The World Poker Tour (WPT) is a series of international poker tournaments and associated television series broadcasting the final table of each tournament. It was started in 2002 in the United States by attorney/television producer Steven Lipscomb, who served as CEO of WPT Enterprises (WPTE), the firm that controlled the World Poker Tour up to November 2009. In 2008, the WPT started offering bracelets to its event champions. Players who won a title prior to the release of the WPT Bracelet were given one retroactively.
In November 2009, PartyGaming announced its acquisition of the World Poker Tour from WPTE for $12.3 million.
Only four players – Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Mark Seif, and Surinder Sunar – have finished in the money at least once in the first eight seasons of the World Poker Tour.
In December 2014, World Poker Tour announced an alliance with Ourgame, agreeing to license products and services on an exclusive basis in more than a dozen countries across Asia. In addition, Ourgame received the rights to use the WPT logo and trademark exclusively in Butan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Korea, Nepal, Macau, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam and operate on pokermonster.com.
In June 2015, The World Poker Tour (WPT) announced that it was acquired by Ourgame International Holdings Ltd. for a price of $35 million in cash.
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 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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, 2004 on NBC 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 24, 2008. In July 2008, WPTE announced that the series would move to Fox Sports Net for its seventh season.
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.
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. The first three seasons of WPT are available on NTSC DVD.
The largest win in a WPT event is the $3,970,415 paid to Carlos Mortensen for winning the season-ending WPT Championship for season 5.
A series of spin-off tournaments, titled the Professional Poker Tour, began filming in 2004. Broadcast of the series was delayed, which was partly due to 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.
An interesting side note is that only four players have finished in the money at least once in the first eight seasons of the World Poker Tour. These players are Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Mark Seif, and Surinder Sunar.
The show’s hosts, Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, sit at a booth near the final table, providing commentary and occasionally interacting with the players during the game. However, their specific 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.
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.
WPT Walk of Fame
In February 2004, the World Poker Tour Walk of Fame inducted its second 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
While the winner of the season-ending WPT World Championship (simply the WPT Championship before season 9) is deemed that season’s WPT Champion, the WPT also determines a Player of the Year to recognize the player who achieves consistent high finishes in WPT events throughout the entire season.
The Player of the Year is determined by a points system, with the player who earns the most points each season being named the WPT Player of the Year. The season-ending WPT World Championship is a points-earning event for the Player of the Year calculation.
The players earning WPT Player of the Year honors have been:
Season 1: Howard Lederer
Season 2: Erick Lindgren
Season 3: Daniel Negrean
Season 4: Gavin Smit
Season 5: J. C. Tra
Season 6: Jonathan Littl
Season 7: Bertrand Grospellie
Season 8: Faraz Jaka
Season 9: Andy Frankenberger
Season 10: Joe Serock
Season 11: Matthew Salsberg
Season 12: Mukul Pahuja
Season 13: Anthony Zinno
Season 14: Mike Shariati
Season 15: Benjamin Zamani