The World Poker Tour (WPT)
is a series of international poker tournaments
featuring most of the world's professional players. It was started in the United States by attorney/television producer Steven Lipscomb
, who now serves as CEO
of WPT Enterprises (WPTE), the firm that controls the World Poker Tour.
The World Poker Tour is a collection of Texas hold 'em poker tournaments
held internationally, but mainly in the United States
. The television show and the broadcasts of the World Series of Poker have led to a boom in the table game across American homes, in local casino poker rooms and online. The key sponsors of the tour are casinos and online poker sites. The show, which is syndicated internationally, is co-hosted by World Series of Poker bracelet
winner Mike Sexton
, and actor Vince Van Patten
. Shana Hiatt
served as the show host and sideline reporter in its first three seasons. Courtney Friel
took over the host role for the fourth season, and Sabina Gadecki
for the fifth. Layla Kayleigh
and Kimberly Lansing
began serving as hostesses in season six. WPT has not announced the television hostess for season 7, while poker player and reporter Amanda Leatherman
was hired in July 2008 to host "live updates" on the WPT website.
The tour had its debut season in the latter part of 2002 and early part of 2003, climaxing with the WPT Championship in April 2003 at the Bellagio Casino
in Las Vegas
. The first season aired on the Travel Channel
on American cable television
in the spring of 2003. The show made its network debut on February 1
with a special "Battle Of Champions" tournament, which aired against CBS
coverage of the Super Bowl XXXVIII
pre-game show. The Travel Channel aired the first five seasons of the Tour. In April 2007, WPTE announced that the series would move to GSN
for its sixth season in the spring of 2008 . The first WPT tournament to air on GSN, the Mirage Poker Showdown, debuted on March 242008
. In July 2008, WPTE announced that the series would move to Fox Sports Net
for its seventh season.
The show's hosts Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten give the impression that all of their commentary is recorded live as the tournament happens, and they have occasionally interacted with the players during the game. However, their comments about hole cards are recorded after the tournament takes place because gaming regulations prohibit them from observing a live feed of the "hole card cameras" while on the set. Consequently, the broadcast audio is a mix of the live recording, and commentary recorded in post-production.
The drawing power of the WPT and most other poker tournaments is that anyone who can pay the "buy-in" (an amount ranging from $2,500 to $25,000) or win a "satellite" tournament is able to compete against the top professional players.
Fans of the show find it interesting because of technical innovations such as the ability to see the players' hole cards through a small camera in front of them on the poker table (an innovation first seen on the UK program Late Night Poker). With the success of the show, special programs, such as the "Hollywood Home Game" (featuring celebrities playing for charity) and "Ladies Night" (featuring six top women players) were developed.
In 2004, the World Poker Tour created a Walk of Fame, inducting poker legends Doyle Brunson and Gus Hansen as well as actor James Garner.
Now in its sixth season of broadcast, it still remains among the highest rated television programs on cable. It airs Mondays on Game Show Network. The first three seasons of WPT are also available on NTSC DVD. (The second season DVD set features audio commentary by several of the players. The third season is only available in a "Best Of" format, featuring just half of the episodes.) CITY TV airs the WPT on Sundays at 4pm PST in Canada with a rebroadcast at Midnight (or shortly after depending on the length of their Sunday Night Movie. The series moved to Monday nights since the move to GSN in 2008. Beginning with the 2008 season, host Mike Sexton no longer toasts the winner of the Tournament with an "official beer of the World Poker Tour" (sponsored in years past by Anheuser-Busch). They now provide champagne glasses for their salute.
The seventh season will be shown on FSN. In accordance with the agreement, one player a week will win a tournament on ClubWPT.com and appear on a televised show.
A series of spin-off tournaments, titled the Professional Poker Tour, began filming in 2004. Broadcast of the series was delayed, in part because of a dispute with the Travel Channel over rights. In the fall of 2005, WPTE announced that "a cable channel" (believed to be ESPN) had withdrawn from bidding for the PPT series, and that WPTE was negotiating with the Travel Channel to air the series. On January 30, 2006, WPTE and the Travel Channel announced that they had dismissed all open lawsuits. The series began regular broadcast July 5, 2006, but was suspended after one season as WPTE couldn't find a television home for a second season.
Sherman Act lawsuit
In July 2006, seven poker professionals sued WPTE, alleging violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act
, the California Cartwright Act, and intentional interference with contract (Complaint and Response). The professionals (Chris Ferguson
, Andy Bloch
, Annie Duke
, Joe Hachem
, Phil Gordon
, Howard Lederer
, and Greg Raymer
) allege that WPTE's standard release forms, required for participation in WPTE events, are anti-competitive and designed to interfere with their contractual obligations to other companies. The anti-competition claim is based on the fact that WPTE's contracts with the casinos that host its tournaments bar those casinos (and other casinos owned by the same parent companies) from hosting non-WPTE poker events. The claim of interference with contract is based on the releases' claim to perpetual rights to the players' likenesses for any use WPTE wishes. The players claim that this would put them in violation of other contracts (such as Ferguson's Activision Games contract or several players' contracts with online poker sites) . Hachem and Raymer dropped out of the lawsuit before its eventual settlement.
In April 2008, WPT Enterprises, Inc. settled with the five remaining players of the lawsuit that was brought against them, Chris Ferguson, said about the settlement, "We are happy to have come to an agreement that is fair to all players, and to have put in place a new release that clears up ambiguities in how players' images may be used. We are especially happy that this new release will apply to all poker players who wish to participate in WPT tournaments and events."
In January 2008, the WPT announced a set of tournaments for women, known as WPT Ladies. The first season will have five events, with buy-ins ranging from $300 to $1,500. The final table of the final event will be televised.
WPT Walk of Fame
The World Poker Tour Walk of Fame is designed to honor those poker players who have played the game well at the highest levels as well as those who have promoted the spread of it through film, television, and literature.
In February 2004, the World Poker Tour Walk of Fame inducted its first members at the Commerce Casino in a ceremony before top pros and celebrities in town for the World Poker Tour Invitational Poker Tournament. The induction ceremony was staged on the doorstep of Commerce Casino.
No new players have been inducted since 2004. The original inductees were Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen and James Garner.
Player of the Year
Points are awarded for all Open events as follows:
- Winner: 1000 points
- Runner-up: 700 points
- 3rd place: 600 points
- 4th place: 500 points
- 5th place: 400 points
- 6th place: 300 points
- 7th place (TV bubble): 200 points
This award is given out to one player per season. The winners so far are:
Below are the World Poker Tour events that have broken the record for the first prize.
||Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2002
||World Poker Open - 2003
||World Poker Finals - 2003
||Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2003
||World Poker Open 2004
||LA Poker Classic 2004
||World Poker Finals 2004
||Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2004
||LA Poker Classic 2005
||World Poker Finals 2005
||LA Poker Classic 2006
||LA Poker Classic 2007
||Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2007
||WPT Championship - Season I
||WPT Championship - Season II
||Martin De Knijff
||WPT Championship - Season III
||WPT Championship - Season IV
||Joe Bartholdi Jr
||WPT Championship - Season V
||WPT Championship - Season VI
A fictional WPT championship match is the setting for the 2007 feature film Deal
. Sexton, Van Patten, and Friel are slated to play themselves and a number of other poker professionals and poker-playing celebrities are reportedly in the cast. The WPT set was shipped to New Orleans
for filming following the season 4 championship.