The face of poker is expected to change dramatically with the launch of the World Poker Tour (WPT), which will toss cutting-edge television production into the pot of upscale poker tournaments.
The company is a joint venture between Lakes Gaming, Inc., whose founder and CEO, Lyle Berman, is a world-class poker player, and World Poker Tour CEO, Steven Lipscomb, an accomplished television creator and award-winning filmmaker.
"It is estimated that well over 50 million Americans play poker on a regular basis, either in card rooms and casinos or in their own home games," says Berman. "We are very excited to be part of the tour."
Berman this year was inducted on Monday into the Poker Hall-Of-Fame during the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe.
Berman is also a "businessman extraordinaire" whose accomplishments include co-founding and managing Grand Casinos (now part of Park Place Entertainment) and founding Lakes Gaming Inc. as well as winning three titles at the World Series of Poker. Lakes Gaming is investing over $3,000,000 in the venture.
WPT creator and CEO, Steven Lipscomb, is an experienced television produce whose credits include creating shows with Norman Lear, Al Burton and Alvin Toffler. His Discovery Channel documentary on tournament poker bears the distinction of being the highest rated poker program in cable television history.
"This will be the start of making poker a major entertainment vehicle on television," Lipscomb says.
The WPT Launch opens with a Media Event at the Bellagio hotel on Sunday, May 26 at 5 p.m. A media cocktail reception will be followed by a $5,000 Press Poker Tournament ”” complete with tips from Lyle Berman himself and a shot at winning a piece of the $5,000 prize pool for each press member for the charity of his/her choice.
The Inaugural event of the World Poker tour will be the Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Challenge which begins May 27 and culminates with the Finals on Saturday, June 1. WPT will film the Finals as the first show in the WPT season and will broadcast it at a later date.
The World Poker Tour will consist of 13 nationally televised poker events, filmed in casinos around the world, where the finalists play for multi-million dollar prize pools. The season will culminate in the grand finale (and grand is certainly the word, with a participant entry fee of $25,000!) featuring the winners from each Tour event ””whose skill, cunning and nerves have brought them to the finals.
But, unlike the Masters, the Super Bowl, or any other sports championship, anyone who is willing to put up the $25,000 buy-in can compete in the final event for a shot at the Championship title and millions of dollars in prize money.
The aim of the WPT is to widen the audience of Poker by reinventing its image as a stylish and exhilarating sport, combining cunning, skill, tough nerves and sky-high stakes to make a can’t miss television program.
WPT on television will stimulate poker in the same manner that "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" revolutionized game shows. Tour events will be filmed in a hip and energetic style reflecting the youthful and contemporary appeal of the game.
Well-known poker expert and WPT consultant Mike Sexton has given his full support to the Tour: "I believe everyone in the poker industry will benefit from the WPT. I see the exposure, respect and growth of poker increasing substantially worldwide. Poker will be taken out of the American psyche and plugged into mainstream sports entertainment. Hats off to Steve Lipscomb and Lyle Berman for changing the face of poker."