ON THE BUTTON: WPT CEO Adam Pliska on the World Championship, Online Poker, & What’s Ahead

wpt ceo adam pliska wpt world championship

The World Poker Tour wraps up this week with the company’s World Championship coming to a close on Tuesday at Wynn Las Vegas. The United Kingdom’s Benny Glaer takes a massive chip lead into the final table on Tuesday, filmed for television with the action streamed live on the WPT’s YouTube and Twitch channels.

The series also featured the WPT Prime and Ladies Championship, both also streamed and filmed for TV. Players were treated to numerous other events and the festival earned high praise overall.

Many referred to the WPT World Championship as a mini World Series of Poker and believe the event filled a hole in the winter live poker schedule. Online poker also offered a chance to send numerous qualifiers to the series. Other casino partners also got on board with live qualifiers as well.

WPT CEO Adam Pliska recently sat down with PokerScout to discuss the series, what’s ahead, and the company’s growing connection to online poker.

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How did the idea for this series come about? Is it something you’d planned for a long time and didn’t have the budget for until the purchase of the company in 2021?

I think for a long time, we would have loved to have transformed the championship and give it more weight. The purchase certainly helped. But there’s also a number of components that are kind of coming together.

First, in terms of qualifiers, we now have a partner and that would be WPTGlobal and ClubWPT, and they sent over 50 qualifiers. That’s been great and just taken off. We’ve also been bringing in the ambassadors. We’ve been doing these special events throughout the year, and to have a place to kind of showcase that and bring people together, it’s been something we wanted to do.

We started to sketch this out maybe about a little over a year and a half ago. And then we literally just went to the casinos and started pitching the idea that we were going to do something and we wanted them to be united behind it, because we needed support from all the casinos because they were having to send players here.

 And so that really started in full force by October of last year. Then by the beginning of the year, we were working diligently with Wynn and by February, there were almost daily discussions.

Were you guys ever concerned about meeting the $15 million guarantee for the main event?

Well I was (says laughing) because it’s not unlimited entry and it was something new. It’s one thing to say, ‘Come to the WPT Championship’ and you know what it is. It’s another thing when you don’t know what it is.

And so in this month before, we’ve had great events, hoping that if we add all these other components, we would get to $15 million. In my mind, we would have failed if we didn’t hit $17 million. But then as we got closer, the response was very good. I think everything was hitting on all cylinders.

At that point, I started to realize, ‘okay, I’m not going to have to worry so much about this.’ By the time we started here, I wasn’t worried about $15 million.

But I did tell the group, I really wanted to hit $20 million for 20 years. We absolutely would have put $20 million (on the guarantee) if I was sure that we’d hit $20 million. I would have loved to say I knew this all the time. But that’s not the case.

So then by the time we started, I told the group, ‘knocking it out of the park would be $22.5 million.’ So the idea that it was almost $30 million was just phenomenal. I did a commercial saying, ‘thank you players for 20 years and $20 million.’ Before the day started, it was already $25 million, so that got scrapped.

What have you been hearing from players?

The response from players has truly been tremendous. And there’s a couple elements that have surprised me. It’s not only enthusiastic response, it’s an enthusiastic, constructive response.

It’s so positive and overwhelming, it’s almost so much that we’re filtering through that people are also throwing in their other ideas and stopping us and saying, ‘hey, it’d be great if you did this.’

We’ve never in 20 years received anything to this degree from the players, even in the early days in seasons one through three, which were incredibly exciting.

Any ideas you’re considering for next year?

I think I have a meeting two nights from now to start talking about next year. Throughout the week we’ve been still doing our normal debriefs. We come up with all of the things that we can do better and are taking in all the ideas. There’s a number of things we’re thinking about.

The first thing I have to consider is making sure we get more space. I think we could have accommodated more, but we just need to make sure that we get more players.

A look at some of the WPT World Championship action at the Wynn Las Vegas. (photos courtesy WPT)

How big a role is online poker starting to be for the WPT? It seems like the company is geared more toward that aspect of the game recently.

It’s an essential role for us. That was the other component that made it easier to do a $15 million guarantee, which for the WPT is still hefty. But the online support is great. I think the online qualifier support is going to double next year. 

Among WPTGlobal, ClubWPT, and the feeder and funnels (live qualifier) system, there was probably $2.5 million (in the prize pool). And online poker is another touchpoint. Just like ClubWPT has been a touchpoint in the US, especially amateur players.

Here you have a platform (WPTGlobal) that can take a broader group of players Internationally, and keep us in touch and really offer some great things on that site. It’s tremendous, and cash games as well.

And you see that in the shows we’re taping. Now we are taping three shows, the Ladies Championship, Prime Championship, and World Championship, but we’re also taping cash games (at the Wynn) as well. And you’re seeing the cash games are becoming a bigger part of our tour schedule.

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In the past, the tour has partnered with online sites like partypoker. Have some of those deals gone away?

No, it’s just that WPTGlobal’s been an exclusive partner this year. But we were open (to others) in areas. Winamax sent people (to the WPT World Championship). When you have a major commitment from WPTGlobal and you’re doing something brand new, it’s much harder to go in and say what it is.

I think next year, (online sites) are going to be wanting to send people. I already have been getting messages about home game groups who’ve been asking, ‘can we now send this for next year?’ I think that’s great. We were able to do a lot of fun things with the ClubWPT qualifiers during the week. I think that’s good.

Many players see the WPT World Championship as like a WSOP or EPT in the winter. A little different, but your own big festival. Is that something you appreciate and want to grow?

The one thing that you definitely felt in the room is that reunion effect. You felt that in the past, mostly at the WSOP. But you had this great reunion effect. And we’re definitely going to capitalize on it.

I do think it’s sustainable and we have big ambitions to continue to grow this. We’re absolutely going to capitalize on that reunion effect. We love it. It was so good to see it.

And this is just a great way for us to bring all of our partners together and showcase what we’re trying to do throughout the year. So I think we’ve kind of set a tentpole on the ground.

10 Las Vegas Attractions Poker Players Should Check Out This Summer While at the WSOP

Here are 10 great Las Vegas-area hotspots poker players should check out this summer when not playing at the World Series of Poker.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, Las Vegas is mostly back to normal in 2022. International poker players who’ve been waiting a few years to visit are expected to hit Sin City in full force this year. 

Now that pandemic restrictions are lifted, most international players can visit and play in the World Series of Poker this year. For first-time visitors, the city can be overwhelming. But there are plenty of great attractions to see when not at the poker table.

Here are 10 great Vegas-area spots new tourists should check out.

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1 – WSOP heads to the Strip

WSOP officials announced last year that the annual event is moving from the Rio casino to Bally’s and Paris convention center. The move to the Strip has been in the works for a while, but the WSOP finally announced the jump for 2022. 

The WSOP originally took place in Binion’s and moved to the Rio in 2005.For any poker player, being able to see the inaugural year in the new location is definitely a must. 

2 – Fremont Street Experience

The WSOP’s roots date back to 1970 at Binion’s Horseshoe casino on Fremont Street. Unfortunately Binions never reopened its poker room after COVID, but there is plenty to see and do in downtown Vegas.

Most nights there are live bands and it’s a great place to see street performers. This old Vegas hotspot is home to many restaurants and casinos, and is gold for people watching.

The only poker room on Fremont Street is the Golden Nugget. Make sure to check out the Grand Poker Series at the property this summer. 

3 – Grand Canyon

This must-see art of nature is located about two hours from the heart of the city. There are plenty of bus trips that run daily to see this amazing area.

Local tourist groups also offer helicopter rides and rafting down the Colorado River. If possible, rent a car because there are plenty of tourist attractions to stop at along the way including:

  • Seligman, Arizona (Route 66)
  • Kaibab National Forest
  • Lake Mead

Jeff Barton of Delran, New Jersey, already has some outdoor adventures planned when not at the tables.

“This summer I am taking a day off from the series to go wakeboarding with friends on Lake Mead while I’m out there,” he says,

4 – Concerts 

Some of the biggest musicians in the world are hitting Sin City in 2022. With numerous performances at casinos, T-Mobile Arena, and Allegiant Stadium there should be plenty of seats to go around. Big names have also taken up residencies in the city. Summer concert announcements so far include:

  • Sting
  • Jonas Brother 
  • Katy Perry 
  • Luke Bryan
  • Aerosmith
  • John legend

5 – A Dam Good Tour

The Hoover Dam is considered a modern marvel and located about an hour from Las Vegas by car. The project started in 1931 and still provides power to Las Vegas.

The site offers tours almost daily and over a million people visit each year. For any engineer or history buff, the 726-foot concrete masterpiece is a must-see attraction.

6 – Pawn Stars and Count’s Kustoms

American television shows such as Pawn Stars and Counting Cars (Count’s Kustoms) are produced in Las Vegas. 

These two are some of the most popular shows on the History Channel. The shops are located off the Strip and offer free tours for fans each day.

7 – Mob Museum 

The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement is located in downtown Las Vegas. Tourists to the attraction can see the mob’s roots throughout Sin City.

The museum hosts Las Vegas artifacts including old slot machines and pictures of notorious gangsters. The site even has a secret speakeasy in the basement. 

8 – Las Vegas Strip

Just walking the two-mile world-famous Vegas Strip is an adventure of its own. Las Vegas Boulevard is also home to many free or low-cost attractions including:

  • Bellagio fountains show
  • Venetian gondola rides
  • New York, New York roller coaster
  • Mirage volcano
  • The Linq High Roller ride

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9 – Shows and Performances

Apart from the long list of concerts, Las Vegas plays home to many award-winning shows. This includes magic, comedy, and other performances. Some must-see shows are:

  • David Copperfield 
  • Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson ONE
  • Blue Man Group
  • Criss Angel

10 – Area 15

Area 51 may be off limits to tourists, but Area 15 is open for business. The location describes itself as an “immersive entertainment venue offering art shows, VR experiences, ax throwing, and a flight simulator.”

It is also home to the popular Omega Mart. The out-of-this-world art attraction is what happens when modern pop culture meets Las Vegas.

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PokerGO Launches New High Roller Tour To Rank Game’s Best, Releases 2021 Event Schedule

The team behind PokerGO is betting on live poker’s return in 2021 and has unveiled the PokerGO Tour, a global poker ranking system.

The team behind PokerGO is betting on live poker’s return in 2021, including high rollers getting back in the action. The company unveiled the PokerGO Tour last week, a global professional poker ranking system with some extra winnings for top performers.

The tour highlights 150 tournaments around the world with tens of millions of dollars at stake. The goal is to rank top poker pros as seen in professional sports such as golf or tennis.

“The sport of poker is hundreds of years old and until now, there has not been a globally recognized tour and ranking system that establishes and celebrates the most elite players across the globe, so we started something we hope will evolve and grow,” PokerGO President Mori Eskandani said in a news release.

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“The PokerGO Tour events will include the world’s most challenging high stakes events in the world, bringing poker front and center in the world of sports in a way that has never been done before.”

The tour’s addition comes online poker has also exploded internationally – including numerous online high roller events.  As of now, the PokerGO Tour only highlights live events however.

Details on the PokerGO Tour

As part of the new tour, players earn points throughout the year for every finish at each qualifying event. The top performer will be named Player of the Year and score an extra $100,000.

Second and third place also earn $50,000 and $25,000. The tour rankings are updated regularly and showcase the top spot in the world of high stakes poker players.

So far, the standings have included about 20 events so far this year. As of Monday, Ali Imsirovic stood atop the leaderboard.

Online players will recognize many of the names from some of the world’s biggest online events as well. Here’s a look at the top five players with their winnings:

  • 1st – Ali Imsirovic, $1.4 million
  • 2nd – Sean Perry, $731,700
  • 3rd – Chris Brewer, $759,565
  • 4th – Sean Winter, $708,590
  • 5th – Arthur Conan, $733,320

PokerGO high roller schedule released

As part of the PokerGO Tour’s launch, the company also released the schedule for its 2021 high roller events. That includes a few new events planned.

The US Poker Open is set for June 3-14 with 12 events at the PokerGO Studio in Las Vegas. The player of the series wins the inaugural Eagle Trophy this year.

Justin Bonomo shows off his winnings and championship ring after the 2018 Super High Roller Bowl. (photo courtesy of PokerGO)

The company is also launching the PokerGO Cup, a new series with eight events and running July 1-10. The Cup features various poker formats including a $100,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event.

Other qualifying PokerGO Tour events from the network include:

  • PokerGO Heads-Up Championship – This is a new $100,000 event slated for July 12 with a $3.2 million prize pool. The tournament features 32 poker pros battling in a bracket-style format.
  • Poker Masters – A 12-event series from Sept. 13-24 challenging the world’s best all-around players. The overall winner takes home a championship purple jacket.
  • Super High Roller Bowl – A $300,000 buy-in, three-day tournament set for Sept. 26 with some of the world’s best players. The pros battle for millions of dollars with the winner also taking home a championship ring.

The PokerGO platform will stream all the action from each series.

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Live poker returning in big way

The PokerGO tour uses any live tournament with a $10,000 buy-in or higher in calculating standings. As April closes out, players seem to be eager to return to live poker.  

The World Poker Tour has seen massive fields in events run since January. The $3,500 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown is currently underway in Florida.

That event produced a field of 2,482 entries for a $7.9 million prize pool, easily topping the $2 million guarantee. The champion earns a top prize of almost $1.3 million.

The series also includes a pair of events counting toward the PokerGO Tour. Arthur Conan won a $50,000 Super High Roller event last week for $733,320. A $25,500 High Roller also kicks off Monday.

Online poker also remains extremely hot at the moment. Tournament series around the world continue awarding hundreds of millions of dollars each month.

Partypoker currently has its annual POWERFEST underway. The Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) is also running at PokerStars.

The WPTDeepStacks London Online also wraps up today at 888poker. The US market has also seen some major series this month at WSOP.com, partypoker US Network, and PokerStars.