Seemingly out of nowhere, December has become perhaps the most competitive month for live poker tournament series. Before 2020, the European Poker Tour’s stop in Prague was the marquee event for the month. However, things have heated up since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the industry to press pause and make a fresh start.
Last year, the World Poker Tour introduced its new World Championship at the Wynn Las Vegas. That inaugural event was an explosive success, with the main event receiving nearly double the guaranteed turnout and most side events outperforming expectations by similar or greater margins.
This year, the WPT World Championship is back and bigger than ever. However, it faces a new challenger in the World Series of Poker’s WSOP Paradise. This new tournament series will take place at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, the former home of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
All three occupy a similar part of the calendar, running in the first half of the month and wrapping up before Christmas:
- WPT World Championship: Dec. 12 to Dec. 21
- WSOP Paradise: Dec. 3 to Dec. 14
- EPT Prague: Dec. 6 to Dec. 17
Given that overlap and the thousands of miles separating the three events, most players will have to pick just one to attend.
How to choose between them? Here’s a look at what each has to offer.
WPT World Championship
The World Poker Tour is a long-running brand in the live poker world, dating back to the poker boom years. The timing of its first season seemed prescient in retrospect, wrapping up in 2003 just as poker was about to break into the mainstream.
However, until recently, it didn’t have a singular flagship event. Each stop was on roughly equal footing until it introduced the World Championship in 2022. This new stop takes place each December at the Wynn, whose poker room is considered one of the nicest in Las Vegas.
The idea proved to be a hit. The Championship event itself guaranteed $15 million in prizes, implying an expected field of a little over 1,500 players. Instead, 2,960 showed up, making it the biggest WPT event in history by a wide margin.
WPT anticipates that the second run of the series will do better still. It has upped the Championship event guarantee to $40 million and crafted an extensive and varied schedule of side events. Many of these also feature aggressive guarantees.
To ensure the sort of turnout it wants, WPT has provided numerous paths for players to qualify, regardless of their budget. Many of these are through WPT Global, a WPT-affiliated online poker site that debuted in April 2022. Sadly, it hasn’t launched in the US yet but has plans to do so in the future.
- Building off of break-out success in 2022.
- Longest schedule of the three series, with 25 days of events.
- Huge guarantees for most events, including the $40 million Championship.
- Multiple online promotions and tournaments offering qualification.
- Las Vegas provides world-class entertainment away from the tables.
- Online qualification currently unavailable to US players.
- Las Vegas weather in December is okay but not great (highs of around 60 F/15 C, dipping below freezing at night).
- Las Vegas has become significantly more expensive in recent years, though room rates in December are reasonable.
While the WPT is a year-round series of stops, the World Series of Poker is best known for its eponymous two-month series over the summer in Las Vegas.
It is now attempting to establish a wintertime counterpoint in the Bahamas with the WSOP Paradise. However, the new series has been attracting controversy before it has even begun. Some objections relate to the venue, others to its online partner, GGPoker.
The Atlantis is either the biggest selling point for the series or a deal-breaker, depending on who you ask. On the one hand, it’s a physically beautiful resort, and there are few places you’d rather be in December than the Bahamas.
However, poker players encountered many problems during the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure’s run at the Atlantis. That may be why it canceled the series in 2019 and chose a different venue—the Baha Mar Nassau—when rebooting it this year.
Complaints about the resort itself include its high prices and reportedly poor customer service. More importantly, winning players need to be careful leaving the Bahamas. Local customs agents are notorious for harassing those traveling with large sums of cash, sometimes even confiscating the money.
Meanwhile, GGPoker’s involvement has come under fire after poker player David Lappin noticed fine print stating that online qualifiers’ hotel stays will be paid for out of the tournament prize pool and could result in it being smaller than the advertised $15 million guarantee.
Still, it is the Bahamas in December and a chance to win WSOP Gold Bracelets. That combination may be enough to draw a crowd despite these concerns.
- Tournaments award coveted WSOP Gold Bracelets.
- $15 million guaranteed Main Event.
- Beautiful weather in December, with highs in the 80s F (mid-20s C).
- Online qualification available to US residents through WSOP.com and internationally through GGPoker.
- Untested series.
- Atlantis Resort is expensive and has been unpopular with poker players in the past.
- Controversial fine print regarding guarantees and prize pool deductions.
- Players need to be very careful if taking their winnings in cash as they leave the Bahamas.
Like the WPT, the EPT has a long history and is structured as a series of stops rather than centering itself on one big annual festival. However, it debuted two years later, in 2004, and is operated by PokerStars, whereas the WPT is an independent brand.
Because PokerStars organizes the series, it also offers online qualifiers. However, there isn’t sufficient interest in the US for these to run on its sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan.
Prague has been an EPT stop since 2007 and has grown to be one of the most popular on the tour, up there with Barcelona and Monte Carlo. It takes place in King’s Casino at the Hilton Hotel.
Despite having been disrupted by the pandemic, EPT Prague bounced back in 2022. In total, 1,267 players turned out, setting a new record for the stop.
There are no guaranteed prize pools for EPT events, but turnout has been consistent through the years. The series, though short, also has a densely packed side event schedule, so it’s good for players looking to put in as much volume of play as they can.
- Long track record for EPT, Prague as a stop on the tour, and King’s Casino as the venue.
- Jam-packed side event schedule.
- Prague has an extremely rich history and offers a different sort of tourist experience than Las Vegas or the Bahamas.
- Lower expected turnout and Main Event buy-in than the other series, equating to a smaller probable prize pool.
- No guaranteed prize pools.
- EPT tournament fields are typically considered to be tougher than equivalents on other tours.
- Lousy weather for Prague in December—typically near-freezing and overcast.
- Online qualifiers unavailable in the US despite PokerStars’ presence.
Sponsored post—This article was paid for by WPT Global, though the opinions expressed are those of the author.