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All About the World Poker Tour

The World Poker Tour (WPT) is a massive collection of international poker tournaments that culminate with the Tour Tournament of Champions.

It began in 2002, and is operated by WPT Enterprises, Inc. The series has grown substantially over the years and features several prominent events.

We explain all about the WPT in this comprehensive guide.

World Poker Tour Overview

WPT seasons overlap calendar years.

The first WPT event took place in May 2002, with the Main Tour’s championship occurring until April 2003.

Four annual tours are part of the WPT, and they also host several national and regional tours and special events.

The Main WPT Tours

World Poker Tour Logo
  • The Main Tour is open to all players and has buy-ins that range from $3,500-$20,000.
  • Alpha8 is the WPT high-stakes tour with buy-ins starting at $100,000.
  • The WPT500 is a low-stakes tournament with $500 buy-ins.
  • WPT Deepstacks is a middle ground. The buy-ins range from $50-$2500.

Typical tournaments start with enough chips for 100 blinds, while deep stack tournaments start with 300 or more blinds.

There are several events in each tour, with different events in-person in casinos worldwide and some online. The majority of events are no-limit hold ‘em games, but other poker variations are also included.

These tournaments end with several winners in the money who receive cash prizes based on the number of participants and their place in the tournament.

Main Tour first-place winners receive a WPT bracelet and a place in the WPT Champions Club, with their name engraved on the WPT Champions Cup. They also get a buy-in for the WPT Tournament of Champions.

WPT Tournament of Champions

The Main Tour is the most prestigious of the events in the World Poker Tour. It lasts for almost a year and culminates with the Tournament of Champions event in the spring or summer.

When the World Poker Star first started, the Main Tour’s final event was called the WPT Championship. They changed the name to WPT World Championships in Season 9 (2010-2011).

From 2002 until 2015, the Championship was open to anyone who could afford the $25,000 buy-in. However, the number of participants steadily declined after 2006, when the US government passed UIGEA.

In response to the declining participation, the WPT renamed the final event again in Season 14 (2015-2016).

They also decreased the buy-in to $15,000 and made it a closed event that was only available to players who had won a WPT Main Event during that season.

The first place prize has been less than $500,000 since they decreased the buy-in.

Here is a list of the championship winners and their prize amounts since the beginning of the WPT.

Season Event Winner Prize
17 WPT Tournament of Champions – Season XVII Ole Schemion $440,395
16 WPT Tournament of Champions – Season XVI Matt Waxman $463,375
15 WPT Tournament of Champions – Season XV Daniel Weinman $381,500
14 WPT Tournament of Champions – Season XIV Farid Yachou $381,600
13 WPT World Championship – Season XIII Asher Conniff $973,683
12 WPT World Championship – Season XII Keven Stammen $1,350,000
11 WPT World Championship – Season XI David Rheem $1,150,279
10 WPT World Championship – Season X Marvin Rettenmaier $1,196,858
9 WPT World Championship – Season IX Scott Seiver $1,618,344
8 WPT Championship – Season VIII David Williams $1,530,537
7 WPT Championship – Season VII Yevgeniy Timoshenko $2,149,960
6 WPT Championship – Season VI David Chiu $3,389,140
5 WPT Championship – Season V Carlos Mortensen $3,970,415
4 WPT Championship – Season IV Joe Bartholdi Jr $3,760,165
3 WPT Championship – Season III Tuan Le $2,856,150
2 WPT Championship – Season II Martin De Knijff $2,728,356
1 WPT Championship – Season I Alan Goehring $1,011,866

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The Tournament of Champions is one of the most exciting annual events in the poker world, and the player that wins is regarded as one of the best players in poker.

But that title is not as prestigious as the Player of the Year.

WPT Player of the Year

One of the features that make the WPT so unique is its Player of the Year system.

The WPT Player of the Year Award is one of the most esteemed titles in poker because it reflects skills and performances across several events. 

WPT wanted to find a way to determine the best players across their tournaments, even if those players did not win the biggest events. So, they created the Player of the Year Award.

Every player who finishes in the money for a WPT Main Tour event gets assigned a certain number of points. The player with the most points at the end of the tour receives the Player of the Year Award.

During the first eight WPT seasons, they awarded points only to the top seven players, as follows.

  • Winner: 1,000 points
  • Runner-up: 700 points
  • 3rd place: 600 points
  • 4th place: 500 points
  • 5th place: 400 points
  • 6th place: 300 points
  • 7th place: 200 points

In Season 9, WPT adjusted their points system so that players who competed against more players could earn more points.

Winning first place out of 1,000 players requires more skill than winning first out of a 100. So, WPT created a sliding scale system.

This system offers points to all players who finish in the money, with a minimum of 50 points for the lowest-placed players.

The number of points that the first-place winner receives depends on the prize pool for the event.

  • If the prize pool is $500,000 or less, the first place winner can receive a maximum of 600 points.
  • When the prize pool is more than $4 million, the first place winner earns up to 1,400 points.
  • Each event with a prize pool between $500,000 and $4 million will offer more than 600 points, but no more than 1,400 points.

All of the point values for subsequent places get determined by how many players won in the money and how many points the first-place player received.

This sliding-scale system is a lot more complicated than the previous system, but it is more balanced because it takes the number of participants into account.

Players have the option of playing in as many WPT events as possible, and the events are intentionally scheduled so that players can attend multiple events.

Any points earned throughout the Main Tour get added up to determine which player wins the Player of the Year Award.

Here is a list of all the WPT Player of the Year Award winners.

Season Player of the Year
Season 17 Erkut Yilmaz
Season 16 Art Papazyan
Season 15 Benjamin Zamani
Season 14 Mike Shariati
Season 13 Anthony Zinno
Season 12 Mukul Pahuja
Season 11 Matthew Salsberg
Season 10 Joe Serock
Season 9 Andy Frankenberger
Season 8 Faraz Jaka
Season 7 Bertrand Grospellier
Season 6 Jonathan Little
Season 5 C. Tran
Season 4 Gavin Smith
Season 3 Daniel Negreanu
Season 2 Erick Lindgren
Season 1 Howard Lederer

No player has ever won both the Player of the Year Award and the Tournament of Champions event in the same year.

Some have came close, though.

Bertrand Grospellier came third in the Season 7 WPT Championship and also won that year’s Player of the Year Award.

The WPT on Television

One of the reasons why the World Poker Tour has been so popular is that it has been televised since it began.

During each season, the final table for each Main Tour event gets broadcast.

Hole Card Cameras

The World Poker Tour was the first televised poker tournament in America to use hole card cameras. These cameras allow viewers to see what cards the player is working without revealing them to other players.

The addition of hole card cameras was revolutionary because it allowed viewers to know what was actually happening during the game.

Before 2002, commentators would guess which cards the players had to try to explain their strategy. Those comments were rarely accurate because dozens of card combinations could be in play at any time.

Commentators are a vital part of televised poker, but there are strict rules about when they get to see the hole cards.

If an event is being streamed live, the players and live viewers are in a private room away from commentators. No one in that room has access to the hole card cameras.

The official broadcast with the hole-card commentary gets a short delay for five to fifteen minutes, or until the hand is completed, for additional security.

Other broadcasts get aired after the tournament event is complete. During the event, the commentators are in the same room as the players, and they can even interact during certain times.

They cannot see the hole cards while they are in the same room as the players. So, they add hole-card commentary after the event has ended.

Savvy video editing makes it seem like they are talking about the hole-cards in real-time, but those comments were really added after the fact.

WPT Networks and Commentators

One of the reasons that the WPT television series has been so popular is that it has helpful commentary. Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten were the original commentators.

Throughout the tournament, they explained the rules of each poker variant, so viewers who had never played before could understand what was going on.

When players paused to determine their next move, Sexton and Van Patten explained their options and why they might choose one option over the other, including information about the probability of particular hands.

They also described the table dynamics by adding information about the players’ backgrounds and experiences or highlighting rivalries between specific players.

Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten helped build the popularity of the WPT with their expert commentary.

Travel Channel was the first cable television channel to air the World Poker Tour in the spring of 2003. It was the highest-rated show in Travel Channel history.

In 2004, the World Poker Tour made its network television debut. NBC aired a special Battle of Champions event to compete with the Super Bowl XXXVIII pre-game show that was airing on CBS.

Both the networks and commentators have changed throughout the history of the World Poker Tour.

Here is an overview of the televised WPT events.

Season Network Commentators Hosts
19 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
18 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
17 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
16 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
15 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
14 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
13 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
12 Fox Sports Tony Dunst and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
11 Fox Sports Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Kimberly Lansing
10 Fox Sports Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Kimberly Lansing
9 Fox Sports Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Kimberly Lansing
8 Fox Sports Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Lynn Gilmartin
7 Fox Sports Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Amanda Leatherman
6 Game Show Network Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Layla Kayleigh and Kimberly Lansing
5 Travel Channel Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Sabina Gadecki
4 Travel Channel Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Courtney Friel
3 Travel Channel Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Shana Hiatt
2 Travel Channel Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Shana Hiatt
1 Travel Channel Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten Shana Hiatt

This information represents all the seasons for the WPT Main Tour television show.

In 2014, WPT added a high-stakes tournament called Alpha8. The Alpha8 television broadcast is available on Fox Sports in the USA.

International WPT Broadcasts

In addition to the WPT events that are televised in America, there are several other international events and broadcasts.

The Main Tour series began broadcasting internationally in its second season. Today, it gets broadcasted in more than 150 countries.

WPT has contracts with international media companies, such as BT Sport and TV Azteca. These contracts allow WPT to broadcast their events with additional coverage in the UK, Ireland, and Latin America.

In 2009, Party Gaming acquired World Poker Tour Enterprises, the parent company of the tour. Party Poker added a second WPT television show that focuses explicitly on European WPT events.

Mike Sexton continued to be the primary commentator for the Party Poker television show until he retired. Jesse May and Kara Scott have been the primary commentators since he retired.

There are hundreds of special events that feature televised poker. But, the WPT is the only one to follow a series format that allows you to follow individual players throughout the tournament.

The unique structure has led to international popularity for both the Main Tour and the Party Poker events.

Other World Poker Tour Products

The operators of the WPT, WPT Enterprises, offer a number of other poker products.

Let’s look at some of the most popular of them.

ClubWPT

ClubWPT logo

ClubWPT is a poker subscription service.

This product lets players pay a monthly membership fee to join the club.

All ClubWPT members have opportunities to join daily online poker tournaments that offer real cash prizes. You don’t have to pay for the buy-in because your ClubWPT membership covers the cost.

These ClubWPT tournaments are guaranteed to pay out $100,000 in cash or prizes each month.

Many of the prize packages include tickets to WPT live events.

PlayWPT

PlayWPT logo

PlayWPT is a social casino site operated by the WPT.

Social casinos do not offer cash prizes, but they do not cost anything either.

You can create your own avatar and travel through online versions of WPT casinos to replicate the WPT experience.

While you play, you can also interact with some of your favorite WPT television stars in digital form.

It is not the same as winning real money, but PlayWPT is a fun alternative if you don’t want to spend money on buy-ins or a ClubWPT membership.

LearnWPT

LearnWPT logo

LearnWPT is an online subscription service designed to help players learn poker strategy.

It offers dozens of training videos and strategy episodes from professional players.

You can play demo games on LearnWPT, and it will automatically track your hands. Use the tracker to review your hands to catch your mistakes, or consult with a professional to get their advice.

It also has a built-in GTO (game theory optimal) trainer, which lets you compete against artificial intelligence that offers instant feedback on optimal gaming strategy.

WPT also created the world’s first branded poker cruise.

Each year, the weeklong cruise sails around the Caribbean while you play poker with other WPT fans and professionals. All of your poker games are included with the $250 per person poker fee.  

World Poker Tour Enterprises has made a name for itself by finding creative and unique poker solutions. All of these additional WPT products are just a few examples of the innovative services that WPT offers.

Noteworthy WPT Winners

The World Poker Tour is a huge collection of poker tournaments. The four tours each have hundreds of international stops and dozens of events at each stop.

That means that there are LOTS of WPT winners. It would be quite some task to track all of the winners from all of the different WPT events since it started.

We have already listed the winners of the Main Tour Tournament of Champions and the Player of the Year Awards.

If you want to know the winner of a particular event, you can see that information on the WPT website.

Instead of overwhelming you with all of that information, we want to highlight a few of the most noteworthy WPT winners.

  • Gus Hansen has won the most WPT titles.
  • Carlos Mortensen won the highest prize in WPT history.
  • Lee Markholt Jr. has cashed in WPT tournaments more often than any other player.
  • Phil Ivey has reached the final table nine times out of 87 events, winning once.
  • Eugene Katchalov received the highest payout for a non-championship event when he won the Doyle Bronson Classic in 2007.

Comparing the WPT to the World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour have been rival poker tours since the WPT began. They compete for players, sponsorships, and television ratings.

Let’s look at how these two tournaments are different.

Some people prefer the WSOP because it is a much larger tournament. It has been running since 1970 and consistently attracts thousands of players for its Main Event.

WPT does not have as many participants as the World Series of Poker, and fewer participants mean smaller prize pools. The largest Championship Event (Season 5) only had 639 players.

However, some features of the WPT make it more appealing than WSOP for specific players.

Low-Stakes Events

WPT has more events that are more accessible for low-stakes, amateur players.

To participate in the WSOP Main Event, you have to have $10,000 for the buy-in or win a seat from a satellite tournament.

WPT has several Main Tour events that start with buy-ins as low as $3,000, or you can participate in the WPT500, which is a full tour of events with $500 buy-ins.

The WPT500 tour prizes are not as life-changing as the multi-million dollar prizes you can earn from the WSOP. They’re not insignificant, either!.

You don’t have to come first to win cash from one of the WPT500 events. Depending on the size of the player pool, the top 100 players can easily win enough money for the Main Tour buy-in.

It is possible to use the same kind of system with the WSOP satellite tournaments, but it is easier for amateurs to win the WPT500 because there are fewer participants that they have to beat.

Why Professionals Love the WTP

Professional poker players also enjoy participating in the WPT because they can earn the coveted title of Player of the Year.

This competition uses a point system that evaluates players across several events, providing a more accurate picture of the players’ skills.

Tradition holds that the WSOP Main Event winner gets the title of the World Champion of Poker.

But most players realize that a single tournament is not enough to determine which players are better than others. The luck of the draw can make or break your game at any time, no matter how skilled you are.

The point system is an excellent way of tracking players’ skills throughout multiple events to determine which players are more proficient than others.

So, some poker professionals believe that winning the WPT Poker of the Year Award has more prestige than winning the WSOP Main Event.

How to Play in the World Poker Tour

One of the best things about the WPT is that anyone can play. As long as you are of legal gambling age in the country where you will participate, you can join the tournament.

The only other requirement is the ability to pay for the buy-in. If you have the cash on hand, you can buy-in directly for a specific event.

You can also earn your spot by winning a satellite tournament, which offers WPT tickets in place of cash prizes.

Each casino that hosts a WPT event, either online or in-person, gets to create its own satellite system.

The buy-ins for satellite tournaments range from twenty-five cents to a few hundred dollars.

If you choose a satellite with a low buy-in, you may have to work your way through several satellites to make it to the Main Tour. Satellites with higher buy-ins typically offer direct WPT event tickets.

So, if you want to enter a satellite tournament, either visit your local casino or an online casino with WPT partnerships.

Whether you use a direct buy-in or a satellite tournament, the chance to participate in the World Poker Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some players.

Whether they win or lose, a WPT event is a momentous occasion for any amateur poker player. Check out our online poker recommendations to start practicing now!