Berman and myself both believe that what we have established is enduring and will be making the money that it should in due time.”

The WPT season seven schedule follows:

  • Bellagio Cup IV — Bellagio, Las Vegas — July 11- 17
  • Legends of Poker — The Bicycle Casino, Los Angeles — Aug. 23-28
  • Borgata Poker Open — Borgata, Atlantic City — Sept. 14-18
  • North American Poker Championship — Fallsview Resort Casino, Niagara Falls, Canada — Oct. 10-16
  • Festa Al Lago — Bellagio, Las Vegas — Oct. 20-25
  • World Poker Finals — Foxwoods, Mashantucket, Connecticut — Nov. 5-11
  • Doyle Brunson Five-Diamond World Poker Classic — Bellagio, Las Vegas — Dec. 13-19
  • Gulf Coast Poker Championship — Beau Rivage, Biloxi, Mississippi — Jan. 16-19, 2009
  • Borgata Poker Classic — Borgata, Atlantic City — Jan. 25-29, 2009
  • L.A. Poker Classic — Commerce Casino, Los Angeles — Feb. 28-March 5, 2009
  • WPT Celebrity Invitational — Commerce Casino, Los Angeles — March 7-9, 2009
  • Bay 101 Shooting Star — Bay 101, San Jose — March 16-20
  • Foxwoods Poker Classic, Foxwoods, April 4-9
  • WPT World Championship, Bellagio, Las Vegas, April 18-25




15 years ago

This is actually a good thing except for losing the Reno stop (where I live)...too many $10K buy-ins means too many dry bankrolls. Better to have the correction now than later.