In May of 2002, Steven Lipscomb (founder and CEO) and Lyle Berman (Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer) announced the beginning of the WPT and displayed the new poker table, complete with mini-cams, to the Media and to Poker Room Managers of numerous, land based Casinos and Online Poker Sites that were going to be sanctioned into the WPT. The face of Poker was going through a dramatic face-lift. Poker was going to be a household word - brought into the homes of TV viewers around the world. And everyone and anyone could be a TV star - and win money - just by competing in poker tournaments and ending up at the final table.
This is how it all started and how it works: Bellagio began the presentation of the World Poker Tour by hosting the first event (during The Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic) with a $10,000 Buy-In, No Limit Holdem Event. Day One began with 146 Entries and a Prize Pool of $1,416,200 on May 27th, 2002. Gus Hanson won first place in this event, a total prize pool of $556,460 that included a $25,000 buy-in into the WPT Championship to be played in 2003.
The Event was actually a Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic event with a $10,000 buy-in. As the tournament progressed, when there were six players left, they returned the following day to play on the WPT table with the mini-cams. These six players displayed their hole cards to the world, their game play and comments were recorded, edited at a later date, add commentary by Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten – throw in a lot of Shana Hiatt and the first WPT event was ready to roll into the living room of the world.
Each WPT Event is filmed around the final six players of a major tournament - with the exception of special events that may be filmed and added by The WPT.
Each year, the winner of each major tournament that is a WPT Event, receives a $25,000 buy-in into the WPT Championship Event. The WPT Championship Event is also hosted at Bellagio in Las Vegas and is the final event of Bellagio’s Five-Star World Poker Classic.