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The World Poker Tour
Tournament Poker
by Mike Sexton

The poker world as we know it is about to change. Top-of-the-line television coverage of major poker tournaments is on the way starting in January 2003. The poker world is going ‘prime time.’

The World Poker Tour (WPT) was founded for the purpose of taking a widespread recreational game, poker, and turning it into a legitimate televised sport. The mission statement of the WPT is: “to establish poker as a significant televised main-stream sport broadcasting top poker tournaments around the world under the premier brand of The World Poker Tour.” The WPT will set new standards in poker programming. They will establish a signature look and feel, designed to make poker exciting (including using mini-cameras to show the players down cards). In addition to being treated to excitement and drama, the viewers will become educated about poker. They will be able to visualize situations, recognize tough decisions players will face, and wonder what they would do under intense pressure with the world watching.

The WPT will consist of a season of televised poker events (13) from locations around the world. (As of this writ-ing, the networks are vying for rights to the WPT.) The first year of the Tour will culminate with a grand finale to be held at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (April 2003). The championship final will consist of the 12 event champions and anyone else who would like to buy-in. Care to play? You might start check-ing phone booths for dimes now or better yet try winning the lottery, as the buy-in for the WPT Final is $25,000!

The creator and CEO of the World Poker Tour is Steve Lipscomb. Lipscomb graduated with honors from Dartmouth College where he was President of the Senior Class. He then attended the University of Chicago Law School where he was a Greenberg Scholar. Lipscomb is an accomplished television producer and award-winning film producer/director who is quite familiar with the poker world. (He has filmed the World Series of Poker, the Tournament of Champions, and the PartyPoker.com Million.)

The force behind the WPT, however, is businessman extraordinaire Lyle Berman. Berman’s company, Lakes Gaming, Inc., is funding the WPT to the tune of over $3,000,000! Although his hobby is poker and he is a great player, (he is the 2002 inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame), Berman’s success in business, especially the casino business, is legendary. Lyle has an uncanny vision for potential busi-ness projects and is convinced that it’s time to take poker to the next level. The WPT will certainly do that.

The World Poker Tour centers on many of the premiere poker tournaments around the globe and includes some of the largest casinos in the world. The Charter Members of the WPT include the Bellagio, the Bicycle Casino, Binion’s Horseshoe and the Gold Strike (Tunica, MS), the Commerce Casino, Foxwoods, Lucky Chances Casino, PartyPoker.com, the Reno Hilton, UltimateBet.com, the Aviation Club de France, and Casinos Europa in Costa Rica.

Everyone in the poker industry will benefit as a result of the creation of the World Poker Tour. Poker will be taken out of the American psyche and plugged into mainstream sports and entertainment. The growth, acceptance, and appreciation of poker will certainly rise. And the best part, especially for tournament players, is the potential corporate sponsorship that will evolve from a successful WPT. Tournament poker is about to take center stage. Best of luck to the World Poker Tour!

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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