The World Poker Tour is rolling out major changes! "Sometimes you just gotta shake things up." World Poker Tour President Adam Pliska
Since the tour began, the season finale has always been held in Las Vegas, Nevada, but all of that changes when the Season XII WPT World Championship kicks off today, April 21, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Bellagio played host to the first 11 seasons of the World Poker Tour Championship. Since the first event began in 2003, more than $60 million has been paid out — one of the reasons that it is a must-play for poker's biggest tournament superstars!
As prestigious and exciting as the event is, attendance to the event has fallen off ever since Carlos Mortensen made it through a field of 639 to win nearly $4 million in 2007. Last season's event brought the smallest turnout to the tables since Season 1 (2003) when Alan Goehring topped the 111 player field.
The WPT Championship was deemed in need of major adjustments with the small fields, combined with some player feedback about Bellagio. PokerNews.com received word from World Poker Tour President Adam Pliska, "Sometimes you just gotta shake things up."
"The numbers in the Championship were down and people were noticing that," Pliska said. "The WPT Championship is something special. With so many other changes that have happened on the World Poker Tour, at some point you have to tend to the championship. It's a focal point."
When the tour announced Borgata as the new home for its flagship event, the question "why Atlantic City?" was posed. Pliska said the stars were aligning and the timing was right and coupled with the parent company's new presence in New Jersey's rapidly increasing online poker marketplace.
"The moving of the WPT Championship is as much about celebrating legalized, regulated gaming in the United States as anything else," Pliska went on to tell PokerNews.com. "What we need now in the poker community is to celebrate that as much as possible in order to spread it into multiple states and every state. I think this could open up a lot of opportunities for people to play in WPT events."
The price of the tournament is now $15,400 which is a big drop from the original $25,500. The event has a guaranteed prize pool of $5 million with the winner taking home at least $1.35 million. The last time the prize pool of the WPT Championship hit $5 million was when Scott Seiver took it down in 2011 and claimed over $1.35 million.
Pliska wouldn't share his expectations in terms of entries, but he says he'll be pleased once the guarantee is met.
"When you're changing tradition, I think you've got to reevaluate things. And we have," Pliska said. "There had been a lot of push to keep the Championship at a level that is prestigious, but at the same time bringing it down to a more accessible level. So that's what we did.
"We'll try this, take player feedback and see how it goes."
Pliska also has hopes that a woman will win the WPT Championship this week. In 12 years, an open event has never had a female champion.
"It would be a great moment," Pliska said. "When Vanessa was so close at Borgata, you could just feel the energy in the room. Everyone was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, it's happening, she's taking it.' But poker is like a Greek tragedy. You never know when things are going to change."