The start of any new poker tournament is fraught with a sense of trepidation mixed in with excitement. So when the World Poker Tour announced the $15 million guaranteed World Championship would be taking place in mid-December, a ripple of intrigue went around the poker industry. Could it reach its lofty guarantee? Would enough players invest in a tournament where the buy-in assured everyone that a high level of professional player would likely be at every table?
The fact that the WPT World Championship has exceeded its prizepool at the same time as EPT Prague’s Main Event has pulled in record numbers in central Europe could be the biggest indication yet that poker is enjoying the beginning of a second poker boom.
A Different Kind of Main Event
Since the World Series of Poker brought an Online Hybrid Main Event to the masses two years ago, there has existed the possibility of a live Main Event at this time of year that players would embrace. Who wouldn’t want a Main Event such as the one staged every summer in Las Vegas just before Christmas? The romance of this time of year meant a niche was waiting to be filled. But who could fill it?
The European Poker Tour is well-known for whisking players around Europe and the world off to Prague to enjoy their spiced alcoholic drinks and Yuletide markets between big events. The WSOP itself has an online Winter Series taking place on GGPoker. If it was to be a large poker brand to stage such an event, it would have to be the biggest.
Step forward the World Poker Tour. This year’s WPT World Championship is cannily arranged to take place at players’ favorite The Wynn in Las Vegas. Between three Day 1s, the guarantee of $15 million was made to look conservative as over $29 million ended up filling the prizepool. A top prize of over $4.1 million is set to change someone’s life in a few days’ time.
A Different Scene to High Rollers
“First place is gonna be $4 million. The return on investment is huge.”
One man who thrived on his Day 1 is former WPT Main Event winner Dan Smith. Known as The Cowboy’, Dmith found FOMO too much to bear, hopped on a plane to Vegas and crushed Day 1a, finshing the day inside the top 10. Players. He explained that the tournament is a change of scenery from the nosebleed high roller events that can take place at this time of year.
“These $10k Main Events are a very different scene to the high rollers,” he says. “I find it fun to play when you’re constantly playing Addamo, Chidwick always in the toughest spots – a very serious and competitive environment and generally way higher stakes where the stress is a lot more.”
As Smith explains, he can enter a tournament such as the WPT World Championship much more relaxed about what he’s laying on the line.
“If you play a $10k [MTT], the worst-case scenario is that you lose $20k a day in two bullets. Comparatively, it’s less than a buy-in in other tournaments, so it’s not so bad.”
The value is there for many top professionals, with Smith saying ‘despite it being lower stakes environment, it’s still a good earn.’ He’s been impressed with the way the World Poker Tour has put the event together.
“First place is gonna be $4 million,” he enthuses. “The ROI (return on investment) is huge in these. I find a big field $10k very fun to play and the WPT did a great job to put together the event at The Wynn. I’m excited to keep playing and hopefully make a run this week.”
Another Champion Hails ‘Special’ Tournament
“This [WPT World Championship] tournament rivals the WSOP Main Event.”
Another player to star in major tournaments is Tony Sinishtaj, whose biggest-ever victory came in March of this year when he topped a final table featuring Isaac Kempton, Vanessa Kade and Alex Livingston to win the $10,000-entry Wynn Millions for a career-high score of $1.65 million.
“What The Wynn and World Poker Tour have put together here is something special,” says Sinishtaj. “They really went all out. The Ballroom they are using here could be the best poker room I’ve ever played in.”
Sinishtaj is a tournament regular at this level of buy-in and believes only one poker festival in the world is on the same level as the WPT World Championship.
“I’m honored to be able to compete in it,” he continues. “In my opinion, this tournament rivals the WSOP Main Event. No other tournament comes close to these two.”
Sinishtaj, like Smith, made it through to Day 2, and has a ‘long road ahead I hope’ as he bids to win yet another major title in a stellar career.
Whoever wins the WPT World Championship this week is Las Vegas will go down in history as well as earning what will almost certainly be their biggest-ever tournament prize. It’s hard to imagine this tournament not being repeated for many years to come and with the full backing of the WPT behind it, players of all levels are hoping that a winter tradition of a huge Main Event to rival the World Series of Poker’s summer offering starts here.