World Poker Tour (WPT)

Posted on: April 13, 2021 11:04 PDT

What is the World Poker Tour?

The World Poker Tour operates as one of the world’s longest-running international poker tours. The WPT began running events in 2002, and the tour has persisted for two decades as one of poker’s most recognizable brands. 

The WPT Main Tour runs as the most prestigious tour under the WPT banner. Other WPT-branded events include the WPTDeepStacks (recently rebranded to WPT Prime), WPT500, and WPT National tours.

Some of the most significant WPT Main Tour events are broadcast on Bally’s Sports Network in the U.S., making the WPT one of the most prominent mainstream poker brands in the nation. 

Image source: Flickr/World Poker Tour

When are WPT Events Being Held This Year? 

Along with virtually every other poker tour around the globe, the WPT shut down most of its scheduled events in 2020 due to COVID-19 considerations. The organizers moved a couple of Main Tour events online in late 2020 and early 2021.

The first WPT Main Tour live event in almost a year ran at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood in January 2021. The tour followed up with live events that included the WPT Russia in February and WPT at Venetian (Las Vegas) in March. The rest of the year saw the WPT return to Seminole Hard Rock Tampa and Hollywood (Florida), Choctaw (Oklahoma), and Bellagio (Las Vegas). There were online poker events on partypoker in 2021 as well, both in New Jersey for U.S. poker players and globally.

The World Poker Tour returned to a mostly normal schedule in 2022. In celebration of Season XX — the tour’s 20th anniversary — the WPT Main Tour traveled to Florida, Nevada, and Oklahoma at the beginning of the year. More events are scheduled for 2022, including Main Tour stops in Australia and Florida, WPT Prime stops in Australia and Spain, and a special year-end historic Main Tour season finale at the Wynn Las Vegas, a new casino partner. 

Past World Poker Tour Players of the Year

Season Player WPT Earnings*
2002-2003 Howard Lederer $619,980
2003-2004 Erick Lindgren $1,609,784
2004-2005 Daniel Negreanu $3,283,540
2005-2006 Gavin Smith $1,668,170
2006-2007 J.C. Tran $2,028,793
2007-2008 Jonathan Little $1,895,013
2008-2009 Bertrand Grospellier $2,225,345
2009-2010 Faraz Jaka $1,421,290
2010-2011 Andy Frankenberger $944,985
2011-2012 Joe Serock $674,227
2012-2013 Matt Salsberg $777,394
2013-2014 Mukul Pahuja $1,426,240
2014-2015 Anthony Zinno $1,398,389
2015-2016 Mike Shariati $1,362,710
2016-2017 Benjamin Zamani $850,041
2017-2018 Art Papazyan $1,064,173
2018-2019 Erkut Yilmaz $898,192
2019-2021 Brian Altman $1,011,103
2021-2022 Jacob Ferro $669,540

*Denotes WPT earnings from that season

The list of WPT Players of the Year includes some of poker’s most recognizable names. The Player of the Year award is earned through a points-based system, rewarding consistent excellence across a season. The 2019-2020 season was expanded into a 2019-2021 season due to COVID-19, with a smaller 2021 portion added to the rest. WPT Season XX started at the beginning of 2022 and will encompass the full year, as will each season/year going forward.

Image source: Flickr/World Poker Tour

How to Watch the World Poker Tour 

Viewers in the U.S. can see selected WPT Main Tour final tables play out on Bally’s Sports Network. Additional premiere broadcasters for the television shows include NBC Sports Network, AT&T Sports Net, and MSG. Bally’s Sports broadcasts break down the final table into four one-hour episodes, airing on Sundays at 8 pm and Wednesdays at 11 pm.

The iconic commentary duo of Vince Van Patten and Tony Dunst provide the play-by-play duties, with Lynn Gilmartin hosting the show. 

WPT broadcasts are also available on-demand at ClubWPT, the tour’s paid subscription-based streaming service.

History of WPT

The first WPT Main Tour event played out in May 2002. The Five Diamond World Poker Classic emanated from the Bellagio in Las Vegas, featuring a $10,000 buy-in Main Event.

Poker legend Gus Hansen won the event for a $581,480 payday, marking the beginning of a two-decade run for the World Poker Tour that sees the tour still going strong in 2021.

Apart from the annual World Series of Poker Main Event, WPT Main Tour events are considered perhaps the most prestigious poker tournaments in the world. Main Event winners from the Main Tour have their names etched on the Mike Sexton WPT Champion Cup, named after the late Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton.

Sexton sat in the booth for commentary duties on WPT broadcasts for 15 years before retiring. Sexton’s retirement promoted Dunst from “Raw Deal” hosting duties into his current role as a commentator alongside Van Patten.

The first season of the WPT Main Tour included several U.S. based events. The first European Main Tour stop happened in February 2003, with the Euro Finals of Poker taking place at the Aviation Club de France in Paris.

Since the inaugural season, the WPT has expanded to include events that span the globe. Some of the biggest events on the tour include annual stops like WPT Montreal, the Five Diamond World Poker Classic (at the Bellagio in Las Vegas), and WPT Barcelona.

A typical WPT Main Tour schedule includes around 20 events running throughout the year. Each season ends with the WPT Tournament of Champions, open only to players who have previously won a WPT event.

The World Poker Tour began as a single tour but has since expanded into several different circuits. Other WPT-branded tours include the WPTDeepStacks, which runs separate tours in North America and Europe.

Carlos Mortensen tops the all-time WPT earnings list, with $6,738,670 in career cashes on the tour. Darren Elias holds the record for most WPT Main Tour titles, with four championships to his name.

Image source: Flickr/World Poker Tour

WPT Play Format

WPT Main Events generally play out with buy-ins ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Each Main Tour winner earns the distinction of being called an official World Poker Tour champion, with their name engraved on the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.

Main Events always play as No-Limit Texas Hold’em tournaments. U.S. based events play down to the final table, which reconvenes at a later date and plays to a conclusion in Las Vegas.

Only Main Tour champions are recognized as official members of the WPT Champions Club. At the end of each season, the WPT Tournament of Champions runs as an event only open to previous Main Tour champions.

COVID-19 circumstances prompted WPT officials to move some Main Tour events online for the first time in the 2019-2021 season. Online winners are still recognized as part of the WPT Champions Club, and the WPT could offer more opportunities to play online in the future.