December is here and the 2023 World Poker Tour World Championship has now shifted into full gear. In the wake of a supremely successful WPT World Championship last year, the company has put a good deal of time, effort, and thought into making this year’s event even bigger and better. This year’s schedule was released a few months back and it contains some new tournaments, tweaks, and features that are sure to please even the most discerning of poker players.
We spoke to World Poker Tour CEO and President Adam Pliska as well as the company’s Executive Tour Director Matt Savage, diving deep into how they crafted the schedule, how they arrived at certain decisions re: what to include/exclude, and to better understand their strategic thought process re: what sort of offerings to give players gathering at Wynn Las Vegas this winter.
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) September 1, 2023
What factors caused you to increase the World Championship Main Event guarantee from $15M to $40M?
(Adam) Following the success of last year, we began to plan for the 2023 World Championship guarantee very early on. In the end, we felt $40 million was significant enough to symbolize our commitment to making the WPT World Championship a premier event and aligns with the growth we have seen with live poker in recent times.
What mechanisms/strategies have you put in place to try and ensure you’ll hit such a gigantic guarantee or, ideally, exceed it?
(Adam) Our partner, Wynn Las Vegas, is the first and foremost mechanism we have in attracting the World Championship field. Their incredible venue and treatment of players is second to none. We also have included an extra Day 1, plus more online and offline satellite options for players to qualify. The players’ enthusiasm and positivity toward the event is also a big contributing factor. Other than that, we have spent the rest of the year focused on how we can make this years’ experience even better than last year.
How many total online and live qualifiers are you aiming to get satellited into the WPT World Championship Event?
(Adam) Through ClubWPT, WPT Global, and our live casino partners across the globe, we expect to qualify more than 1,000 players for the $10,400 WPT World Championship. Additionally, the Wynn will be offering multiple live satellites during the World Championship festival, including a $1,100 buy-in, 75-seat guarantee on December 11th.
This year, the WPT World Championship schedule expanded from 23 to 28 tournaments. What was the first thing you took into account when planning the tournaments? What types of tournaments could not be missed?
(Matt) We listened to player feedback and tried to pack as many exciting tournaments as possible into an already-packed schedule. There was a call for more mixed game tournaments, which added to overall schedule. The ever-popular Mystery Bounty could not be left out, and the milestone satellites were such a hit that we added more, giving players more opportunities to win a seat to the Prime Championship and World Championship.
What sort of feedback did you get from players who participated last year? Were there any changes or additions to the schedule that were made specifically due to player feedback?
(Matt) The main feedback that was presented to us was the number of alternates there were needed to get into these big events. So, we added around 70 more tables and an additional ballroom to keep up with the demand. For the most part, players did not give very much negative feedback and some mentioned that it was the best festivals of the year.
We see that in addition to No Limit Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha tournaments, Limit Omaha 8, HORSE, and 8-Game Mix tournaments will be played. Why is having mixed game tournaments on the schedule important to the WPT? What has player feedback been to see this on schedule?
(Matt) To me, poker is more than just No Limit Hold’em, and the number of players that play mixed games is growing daily. Therefore, it is important to have a great blend of mixed games and no-limit events for all that attend.
There is a lot of anticipation for the return of the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop. Naturally, a big deal was made about the tournament’s first entrant, WPT Ambassador Phil Ivey. How many entries are you expecting? Beyond the eye-popping numbers, what are the WPT’s specific goals in terms of showcasing this special tournament?
(Adam) First, I just want to say what an honor it is to bring back this historic tournament. Having Phil as the first confirmed entry in The Big One was a fitting jumpstart to the field. Since then, the excitement has continued to build. We are hopeful that early interest in the iconic tournament will lead to as many entries as we can muster to aid One Drop’s global cause. The Big One for One Drop final table will take place in Wynn’s LaTour Ballroom under the lights of a WPT televised production with plenty of One Drop personnel in attendance and a beautifully designed stage.
Many of the events will be accompanied by Live Streaming broadcasts, so that fans can follow the action from home. Where can people tune in, and who will the commentators be?
(Adam) That is correct. We are happy to provide a live look the WPT World Championship festival for poker fans around the world. Our main livestreaming platforms will be the WPT YouTube, Twitch and Facebook. Our final-table action can also be viewed on OTT platforms, such as Samsung TV Plus, FuboTV, FreeVee, and more. There will be a rotating mix of top-class commentators during the livestreams, including Jamie Kerstetter, Tony Dunst, Henry Kilbane, and more.
The World Poker Tour obviously planted a tremendous flag on the poker calendar and has staked its claim to being the premier event of the winter in the United States. After months of preparation for an even bigger and better festival than last year’s stupendous one, things kicked off a few days ago with the Premier Meet Up Game. Can you share what sort of emotions the team are feeling as you embark on the 2023 WPT World Championship festival?
(Adam) We are ecstatic that the World Championship festival is here once again. Throughout the year, I have repeatedly stated that as important as our successful debut year was, the franchise will build in year two and beyond. Our team has been focused on pushing the bar to new heights. It’s been 11 months of intense daily creative and operational sessions. I feel the company has come together in ways that has demonstrated its best over the last two decades. I’m very proud of them and grateful with the spirit and energy they’ve employed. With a mix of anticipation, eagerness, and relief, we are prepared to give the poker community the best of WPT. It’s show time and we are ready.
Image credits: WPT Flickr account