Re: Downsizing the WPT

by , Feb 20, 2008 | 12:53 pm

The Season 7 sked is out … and sure enough, the Mirage and Mandalay Bay tourneys have been axed — along with five other events. So the WPT is now more like the North American Poker Tour, with 14 events instead of 21.

Also interesting is that they have scrapped Ladies Night. Gotta wonder if that has something to do with California’s new ruling on gender-stacking tournaments.

Bob at CardPlayer has a pretty good article breaking down the Rise and Fall of the WPT.

24 Comments to “Re: Downsizing the WPT”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    I’d assume that the WPT Ladies League Championship will replace Ladies Night (if it gets a season 2).


  2. California Jen

    Several things strike me about the new schedule:

    1. They didn’t just drop two or three stops to trim the schedule. They trimmed 1/3 of the schedule. That’s significant!

    2. Some of the stops dropped from the schedule were ones that required much more of a travel budget. To get the entire WPT set & staff to Barcelona or Turks was an expensive endeavor, but those are scratched. My humble and unconfirmed opinion is that the company had to slash the budget, and tournaments that were too costly or not drawing enough players were dropped. Could this all be due to the fact that GSN is paying less for the shows than the Travel Channel was in prior years?

    3. The WPT made a big whoop about the new ladies league, but there are NO ladies events on the new schedule, not even the long-standing WPT Ladies Night. (Maybe this is a separate schedule that will be announced later?)

  3. BJ Nemeth

    I believe that, in past years, the special events (Ladies Night, Poker By the Book, etc.) were announced separately throughout the season. Ladies Night is historically taped at the end of the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino, and I’ll be shocked if Ladies Night doesn’t return for Season VII.

    Also, keep in mind that the schedule is subject to change after it is announced. Barcelona didn’t appear on last year’s schedule until around April or May.

    The six tournaments that were dropped were, for the most part, those with small fields and sub-million dollar prizes. The most recent Mirage Poker Showdown had the highest first prize among them with $1.09 million. The others were Tunica ($892,000), Barcelona ($786,000), Mandalay Bay ($768,000), Reno ($683,000 in 2007), and Turks & Caicos ($436,000).

    The Gulf Coast Poker Championship in Biloxi had a first prize of only $747,000, but most of the professional players seemed to like their first visit to the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged city, and the Beau Rivage casino is top notch, like a little Bellagio on the other side of the country. That tournament has been moved to replace the annual visit to Tunica in January, and I expect the field to grow, hopefully creating a prizepool large enough to justify a $1 million first prize.

    As someone who travels to each and every WPT event, the schedule has been somewhat hectic the past few years. (Though I’m really gonna miss having a European stop on the tour.) I really think that by dropping the weaker tournaments from the schedule, the World Poker Tour has strengthened itself a bit.

    Another thing to remember about the WPT is that it is a TV show. As a TV show, they’ll be targeting a certain number of episodes. I don’t know what that target number is, but I’d guess that it’s closer to 22 than it is to 14. That means they’ll either add more tournament stops (Barcelona?), add special events (Ladies Night?), or extend coverage of some tournaments (WPT World Championship?) across multiple episodes.

    Full Disclosure: You’re sick of hearing about it, but I’m compelled to mention that I currently freelance for the World Poker Tour as their lead tournament reporter. I have no access to inside information, and everything I know/theorize about this schedule was gleamed from the same press release that everyone else got.

  4. Kevin Mathers

    It seems that the WPT has decided to give up on trying to get a European foothold with the way the EPT is going gangbusters these days. I guess something that can be learned is that if you own the casino and make the final table, you’re not going to have an event the following season (Costa Rica season 1, Turks and Caicos season 6). Also, not keeping your guarantee doesn’t really endear you to coming back, as Rhynnie Campbell found out.

    If they have a WPT Ladies’ league and a championship (which will be aired as part of season 6), why is there a need to continue Ladies’ Night?

    It seems they’re hoping the league will create a breakout female player like Evelyn Ng and Clonie Gowen were.

    Since they traditionally don’t have people appear on Ladies’ Night twice (unless they won the previous year), who is really left?

    Here’s the lineups for the previous Ladies’ Night events (not counting the “amateur” winners from the Bike’s tournament for the 6th seat:

    Ladies Night I

    Clonie Gowen
    Evelyn Ng
    Annie Duke
    Kathy Liebert
    Maureen Feduniak
    Jennifer Harman

    Ladies Night II

    Isabella Mercier
    Cyndi Violette
    Wendeen Eolis
    Sharon Goldman

    Ladies Night III

    Jennifer Tilly
    Cecilia Reyes (Mortensen)
    Aidily Elviro
    Marsha Waggoner

    Ladies Night IV

    JJ Liu
    Vanessa Rousso
    Erica Schoenberg
    Anahit Galajian

    Ladies Night V

    Kristy Gazes
    Mimi Tran
    Linda Johnson
    Melissa Hayden

    It looks like the number of female players left that have had some amount of WPT success is very small at this point. I doubt they’re going to go after people who’ve had WSOP success like Liz Lieu, Vanessa Selbst and Katja Thater for example. But I’ll leave that to BJ and others much wiser than me.

  5. BJ Nemeth

    Oops! I think Kevin is exactly right.

    My bad on the “Ladies Night” thing — I completely forgot about the WPT Ladies’ Championship (even after reading Kevin’s first comment), which I think is the clear and obvious replacement for Ladies Night. It wasn’t listed on this schedule, and I didn’t consider it while writing my earlier comment. Total brainfart on my end.

    So yes, I’d expect the WPT Ladies Night to be gone (in part because of the diminishing pool of female stars, as Kevin pointed out), replaced by the WPT Ladies Championship. So just skip that part of my earlier comment.

    While there are no international events currently planned (other than Niagara Falls, Canada), I still hold out hope that another tournament will eventually be added to the Season VII schedule.

  6. DanM

    Kevmath, who are you? I mean I know who you are — you’re Kevmath on 2+2 — but you seem to know a lot of stuff.

  7. Kevin Mathers

    I wish I was some sort of poker insider/important person Dan, but I’m just someone whose enjoyment/obsession of poker (and use of numerous poker websites) is much better than my actual ability to play. Throw in the fact that I can speculate with the best of them gives off the perception of knowledge.


  8. anon

    The “lean and mean” WPT season 7 schedule works for a number of reasons:

    1. 12 of the 13 open events have proven to be able to draw over 400 players in order to produce million-dollar first prizes. The only open event on the list that might have trouble drawing 300 players will be Biloxi due to a schedule conflict with the Aussie Millions.

    2. The two “backwater” stops where many players don’t want to go, Tunica and Reno, are gone.

    3. No more trips to the Atlantic hurricane region (i.e. Biloxi, Turks and Caicos at the peak of the hurricane season, with the exception of the Borgata in mid-September.

    4. All Las Vegas WPT events have been consolidated at the Bellagio, which has one of the best venues for tournament poker when the Fontana Lounge is available. The Mirage (with temporary tables at the sports book) and Mandalay Bay (with temporary tables on the casino floor next to the slot machines) are now gone, freeing up the month of May.

    5. WPT steps aside of the vs Harrah’s/WSOP Europe “death match” by vacating the Spain market, which will be a major battleground between the and Harrah’s for years to come. (WSOP Europe’s new home starting in 2009 or 2010 will be Caesars Castilla La Mancha, which is located 110 miles from Madrid at the El Reino de Don Quijote resort complex.)

    6. WPT appears to have abandoned any effort to penetrate the lucrative Macau/Hong Kong/Guangdong province market, leaving as the only one active in that market (that is until Harrah’s and/or the Hong Kong Jockey Club can get their acts together by 2010 or so.)

    One would now expect to do something during the month of May, which has been freed up by the WPT. Possible use of the May time slot by include an Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) event (Macau would be a logical choice) or a Latin American Poker Tour (LAPT) event.

  9. anon

    The replacement of Ladies Night with the Ladies Championship event also works for a number of reasons:

    1. The selection process and the associated “politics” is now gone.

    2. Given the lack of success of females during WPT Season 6, and given the downsizing of WPT Season 7, the difficulty of finding 4 female players who have made the final 2 tables of WPT open events would have gone up dramatically had Ladies Night remained on the schedule. Replacing Ladies Night with Ladies Championship eliminates that major headache.

    3. With GSN not showing any interest in airing any “single-table invitational” theme specials that were aired on Travel Channel in the past (i.e. Father and Son, Bad Boys, Poker by the Book, Battle of Champions), having any televised event that GSN would want that would allow WPT to use the TV arena set-up for consecutive days will allow WPT to amortize the arena set-up cost over 2 events. The WPT Ladies Championship serves that purpose.

  10. California Jen

    Everyone is assuming that the WPT Ladies League WILL have a second season. There has been no schedule released and no information to indicate that they will do it again. It’s possible but not confirmed.

  11. BJ Nemeth

    The WPT Ladies Champion that takes place in April could be held over until WPT Season VII, especially since they already have a Ladies Night for Season VI. It was never mentioned that it would air as part of Season VI, only that it was scheduled to air on GSN in 2008.

    Dan, I laughed at your bluntness. “Kevmath, who are you?”

    I laughed again when Kevin said, “I wish I was some sort of poker insider/important person Dan, but I’m just someone whose enjoyment/obsession of poker (and use of numerous poker websites) is much better than my actual ability to play.”

    Kevin, welcome to the poker media. Your press pass will be waiting for you at the WSOP. 🙂

    As for “Anon,” that commenter sounds a lot like Oliver Tse. (For the record, that’s a compliment.)

  12. Kevin Mathers

    When I read the posts, it was definitely in Oliver’s style.

    Also, the WPT Ladies Championship is scheduled to air August 18 (the week before the WPT World Championship).

  13. anon

    Caesars Castilla La Mancha will open in 2011.

    The government of Ciudad Real gave Harrah’s and El Reino de Don Quijote the go-ahead to start construction about a week ago.

  14. BJ Nemeth

    Game, set, and match, Kevin. You win! I didn’t cross-check the Ladies Championship with the television schedule released by GSN.

    It’s also interesting to see that they’re planning 2 two-part episodes in Season VI, for the Bellagio Cup and the World Poker Open in Tunica. I’m curious why the WPT World Championship isn’t getting this treatment, unless it’s simply because the tournament hasn’t taken place yet. (Unless they focus on pre-final table action, there need to be enough hands played to fill two episodes.)

  15. DanM

    Oliver, why are you hiding?

    Even if those comments are not from you, I am having fun reading them in your voice.

  16. DanM

    ***Kevin, welcome to the poker media.***

    Not so fast, BJ … Kevin relies far too much on accuracy.

  17. Kevin Mathers

    Hands played at the final table so far(from CardPlayer):

    Mirage – 136
    Mandalay Bay – None given, but it took less than 4 hours
    Bellagio Cup -142
    Legends of Poker – 153
    Gulf Coast – 139
    Borgata Poker Open – 135
    Turks and Caicos – 206
    Barcelona – 74
    World Poker Finals – 78
    Fallsview – 271!
    Five Diamond – 53
    World Poker Open – 148
    Borgata Winter – 118

    Not looking at what those hands consisted of, but it seems there could be a few that get the two episode treatment and the infamous “schedule subject to change” can rear its head.


  18. BJ Nemeth

    I’m not sure what the criteria are for a double episode, though I’m certain it doesn’t revolve entirely around hand count. Some final tables can go on and on and on without anything very interesting happening. Others are a foregone conclusion, but a couple of doubleups for the short stack just delay the inevitable.

    I think the number of hands would be a minimum requirement for a double episode (can’t show two episodes if there aren’t enough hands to fill the time), but not a determining factor. (As witnessed by the marathon at Fallsview Casino, which is still scheduled for a single episode.)

    Kevin, I’ve been impressed by your research, knowledge, and analysis (I know you from 2+2 as well). If I were in a position to hire people in the poker media, I’d ask for your resume.

  19. anon

    Bellagio Cup III and Tunica get two episodes each because the table banter was way too entertaining to be wasted.

    Bellagio Cup III featured Mike Matusow, who can definitely carry 2 episodes by himself even if no one talks back at him.

    Tunica featured Men Nguyen and Freddy Deeb talking so much trash at each other for several hours that the entire first episode is guaranteed to be better than “WPT Bad Boys I and II” combined.

    If and when Phil Hellmuth makes another WPT final table, then that particular final table will be a candidate for 2 episodes.

  20. Kevin Mathers


    I appreciate the kind words, but I don’t think my numerous customer service/call center jobs is the resume needed to be a part of the poker media. Also, since my writing skills seem to fall closer to the level of a CraigsList-hired CardPlayer “reporter” than someone of the caliber of Dr.Pauly, Dan, yourself, or even “Anon”, I don’t think I’d be a good fit.


  21. Tom Schneider

    I sure would like to get a job in poker writing. Well, BJ?

  22. DanM


    Tom would not be a good hire. He plays too much to be a poker writer.


  23. DanM

    Now Anon is another story. He seems to have a clear grasp of AP style.

  24. BJ Nemeth

    Tom, I think you could easily land a job as a poker writer, but it’s a different market for notable pros who write articles. If you’re serious, I’d suggest contacting one (or more) of the poker magazines out there. (Like I told Kevin, I’m not really in a position to hire anyone, because I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder.)

    Just write a letter to the editor in chief (find his or her name and the company address on the masthead in the early pages of the magaine) describing what kind of articles you’d be interested in writing, and your unique perspective. If I were you, I’d highlight your career in business before poker, and your book — that gives you a point of view that is much different than the majority of players who have known nothing but poker since college.

    Whether or not Dan will “allow” you to have a side gig is between you and him. 🙂