WPT Schedules Final Tables and More Live Events
When the coronavirus pandemic put the live poker industry – among many other industries worldwide – on hold in early March 2020, the World Poker Tour was one of the affected entities. It started with the cancellation of the popular WPT Venetian in Las Vegas, then some WPTDeepStacks events in Maryland and Florida, and then WPT Barcelona. Almost everything went on the list of perpetually postponed tournaments.
As it became clearer that the pandemic was going to cause shutdowns for longer than originally expected or hoped, the WPT had to also cancel its three final tables set for May 28 through April 2 at the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas. The season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions took a hit, too.
The World Poker Tour put some of its action online where possible, first with PartyPoker for several massive online tournament series and then with the Borgata in New Jersey. That move to online events continues into 2021 with WPT500 action set for PartyPoker this month and WPTDeepStacks on 888poker in April.
Let’s Do It Live!
No matter what happened online, the World Poker Tour’s passion – and bread and butter – was in the live tournament realm. Many poker rooms across America were figuring out ways to open cautiously, complete with plexiglass barriers and distanced tables, disinfected chips and lots – and lots – of hand sanitizer.
The WPT scheduled the Lucky Hearts Poker Open for its return via the domestic main tour. It started on January 22 at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida. They didn’t know how many players would feel comfortable playing, so they set the prize pool guarantee at $1M. That seemed doable.
Two starting days delivered 1,573 entries and a total prize pool of $5,033,600.
It seems they wanted to play.
Not only was the action exciting as 197 players received payouts, the final several tables included names like Ronnie Bardah, Esther Taylor, and Darren Elias. The ultimate winner was a young man named Ilyas Muradi. His emotional win of $809,515 was only overshadowed by his emotion and the ultimate revelation of his story. The Afghan-born man had spent a long time in a US immigration detention center recently, and Muradi’s comeback story was one for the national media.
— ICIJ (@ICIJorg) February 22, 2021
WPTDS Did It Live!
The WPTDeepStacks tour wanted in on the action and hosted its post-pandemic return event at the Venetian in Las Vegas. (WPTDS had hosted live events in South Africa and Taiwan in December 2020, but the Venetian would be the return of the tour in America.)
They hosted the $1,600 buy-in WPTDS Main Event with two starting days on January 29-30 and a $500K guarantee. Again, how many people would mask up, sanitize, and play poker at a potentially crowded casino as a pandemic remained dangerous?
The WPTDS Venetian tallied these numbers:
–Total entries: 812
–Total prize pool: $1,161,160 (more than double the guarantee)
–Paid players: 102
–Winner: Sung Joo Hyun ($208,335)
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) February 2, 2021
The next live WPTDS events are not yet on the schedule, but that is likely to change very soon.
Back to the Main Tour
Later in February, the World Poker Tour hosted the WPT Russia at Casino Sochi. PartyPoker LIVE co-hosted the festival from February 19-28, with the RUB$245K (approximately US$3,328) buy-in Main Event starting on February 23 and offering four starting flights. The results were:
–Total entries: 251
–Total prize pool: $726,832 equivalent
–Paid players: 32
–Winner: Maksim Sekretarev ($160,694 equivalent)
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) March 1, 2021
On the US side, the WPT’s main tour kicked off its WPT Venetian last week. The $5K buy-in Main Event was a part of the monthlong poker series at the Vegas casino that started on March 1 and will run through March 28.
The Main Event offered two starting flights and set a conservative guarantee of $1.5M on the prize pool.
Guess what? The field was massive.
–Total entries: 937
–Total prize pool: $4,333,625 (left the $1.5M guarantee in the dust)
–Paid players: 118
Payouts began at $8,365. Some of the players who cashed for a bit more as the field thinned were Lily Kiletto, Sean Yu, Jake Schwartz, Justin Young, Ali Imsirovic, Joseph Cheong, Kevin Eyster, Amnon Filippi, Ryan Laplante, Upeshka De Silva, Matt Stout, Danny Wong, Katie Lindsay, Ryan Depaulo, and Nick Schulman.
With just a few tables remaining on March 8, players like James Carroll, Joe McKeehen, Sergio Aido, and Jared Jaffee remained in the running for final table seats. The WPT live updates team continues to document the action.
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) March 9, 2021
Covid-19 vaccines are still making their way across the United States. Travel remains somewhat limited, and most casinos continue to require players to abide by strict health-guided protocols. But it looks like the WPT is back.
The next stop on the main tour will be the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, putting the action back in Hollywood, Florida. The festival runs April 15-28, and the $3,500 buy-in Main Event begins on April 23. There will be two starting flights and reentries permitted.
When the tournament winds down to a final table of six players, it will pause. Those six players will then travel to Las Vegas to play it out for the win at the PokerGO Studio at the Aria on the Las Vegas Strip on May 18.
Oh yeah. Mo Nuwwarah was first to break the news last week that the WPT final tables that had been postponed for nearly a year would begin to play out soon.
— Mo Nuwwarah (@monuwwarah) March 3, 2021
The first one is playing out this week on Wednesday, March 10, at the PokerGO Studio. That will bring together the final six players from the WPT Gardens Poker Championship, who made the final table in January 2020. Remember that time, before masks and lockdowns and Covid and an upside-down world?
Those players do, and they are anxious to play it out. Their chip counts going into action are:
–Chance Kornuth = 2,995,000 chips
–Markus Gonsalves = 2,370,000 chips
–Tuan Phan = 2,070,000 chips
–Jonathan Cohen = 1,615,000 chips
–Qing Liu = 795,000 chips
–Straton Wilhelm = 435,000 chips
According to Nuwwarah in his piece for PokerNews, all of the players will receive Covid-19 tests. If any player test positive, he will receive the ICM-calculated payout of their chip stack. The Nevada Gaming Commission and all six players agreed.
The rest of the postponed final tables will play in May at the PokerGO Studio. The WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open that paused on January 30, 2020, will play on May 16, and the WPT L.A. Poker Classic that dealt its last hand on March 4 will play on May 17.
Chip leader for over a year now 😂. Cant wait to play a week from today! https://t.co/U4cC7NzBX5
— Chance Kornuth (@ChancesCards) March 3, 2021