In just under three years, the World Poker Tour (WPT) has become one of the most lucrative ventures in sports for its players. Last month, the WPT crossed the $100 million mark in prize money with the awarding of the $7 million plus prize pool on the latest tournament stop of the WPT.
Michael Gracz captured first prize, earning $1.5 million, and entered the record books as the WPT’s "$100 Million Man." "What the WPT has accomplished in such a short period of time is truly astonishing," said Steve Lipscomb, president and founder of WPT Enterprises, Inc. "We have lifted poker from a backroom game to a sport that is churning out a whole new generation of respected professional players making their living by competing in our tournaments around the world. $100 million is just a mind-boggling number and it sends a message that the WPT and poker are here to stay. If you look back at the PGA, it took more than 30 years to reach $100 million in prize money."
When considering that many World Poker Tour events pay as deep as 40th or 50th place means that for the first time many professional poker players are earning their mortgage money on the tour and successful amateurs are enjoying nice bonuses for their bank accounts.
Airing every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Travel Channel, the World Poker Tour is responsible for launching the worldwide poker boom. By turning poker into a televised sports sensation, the WPT has made stars of the poker players who have captured million-dollar purses on the Tour. Since their WPT final table appearances, they are frequently spotted in airports and restaurants, and pressed for autographs by fans.
The WPT has created 22 millionaires over the last three seasons with 10 of those being newly minted this year. Among the players who have placed in the money at WPT tournaments in the past three seasons are Doyle Brunson, T.J. Cloutier, Annie Duke, Chris Ferguson, Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Gus Hansen, Erick Lindgren, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil "The Unabomber" Laak, John Juanda, Mel Judah, Carlos Mortenson, Paul Phillips, Erik Seidel, Layne Flack, Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen, Paul Darden, Dave "The Devilfish" Ulliott, Alan Goehring, Ron Rose, Martin De Knijff, Hasan Habib and many other up-and-coming players.
"Wow! A hundred million makes a lot of new poker millionaires," said veteran pro Jennifer Harman. "The WPT has changed the lives of poker players forever. The game is no longer what it was where you could play well but still had to hold a second job or live on a tight budget. The WPT deserves all the credit for the success we are all now enjoying. It is so exciting to play for the kind of dollars that can transform your life."
Just as significant as what the WPT has achieved for the players has been its influence on viewers. Viewers have become passionate about learning and improving their game, watching WPT shows multiple times to pick up the nuances of poker. The WPT has stepped up to the plate as the sports league that wants to help all players improve their skills. Today, the WPT aims to educate poker enthusiasts through its new line of books (WPT: Shuffle Up and Deal from HarperCollins), a 60-second radio and audio internet feature (WPT Poker Corner), a series of weekend instructional clinics around the country (WPT Boot Camp) and the DVD collections of each season’s WPT shows that can be viewed for tips and strategy.
For more information on the WPT and WPT poker learning tools, go to: www.worldpokertour.com. "We at the World Poker Tour are very proud to have achieved this milestone so quickly. With the addition of the PROFESSIONAL POKER TOUR, which WPTE launched in November 2004, we will place even more money into the hands of players. Our faith in poker’s future is unlimited and we are excited to be leading its growth in innovation, prize pools and popularity," said Lipscomb.
WPT Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq: WPTE) is a company engaged in the creation of internationally branded entertainment and consumer products driven by the development, production, and marketing of televised programming based on gaming themes. WPTE is the creator of the World Poker TourÂ®, a television show based on a series of high-stakes poker tournaments that airs on the Travel Channel in the United States and more than 60 markets globally. WPT Enterprises currently licenses its brand to companies in the business of poker equipment and instruction, apparel, publishing, electronic and wireless entertainment, DVD/home entertainment, casino games, and giftware. For show information, tools for improving poker play, and other WPT news, fans may log on to www.worldpokertour.com.The company is also engaged in the sale of corporate sponsorships. WPT Enterprises, Inc. is a majority owned subsidiary of Lakes Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: LACO). Media information can be found online at: www.worldpokertour.com/media.