GamingToday has learned that two television networks are negotiating with the World Poker Tour for the rights to telecast taped two-hour shows weekly.
“One network would like to do it in prime time and build an evening around it,” said Steve Lipscomb, the CEO of the World Poker Tour, in an exclusive interview from Los Angeles.
“I can’t say which network it will be, other than it’s one people know,” Lipscomb said. “We are in the midst of hot negotiations with the two networks to broadcast our show.”
The World Poker Tour began in May at the Bellagio with the Five Diamond Poker Challenge, won by Gus Hansen. The second event was held last month at the Bicycle Club in Los Angeles with Chris Karagulleyan capturing the first prize.
“When we started seven months ago, the appetite for poker did not exist,” said Lipscomb, who is also a noted Hollywood producer and filmmaker. “We are making momentum for poker that did not exist. According to the New York Times, there are $50 million people playing poker.”
The WPT holds its third of 12 events Oct. 9-11 in Aruba. The format is winner take all with the victor in the amateur and pro divisions squaring off for the opportunity to advance to the championship event next year at Bellagio.
“We have 12 guaranteed entrants, plus anyone who wants to buy in,” he said. “I know someone who bet that there would be 150 people playing at the Bellagio. You have to pay $25,000 to buy into the championship, unless you win one of the 12 Tour events. That could mean a prize pool of $3,750,000.”
Millionaire gaming entrepreneur Lyle Berman put up $3 million through his Lakes Gaming company to launch the World Poker Tour.
“We have created what amounts to a David vs. Goliath theme, which I think the public enjoys seeing,” Lipscomb said. “When an amateur challenges a pro for a shot at the $25,000 first place pot in the Tour stops, that’s good television. Lyle realized that and his vision has allowed the WPT to work.”
The format is no-limit hold’em held in a venue that is a far cry from the backroom poker parlor.
“We are mainstream poker,” Lipscomb said. “We have the television capability of placing cameras underneath the table to show what each player’s hand is. It is compelling TV and our competitors are people that bring charisma to the sport.”
Future events will feature Phil Helmuth, the “bad boy of poker,” Kathy Liebert, the first woman ever to win a $1 million tourney and Sonny Nguyen, the 1998 world champion.
“The game is simple, easy to explain and takes a lifetime to master,” Lipscomb said. “That’s what we will show on television.”
WORLD POKER TOUR (12 events)
Bellagio Gus Hansen
Bicycle Club Chris
Costa Rica open
Colma, CA open
Foxwoods, CT open
Tunica, Ms open
Paris, France open
Los Angeles, CA open
Caribbean cruise open
Reno, NV open
WPT Championship open