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Poker News | World Poker News

WPT Season 9 Kicks Off with Savage, Lansing, and Girls

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As the World Poker Tour prepares to enter its ninth season, the company, under its new management and ownership, announced many new changes to its approach to televised tournament poker in a press conference on July 10 at Bellagio in Las Vegas. With a new anchor in Kimberly Lansing, new executive tour director in Matt Savage, and some WPT Royal Flush Girls to entertain and dazzle the players and audiences, the WPT is prepared to kick off a season of change and rebirth.

The Savage announcement came weeks ago, in fact, and it was one of the most praised moves by the WPT in a long time. Savage serves as the tournament director for some of the world’s most prestigious tournaments, such as the L.A. Poker Classic, and his innovative structures, tournaments, and player relations skills have been touted as the best in the poker industry. He was also the founder of the Tournament Directors Association (TDA) and has been recognized with awards for his service to the poker community. His addition to the WPT as the company’s executive tour director shows that the WPT realized it needed improvement from a player favorite and seasoned veteran of the tournament circuit.

When Savage was introduced at the press conference by WPT President Adam Pliska, he was praised as a popular figure in the industry and one who will now serve the WPT as a liaison with the casinos, independent tournament directors at various locations, and a player advocate. Savage then spoke and confirmed that “it’s about the players.” He added, “Being here today, it feels very much like Season 1 of the World Poker Tour. I’ve never seen it like this… This is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of.”

The World Poker Tour’s new CEO, Steve Heller, noted in a press release, “Matt is one of the world’s foremost experts on poker tournaments. Matt’s expertise and relationships in the poker community will greatly enhance our upcoming ninth season.”

Savage also commented, “WPT is one of the most respected and recognizable brands in poker and I am happy to be a part of its efforts to improve tournament poker for players, fans and casinos.”

Later, Savage also noted that the final table structures at the WPT events will be better than in the past, as they will be adjusted so as to give players proper play, and the powers-that-be will be able to even freeze the blinds at a specific point if they climb too high. There will also be mega satellites at each tour stop that will allow players to satellite into the next event on the tour, and while no specifics were available yet, players can look for those opportunities in the coming months.

Speaking of Heller, his introduction to the media as the CEO of the company came with some words that the changes at this point in time are “only the beginning.” More developments will be announced throughout the year, including more tournament stops and information about a television deal. “What we’re trying to do this year is put more show in the show and put more events into the events,” he said.

Pliska then announced a new position of anchor at the WPT, a way to focus the show and create a central hub “like Bob Costas at the Olympics.” He described the position as one that will take over player interviews and give perspectives of the players, reporting for the website and the television show from Day 1 through the final table, and giving it more of a sports-type feel. The respected person in the poker industry, the professional of which he spoke, was Kimberly Lansing, the person who worked for the WPT during Season 6 as the webcam interviewer.

“We believe the WPT anchor represents a significant step forward in poker programming and Kimberly is a natural fit for the position,” said Pliska. “Her charisma, style, professionalism and knowledge of the sport have earned her the respect and attention of players throughout the poker community.”

The podium was then turned over to WPT commentator Vince Van Patten, who briefly talked about how the WPT needed a boost, which was to come in the form of the Royal Flush Girls. Four women in black dresses then entered the room to be introduced to the media. Four of the women, out of six who will rotate so that four can be at each tournament stop throughout the season, were introduced to the room, and it was noted that they will be handling some of the responsibilities of taking television viewers behind the scenes, interacting with players, and doing the money presentation at each final table. Van Patten then introduced them by noting that each was “pretty” or “beautiful” and that having them at each tour stop would be enjoyable.

The women are Michelle Banzer, Melyssa Grace, Jennifer Haley, Melanie Iglesias, Sunisa Kim, and Katrina Topacio. A follow-up press release quoted Heller as saying that they are all “American with blended ethnic origins of both Europe and Asia” selected to “represent not only our increasingly integrated world, but the global spirit of the World Poker Tour.”

Pliska added, “The Royal Flush Girls are sexy, fun and approachable. They are a new brand of poker celebrity that fans will come to know from TV and the web, and thoroughly enjoy interacting with at each of the WPT events.”

With that, there were opportunities for photos as a table was set up for a heads-up poker match between Marcel Luske and Carlos Mortensen. In lieu of the following day’s World Cup final, the poker was to be played with Mortensen representing Spain and Luske the Netherlands. The loser was going to wear the soccer jersey of the other player’s home country during the World Cup as well as throughout Day 1 of the Bellagio Cup VI tournament. Ultimately, Mortensen won the match, meaning that Luske would be wearing the Spain jersey on Sunday, July 11.

Said Bellagio Cup was scheduled to start on Sunday, with a $10K buy-in, a downturn from the usual $15K that had been the norm in the past. The first WPT event of Season 9 was set to get underway with the final table scheduled for July 15. As for the remainder of the schedule, one that is not final and is missing the World Championship, note that some of the buy-ins were reduced, such as the $5,000 Legends of Poker and the Bellagio events that became $10K instead of $15K events. The schedule as it stands thus far is:

WPT Bellagio Cup VI ($10,000 buy-in)
July 11 - 15, Bellagio in Las Vegas Nevada

WPT Legends of Poker ($5,000 buy-in)
August 20 - 25, Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, California

WPT London Poker Classic ($£5,300 buy-in)
August 30 - September 4, Palm Beach Casino in London, England

WPT Borgata Poker Open ($3,500 buy-in)
September 19 - 24, Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey

WPT Festa al Lago ($10,000 buy-in)
October 15 - 20, Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada

WPT Foxwoods World Poker Finals ($10,000 buy-in)
October 28 - November 2, Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Connecticut

WPT Amneville (€3,500 buy-in)
November 2 - 6, Casino Municipal D’Amneville in Amneville, France

WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic ($10,000 buy-in)
December 13 - 19, Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada

WPT Southern Poker Championship ($10,000 buy-in)
January 23 - 27, 2011, Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi

WPT Celebrity Invitational (invite only)
February 18 - 19, 2011, Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California

WPT L.A. Poker Classic ($10,000 buy-in)
February 25 - March 1, 2011, Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, California

WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star ($10,000 buy-in)
March 14 - 18, 2011, Bay 101 in San Jose, California

WPT Hollywood Poker Open ($10,000 buy-in)
April 9 - 13, 2011, Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Indiana

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