It was an announcement a long time in the making. Rumblings about PokerStars launching a series of tournaments in North America had been heard in the poker industry for well over a year, as the success of its European Poker Tour and all other subsequent spin-offs had been quite successful and continued to gather momentum. On January 6, just as the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure got underway at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, PokerStars held a press conference to make the formal announcement: the PokerStars.net North American Poker Tour (NAPT) was launching…immediately.
The press conference was hosted by PokerStars-sponsored poker player Daniel Negreanu and company executives, and attendees were informed that the NAPT was officially starting with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. Since many felt that the PCA never actually fit in with any other tours associated with it, such as the EPT or LAPT, it would be the perfect fit for the NAPT. Thus, the PCA found an appropriate home.
Only two other stops on the tour were announced, as the remainder of Season 1 was still under negotiation with various locales and casinos. After the PCA, the NAPT would travel to the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas to take over the Main Event of the Deep Stack Extravaganza, one of the fastest growing tournament series in the gaming capital of the world. That was scheduled for February 20 through 24, which would be followed by a stop at the Mohegan Sun for the Main Event of a new poker festival being launched this year. The dates of that stop were set for April 7 through 11. While the PCA stop featured a $10,000 buy-in Main Event, the subsequent tour dates boasted of only $5,000 buy-ins, making it more affordable than the World Poker Tour stops that have dominated the tournament poker landscape for eight years.
The main events will be filmed for television, though no network has officially been associated with the NAPT as of yet. However, it was noted by reporters in the Bahamas that the production crew typically associated with World Series of Poker tapings for ESPN was at the PCA, and rumors circulated that ESPN would be the home of the NAPT when it begins to air, though no confirmation was given at the time nor speculation provided by PokerStars or ESPN.
Another person at the NAPT announcement was Joanna Krupa, the longtime model who was famous for her Maxim title of “sexiest swimsuit model in the world” and her Playboy spreads. Her more recent credits also included a stint on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” and Fox Sports’ “PokerStars.net Million Dollar Challenge .” Krupa will be the new host of the NAPT television show, though no mention was made of potential action commentators or other personalities to represent the brand.
As for Negreanu, he commented on the new tour: “I’m really looking forward to the launch of the NAPT. PokerStars.net has done an excellent job sponsoring meaningful tournaments around the world with the EPT, LAPT, APPT, and various other local tours - and it’s exciting to see them coming to my home town of Las Vegas! With the addition of the NAPT, I’ll have a chance to play some tournaments on home soil, and I’m very excited about that.”
Many in the poker community seem to be excited for the NAPT for several reasons, one of which is the competition it provides to the WPT. For professional tournament players, the WPT has been the primary tour in North America since its inception and with the exception of the World Series of Poker, which is not a tour but a singular series in one location and doesn’t directly compete with the WPT. But the NAPT will provide lower buy-in tournaments at a time when the economy demands them. And the NAPT will bring forth qualifiers from all over the world, as it does in its other tournaments, and give hundreds (possibly thousands) of amateurs the opportunity to compete for a prestigious title alongside some of the poker greats. As the WPT has seemed averse to lowering any buy-ins to accommodate players or offer a great number of ways to qualify for its tournaments online, the NAPT looks to fill that void in a market that craves big tournaments at smaller prices but with the same feel of a massive poker event.
The NAPT also seeks to take advantage of some poker rooms that have the space and reputation to bring players but had yet to secure a deal with a national poker tour because of their unwillingness to host a $10K buy-in event. But with the NAPT option, casinos like the Venetian and Mohegan Sun will receive the notoriety that they’ve long deserved on a bigger stage and on television.
The success of the NAPT remains to be seen, but if the EPT and other PokerStars tours are any indication, the new tour will take the poker world by storm.