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Final WPT Event of 2009 Signifies Changing of the Guard

PartyGaming Executives Discuss Their Plan for the WPT

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World Poker TourOn Monday, the final World Poker Tour event of the year will begin. It was a tumultuous 2009 for the WPT, as the company was put up for sale and entertained three different offers before finally being absorbed by the European gaming giant PartyGaming.

On the eve of the $15,000 buy-in Doyle Brunson Classic, Card Player tracks down some of the major players at PartyGaming and the World Poker Tour to find out what the 2010 tour will look like, and what PartyGaming’s November acquisition of the WPT means for the company.

More International Events

With a real-money online poker site that is unable to offer its full services to American players, PartyGaming acknowledges that Europe is the core market for the company at this time and that it hopes to leverage the WPT brand for its growth there.

“I think you can look for more tour stops in international locations (in the years ahead), areas like France and Italy,” said Adam Pliska, the new president of the WPT. “There will be more international land-based events, both televised and non-televised.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer domestic events, but Pliska declined to comment on the exact number of televised U.S. tournaments players could expect to see in the years ahead.

PartyGaming’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Welch said that the company will use PartyPoker to really bolster turnout at these new international events.

“PartyPoker is going to be fundamental to our future success (with the World Poker Tour),” said Welch. “PartyPoker will support WPT events by running satellites … but to be clear, this isn’t going to be the PartyPoker World Poker Tour. This is the WPT. It’s a brand in its own right.”

Welch stressed that other poker sites will be allowed and encouraged to satellite players into international WPT events.

PartyGaming is the new steward of the World Poker Tour brand.Preparing for a Possible Return to the U.S.

When PartyGaming moved to purchase the WPT, many players speculated that the company was trying to set itself up for a potential return to the U.S. PartyGaming says that is exactly the case: “This is the first step toward us returning to the United States,” said Welch.

“We all think [the UIGEA is going to be reversed] at some point. It’s just a matter of when,” said Mike Sexton, the WPT announcer and PartyPoker spokesperson. “I’m convinced we’re going to see another poker explosion like we saw six years ago. It’ll be second to none.”

Sexton has the rare distinction of being involved with both companies from their earliest days, helping PartyPoker get off the ground in the early 2000s and serving as the voice of the WPT since Season 1. He said it’s especially gratifying for him to see the two companies become one.

“It was very fulfilling for me. I was there on the ground floor for both companies, and saw both of them rise to heights that were unimaginable,” said Sexton. “Now to see them merge together, where they can move forward and expand much greater than they could before, it’s really a pretty exciting time. To me, this is a perfect marriage, and I think poker players are going to discover the same thing.”

Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten on the WPTPartyPoker, who used to hold the lion’s share of the market before it closed its doors to American players following the passage of the UIGEA, will have a tough road ahead, even if the U.S. does change its laws, since it has lost so many players to PokerStars, Full Tilt, and other poker sites. But the publicly traded company doesn’t regret its decision to leave in 2006.

“Our competitors have chosen to take a very different approach to the market rather than ourselves,” said Welch. “We think we’ve taken the best approach, which will provide value for our shareholders. But who can say how the market’s going to turn out, who the winners and losers are going to be? However, we can say that with the acquisition of the World Poker Tour, we think we are in an excellent position to leverage that should the market open up.”

Welch said that if America did explicitly legalize and regulate online poker, PartyPoker would return, and the company would also open up a World Poker Tour-associated gaming site.

The End of an Era

Steve Lipscomb, the founder and former president of the WPT, compared leaving the WPT in the hands of PartyGaming to watching a child go off to college. You know it’s for the best, but that doesn’t mean you won’t miss it.

“My role will be to try not to get in the way too much,” said Lipscomb, with a laugh. “As I go into a different phase of my life, it’s time for me to thank everyone in the poker community. I know we’ve made decisions that were contentious and hard, but through all of that, I think there has been a tremendous amount of grace shown by people in the poker community.”

Lipscomb also thanked Card Player and Barry and Jeff Shulman specifically for their contributions to the industry, saying they “deserve an extra level of credit and appreciation for what they’ve done in this marketplace from then to now.”

Lipscomb, along with Lyle Berman, launched the WPT in 2002.

 
 
 
 

Comments

Prieure
almost 12 years ago

There should be far more international events, the WPT has always followed the same kind of lie as the World Series of Baseball. Two countries is not the world, no matter what Americans say. If the WPT had been properly set up then it would have taken the place of the EPT which is now the biggest poker tour with increasing numbers all the time. Without international stops the WPT should be re-named the BPT, the Bellagio Poker Tour. A fantastic casino don't get me wrong but the name WPT should not be used unless it actually tours around the world. Hopefully PartyGaming will fix this problem.

 
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WayneBullet
almost 12 years ago

You want to know why Americans still call it the World Series, because the best players from around the world play baseball in America. Japan gets our players that are washed up or can't hack it in the big leagues. The Mexican League is winterball to keep our younger players in baseball shape and for them to pick up a few more dollars.

There are a lot of players from around the world playing baseball. Really I don't think there is a comparison between the WPT and MLB.

 
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Sazzle
almost 12 years ago

Prieure = USA hater.

 
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WayneBullet
almost 12 years ago

Oh well, hate on us. Shows ignorance. I know all my friends that love baseball walk around saying, we rule the world of baseball, we are the best because we have the world series and the WPT.

The reason they are not focusing on the U.S. is because of our stupid government rules. It has nothing more to with it than that. They are a internet gaming company and it makes sense for them to play their WPT with countries where they are welcome.

 
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Truck Yaeger
almost 12 years ago

I think its about time the USA finally realised they're not the only country out there.

Baseballers need gloves to catch a ball.PANSY'S.
Gridiron players need helmets and shoulders pads. PANSY'S. And dont say they hit harder in NFL because they don't.
Why don't you play real games, cricket and Australian Rules Football.

 
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rickyste
almost 12 years ago

I think Truck Yaeger should go call Ray Lewis a pansy to his face.

 
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Truck Yaeger
almost 12 years ago

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMkHR5TyH-E

youtube 'waters on salopek'

Take note of the lack of pads.

 
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Truck Yaeger
almost 12 years ago

or even better, youtube 'brodie holland massive hit'

 
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WayneBullet
almost 12 years ago

Hey Truck, we play Rugby here too. I played 4 years in college. They just don't show it on TV. Maybe if all the people around the world would quit watching the SuperBowl, they would quit showing it. Somebody is interested out there besides you.

Having played football and rugby, I will say, yes football players with pads hit harder. Reason being, pads give a sense of security that it won't hurt as bad.

I don't get it either. Why do people in other countries spend their energy hating on other countries. I don't hate on a whole country specifically. Doesn't make sense.

 
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Truck Yaeger
almost 12 years ago

I don't hate Americans or America.
I'm just saying that generally Americans don't have a very broad outlook. It's like tunnel vision and I think it shows most of all in US sports.

Even now, you still have it wrong. I'm talking about Australian Rules Football (AFL), not rugby. Rugby is sht. The most popular game in Australia is AFL, by far. The grand final is televised on ESPN I think but probably at 2am.
Yanks play it aswell, google 'usafl'.

 
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