On March 30, 2003, viewers around the United States were glued to their sets as the first televised poker game with hole cam was introduced. This breakthrough idea was produced and created by Steven Lipscomb with the newly formed World Poker Tour airing its first episode.
While poker had previously been on tv for several years, Lipscomb’s “WPT format” was simply mind-blowing. It elevated the game of poker to a whole new dimension. With the addition of the hole cam, viewers were now able to see the player’s cards and be right in the thick of the action. The show also added interactive graphics to complete the full spectator feeling. It was aired on the Travel Channel and was an immediate success.
Fast forward to today, the brand is once again at the forefront of innovation. Just hours prior to the final table of the WPT Tournament of Champions, WPT held an exclusive gathering with WPT heads and various media outlets in attendance including Somuchpoker. The meeting place was at the newly opened Esports Arena inside the Luxor Resort & Casino. The Esports Arena is the first of its kind to open on the Las Vegas strip and it will be the home for esports competitions as well as several WPT main tour final tables for next season.
Speaking to the media, WPT CEO Adam Pliska said, “Every few years we do a bit of a refresh, and this is obviously our biggest refresh. It allows us to give that sport experience. …. Today we are so proud to be able to use this facility and really do innovative things coming up.”
WPT to hold all all televised final tables at Esports Arena
A few days ago, the WPT Bellagio High Roller was the first poker event held at the Esports Arena. The final table was situated on stage with six players flanked by massive screens on all sides. Other confirmed events were the WPT Tournament of Champions final table followed by the second cash game of the season and the ClubWPT Challenge the Champs.
According to WPT Vice President, Angelica Hael, the arena will be “the brand new home of all future WPT televised final table events.”
In further elaborating WPT’s move to Las Vegas and hold their televised final tables at the Esports Arena, Hael said,
“The home of global poker is here in Las Vegas so in many respects it makes sense to have all final tables here. The move aims not just to take the WPT to new heights but to elevate the game of poker as a whole. We firmly believe that by having our televised final tables in this brand new facility that it is going to offer a world of possibilities and opportunities for the World Poker Tour. It is a location where we are able to celebrate and honor and also elevate the experience of the many champions that we have, and in the spectacular manner in which they so richly deserve.”
“Every game, every big game, is attached with an iconic location, so when you think of poker, this is what we will be developing here in this iconic location.”
Similar to the November Nine concept, players that make it into the final six of the televised games will be transferred to the Esports Arena. The gap will be roughly between 3 – 6 weeks. Finalists will be given full VIP treatment to ensure they and their families are able to be part of the momentous occasion.
To amplify the experience of the players, the WPT intends to schedule in several final tables back-to-back to form a “champions week” of sorts. This allows finalists a chance to witness other final tables of the tour that are also concluding. Finalists don’t just have to be a player at the felt, they too can experience all the fun of the arena from a spectator’s point of view.
Another point stressed at the gathering was the idea of crossing over. By moving these televised events to the Esports Arena, it is making poker more accessible and visible to the public. Some WPT events at the arena will also be open for anyone to join.
Esports is by far the fastest growing industry with several games such as League of Legends, DOTA, Halo, and Fortnite already in ESPN. This boom is something the poker industry experienced back in 2003, the “Moneymaker Effect”, which today the WPT hopes to reignite by tapping into the Esports demographic.
Several stops for the new season have already been announced however the televised final tables have yet to be determined.
Esports Arena at the Luxor
To give you an idea of how spectacular the Esports Arena is, it cost around US$30M to build. Here are just some of the specs:
- 30,000 square meter multi-level facility
- 50-foot LED wall
- Competition stage
- Telescopic seating
- 3 VIP rooms
- Owner’s box
- Commentators room
- Virtual reality platforms
- 2 bars
- 18 or more Gaming consoles
The arena is open daily, everyone is welcome to enter. There are minimal costs for those who want to play the games; there is also a console for anyone wanting to stream live on Twitch. Last month, gamer Tyler Blevins aka Ninja, the most popular Fortnite player on Twitch, competed against other gamers at the arena and though he was defeated, the event saw around 667,000 Twitch in with 14-year old Elijah from Washington winning the competition.
Article by Tricia David