Is the World Poker Tour Ready for a Comeback?

World Poker TourIt’s not that the World Poker Tour (WPT) is in its death throes, but the popular poker tour is years removed from its high water mark. Attendance is down, TV ratings are down, and buy-ins for WPT tournaments have been lowered, but the WPT might just have an Ace up its sleeve, thanks to Party Poker’s long-term game-plan.

Here is how it might go down.

The new us online poker market

I have to admit that I’ve been extremely surprised (albeit pleasantly) at the quick resurgence of the US online poker market since New Jersey’s online poker industry went online. There is a certain buzz surrounding the game that has been missing for a number of years in the US, and if the state-by-state conquest continues along its present course it won’t be long before we are in the midst of a second Poker Boom.

Few people realize the breadth of the industry that rose up around the online poker sites during the Poker Boom. From poker media and hosts, to website designers and affiliate marketers, to poker staff in newly reopened or expanded poker rooms; the Poker Boom didn’t just give birth to professional poker players and online poker rooms; it gave birth to literally thousands of jobs in a variety of fields, all of which relied on poker’s continued success.

But the herd was thinned following UIGEA, and continued to be culled right up until this year.

But now poker and the industry that surrounds it are now on an upswing once again. Poker media types are back in demand, new websites are being launched, and everything from affiliate marketers to payment processors are once again turning their attention to the US poker industry.

The fall from prominence of the WPT

One such industry that I haven’t mentioned yet that has a chance to recapture its former glory is the myriad of poker tours out there, and specifically the World Poker Tour.

With US poker back on the upswing, the potential for the World Poker Tour to rise from the ashes and reclaim its former glory as the #1 poker tour, not only in the United States, but around the world is a definite possibility.

As hard hit as the other parts of the poker industry were after the passage of UIGEA in 2006, from online poker, to poker media, to brick & mortar card-rooms, perhaps no single entity fell farther than the World Poker Tour and its brethren like the World Series of Poker Circuit Series.

The WPT was there from the outset of the Poker Boom, and the company managed to ride the poker wave right up to its apex in 2006. But having put virtually every egg in the US poker basket, the WPT was left reeling when poker’s popularity began to wane and online poker morphed from a harmless vice to a quasi-illegal past-time.

With attendance in an absolute freefall and TV viewership faltering the WPT started eliminating stops and reducing its buy-ins for many events (the WSOPC did likewise) and the popular poker tour was met by the perfect storm of adversity:

  • The WPT lost its ability to send online qualifiers to these big buy-in tournaments
  • With fewer qualifiers these tournaments were no longer as “juicy” for pros, so attendance suffered on two fronts: Pros and amateurs
  • With online poker in the US now somewhat illegal online poker sites were spending less money advertising in the market, and less advertising revenue meant less exposure by the networks
  • Sagging TV ratings and lesser time slots also led to less exposure for the winners, and less exposure meant less chance for a lucrative sponsorship deal, which was just another reason players stopped taking shots in what were high-buy-in tough-field tournaments.

How the WPT can come back

Party Poker and the WPT can now bring back all of those qualifiers, letting the amateurs take on the pros –which in turn attract more pros, which in turns garners more media attention, which in turn attracts more players, and so on and so forth.

So how can they do it? It all hinges on New Jersey, where Party Poker, their subsidiary the World Poker Tour, and their partner in New Jersey the Borgata can now start to bring those causal players back into the mix.

  • Live satellites at the Borgata to one of the three WPT tournaments held there every year
  • Online satellites to WPT events at the Borgata, and elsewhere in the US
  • Bringing live Borgata players and visitors to the Party Poker tables

It will be a tall order, but so was launching licensed online poker in the US, and if Party Poker’s early success in New Jersey is any indication, they may be up to the task.


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