WPT to host first major live poker tournament in nearly a year

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 01/20/2021

The World Poker Tour is set to host the first major live poker tournament in the U.S. since COVID-19 struck last year. On January 22, the Lucky Hearts Poker Open, a $3,500 buy-in event at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in South Florida, features a $1 million guaranteed prize pool.

The Lucky Hearts Poker Open has become a staple on the WPT’s schedule. Poker players love traveling to warm and sunny South Florida this time of year, especially those who reside in cold climates.

Last year’s tournament, held in January just before the global health pandemic struck America, attracted 843 players with Brian Altman, the presumed 2019-2020 WPT Player of the Year, taking it down for $482,636. Altman also won this very same tournament in 2015 for $723,008.

The World Poker Tour is taking a bit of a risk this year with a $1 million guarantee. Although COVID-19 is spreading at an alarming rate in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has continually refused to impose health restrictions on his state. As a result, more than 24,000 Floridians have died from COVID-19.

But the minimal restrictions in the Sunshine State have made it possible for large poker events to take place. The WPT isn’t just risking the health and safety of its players, but also meeting the $1 million guaranteed prize pool. Given that a global health pandemic is still a major concern in the U.S., reaching that guarantee won’t be as easy as normal.

The World Poker Tour was recently sold for $78 million to Element Partners, a venture capitalist firm. Payment for that sale will be made via $68 million in cash and the rest through tournament buy-in fees from WPT events.

Ready for some live poker tournaments?

Live poker tournaments have been back in the U.S. since the summer. But the major events are all still sidelined. That will change on January 22 when the World Poker Tour’s Lucky Hearts Poker Open takes place.

The tournament will run until January 26 in South Florida at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which boasts arguably the top poker room east of Las Vegas.

Seminole Hard Rock Poker tournament manager Jason Heidenthal told the WPT in a press release that players can expect safety and cleanliness to be on the minds of the staff at the Lucky Hearts Poker Open. But he didn’t provide details of the safety precautions they’ll put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The World Poker Tour also recently announced it will host another major event in Las Vegas. The WPT Venetian, a $5,000 buy-in tournament, kicks off March 5 at the late Sheldon Adelson’s property.

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