The 17th season of the World Poker Tour starts on July 21. This season presents new changes across the landscape of the tour with all televised final tables taking place at Esports Arena Las Vegas. Those events aren’t scheduled until the second half of the season in 2019. Other changes are part of all WPT events including the big blind ante, Action Clock, and a few new stops along the way.
Using key numbers as a metric, US Poker previews the first half of the WPT calendar.
A new stop appears on the map to kick off the North American (and partially European) road trip. For the first time ever, the WPT travels to Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif. for the $5,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Poker Festival. There is no guarantee on the event but Gardens is adding a $250,000 sweetener to the prize pool along with an SLC Mercedes Roadster to first place.
The event starts on July 21 and wraps up with a live-streamed final table on July 26.
That is the number of players paying an ante in each hand this season of the WPT. Executive Director of the WPT, Matt Savage, alluded to the introduction of the big blind ante during Season XVI and the format is here to stay across all events in Season XVII.
“One of the changes we might be most excited about is the move to the big blind ante format for the WPT Main Tour, starting with WPT Gardens this month,” Savage said. “We’ve worked with our casino partners to fine-tune the WPT tournament structure to best fit the big blind ante format, including 40,000 starting chips.
Savage notes player feedback played a large role in the final decision to implement the big blind ante across all Main Tour stops.
A player forum at the Bellagio last December during the Five Diamond Poker Classic proved critical in deciding to use the big blind ante over the button ante utilized by partypokerLIVE.
All WPT Main Tour stops in Season XVII use the starting stack of 40,000 along with the one-in-eight payout structure developed by Savage. In past seasons, properties used their own payout system to calculate players paid and first-place total often leading to a lopsided prize pool.
The second full season of the 30-second WPT Action Clock starts when cards are in the air on July 21. There is one change pending to the Action Clock from a year ago to accommodate for large field events, usually in Borgata and Seminole Hard Rock.
Instead of all fields receiving four Action Clock chips when one table away from the money, one additional time extension chip will be given for every 20 additional places paid above 80. Provided gaming boards from all states agree, the Action Clock will look slightly different this season.
“One piece of feedback we received from players during our regular player summit was that they’d like more time extension chips in events that have larger fields,” Savage stated. “In the larger events, the Action Clock is implemented earlier than others, so there are more players to get through and more time extensions would be welcomed.”
Player of the Year proves to be an exciting point of conversation for the entire WPT season. Art Papazyan held off a late charge from Joe McKeehen to win himself the Hublot-sponsored title and the watch to partner his honor.
Season XVII offers prizes to the top-three finishers in the standings with some rakeback included.
Per Savage, the Hublot WPT Player of the Year earns $15,000 in WPT tournament buy-in credits for any global WPT event along with the Hublot timepiece and complimentary accommodations for all Main Tour stops.
Second place in the standings receives $7,500 in buy-in credits and third-place takes in $2,500.
Esports Arena Las Vegas is not in effect until 2019 but the decision to move all televised final tables away from the host casino looms over Season XVII. Eight Main Tour events along with the Tournament of Champions were confirmed to be penciled in per VP of Global Tour Management, Angelica Hael.
The guessing game begins for the eight events to be included. Events like the Borgata Winter Poker Open and L.A. Poker Classic are locks to be chosen. The WPT is likely to announce the full list toward the end of the year.
Savage remarked that he is aware of the skepticism from players but remains optimistic about the change being able to grow the WPT and allow Esports Arena Las Vegas to be the number-one venue in poker.
“We’re looking to raise the level of televised events and the experience we provide to our players. We understand the change may have sparked a sense of uneasiness from some of our players, but there is plenty to be excited for. Each televised final table will come with an increased spotlight and players who reach a final table will receive a true superstar VIP experience in Las Vegas, the global home of poker.”