The North American Poker Tour (NAPT) is one of those poker tours that you never knew you missed until it wasn’t there. Poker fans almost took it for granted that the PokerStars showpiece that burst onto the scene in 2010 only to disappear close to a year later. Now, over a decade later, it’s back. Coming to Resorts World in Las Vegas, the 2023 NAPT takes place in November. It’s going to be an event in every sense of the word.
A Secondary Victim of Black Friday
Back in 2011, ‘Black Friday’ shook the poker world. Full Tilt Poker was investigated, online poker was shut down and the poker world went into shock. Of all the blast zones that the crushing decision to close down online poker in the United States left, one of the smallest was a poker tour that had only been around a year. Or was it?
The North American Poker Tour was a popular poker tour. It had big name players winning huge prizes and it took place in Las Vegas, a city – Sin City – which PokerStars, the team behind the NAPT, have rarely visited over the years. The European Poker Tour, as well as derivatives such as the APPT or the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) took players around the world, but not to Las Vegas.
The first NAPT took place in the Bahamas, where Harrison Gimbel won $2.2 million, before William Reynolds also mopped up over half a million dollars. At the Venetian in February of 2010, Tom Marchese ($827,000) and Ashton Griffin ($576,000) both won titles. The Mohegan Sun in Conneticut was the next stop on the NAPT, with Vanessa Selbst ($750,000) and Jason Mercier ($475,000) winning as PokerStars Team Pros at the height of poker’s ‘poster player’ era.
In November of 2010, Joe Tehan won $725,000 at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, before Galen Hall ($2.3m) at the PCA and Vanessa Selbst ($450,000) again at the Mohegan Sun won titles. That was April 13th, 2011. Two days later, the poker world in the United States imploded. In 12 years since, the NAPT has never returned.
The NAPT is Back!
After such a long time away, excitement will be mixed with nerves for everyone involved, but as the Vice President of PokerStars North America, Steve Preiss, told us, the team are thrilled about the return of a tournament classic which still has its story to tell. We asked Steve how the return of the NAPT came about.
“As PokerStars is the online market leader in North America, the next logical step was to expand our brand footprint to live events,” Steve says. “The live event market is thriving here. We’ve seen events like our Summer Series at Philly Live absolutely crush it, thanks to the incredible support we received from the players. Managing to triple the guarantees of the series was a huge indication of just how popular PokerStars Live events can be and made the return of the NAPT very easy.”
Back in the 2010/2011 seasons, the NAPT had a really good following and some big winners. There’s one player who Steve loved seeing in action… although whether they’ll be back this time is anyone’s guess. Either way, he expects a whole new feel to the event series.
“I liked seeing the Selbst wins,” Steve admits. “I have a lot of respect for her game and as a person. I’m not looking to necessarily recreate a vibe. The game and how we view and consume it has changed so much in 12 years. What I really want to capture is the world class offering that we provide at all PokerStars Live events. They are such player-focused events. I think the North American market will respond well to that.”
With a new era of poker players to attract, the NAPT will move with the times and as well as offering a unique atmosphere, mix it up a little to make sure that the ‘GTO generation’ are catered for with new innovations.
READ MORE: What the Hell is GTO?
“The innovations are more of a collective offering of many things,” Steve details. “I don’t want to tip our hand too much on this yet, but the focus or innovations with be player driven. What can we do that makes this an event that players love and will want to come back to time and time again? This goes from a series of player-focused events to the general level of service they’ll receive at the tables and tournament.”
An Evolution of the Game
Poker has evolved hugely in the past decade and players will be tempted back by a festival that has changed with the times while still appealing to fans who logged the NAPT as one of their favorites ‘back in the day’.
“The game itself has evolved many times over. Live events have to a degree, too. There have been a lot of innovations there, from better integration of online accounts to cages for buy-ins, to fun things like Mystery Bounty tournaments that we’ve introduced. Our focus – how we move with the times – it goes back again to being what we hope sets this tour apart: being truly focused on all players. We know the player experience is good, but it’s a question of how we can expand on that. How can we make it more than just buying into a tournament and playing some poker? That’s where our focus is,” says Steve.
The return of the NAPT symbolizes genuine reinvestment in the live space from PokerStars. Steve is keen to remind us that this is merely an extension of ‘Stars investment in the future of the game.
“The re-investment has already taken place in Europe with the EPT. It’ll now continue to grow and thrive in North America, across Brazil, and at other locations. And as I said, we’ve already begun that process with Summer Series. The appetite for live events has never been greater. You’ll see PokerStars more and more across North American card rooms and casinos.”
While his role is key in putting the show together, Steve is every bit the poker fan he always has been, and on that basis, it’s all about one element to him – those who play the game.
“Personally, I’m looking forward to meeting and talking to our players,” he says. “This is a competitive space – both online and offline – and I’d like to hear what matters the most to them, what they enjoy from us, and where we can improve.”
Resorts World in Las Vegas will host the 2023 NAPT event, and could attract a massive field, coming just weeks before the World Poker Tour (WPT) World Championship.
When Does the NAPT Kick Off?
After 12 years, the return of the PokerStars North American Poker Tour is a matter of real significance, not only to Americans but worldwide. If ‘Stars are reinvesting in live poker on American soil, then it’s a natural assumption that to do so means that live poker is closer than ever in returning across the 50 states of America, rather than a little over a handful.
Taking place between November 4th and 12th, the NAPT takes place at Resorts World, just prior to the kickoff of Cardplayer Lifestyle Mixed Game Festival VI. It is one of the most exciting and fun venues in the whole of Las Vegas and the world. The poker, like the neon lights of Sin City, is electric throughout. Sin City will be buzzing when the NAPT returns to the heart of Las Vegas just a week before Formula 1 is welcomed to the world-famous Vegas strip for the first time.
We can’t wait for the games to begin!