Season XVI of the World Poker Tour has been one to remember. Unexpected champions, dramatic final tables, and record-breaking fields all lead up to the finale at ARIA in Las Vegas, Nevada. The WPT Tournament of Champions is a one-of-a-kind event in its third year — the first time in Las Vegas.
From May 24-26, the eye of the poker viewing tower shifts toward Las Vegas for one of the year’s most highly anticipated celebrations.
Value is hard to find at times in big buy-in tournaments, but the World Poker Tour is pulling out all the stops to ensure this year’s Tournament of Champions tops all.
$15,000 + $0 = must-play
For starters, the $15,000 event is rake free. In a generous move unheard of these days in poker, the WPT and ARIA are pooling every nickel from the $15,000 buy-in into the prize pool.
ARIA is on the forefront of rake-free events and their partnership with the WPT ensure that continues.
The first two seasons of the Tournament of Champions were also rake-free when held at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood in Florida. An appropriate gesture for two locations with no state income tax.
When high roller tournaments became a permanent mainstay in the ARIA poker ecosystem, the casino offered an amazing deal for players. For most ARIA High Rollers, players who register for the tournament on time do not have to pay rake. The entry fee of $1,000 is waived and all $25,000 goes directly into the prize pool.
The World Poker Tour is conscious about as much money staying in their player pool as possible and the rake-free aspect is one way to ensure this.
On top of the no rake for players is a prize pool sweetener of $100,000. No matter if the prize pool is $500,000 or $2 million, the WPT adds $100,000 into the final pot.
This year’s winner also takes home far more than just six-figure in prize money. The WPT is throwing in $50,000 cash on top of the announced first-place prize. Also at the winner’s circle sits the Hublot watch awarded to all Season XVI victors.
Just for entering the Tournament of Champions, players receive gift bags valued at $1,000.
The final table of the Tournament of Champions is filmed for television at the new Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor. The WPT’s partnership with ARIA along with their overall growth in Las Vegas makes shifting the Tournament of Champions location a natural fit.
There are many notable WPT Champions Club members who have yet to play in the Tournament of Champions who may decide to register with the event so close to home.
Two players that immediately come to mind are two-time winners Daniel Negreanu and Antonio Esfandiari. Neither has taken advantage in their lifetime seat in an event with a fair amount of prizes to chase after.
This could be due to scheduling conflicts with overseas events and prior commitments as the pair only travels for events of the highest buy-in status.
ARIA is running a $50,000 High Roller on May 24 and $100,000 Super High Roller on May 25 which causes an interesting bind. Both players are registered for the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl on May 27 and could look to use the high rollers as a warm-up. Or, they could decide that a $15,000 event with a small field and lower buy-in might be worth the time.
Other WPT Champions living in Las Vegas who might make the drive over to ARIA to play the TOC include David Williams and Nick Schulman.
There is an indication of which champions will participate based on entry into the $10,000 Bobby Baldwin Classic the same week.
The final qualifier into the Tournament of Champions is awarded their $15,000 seat when the Bobby Baldwin Classic ends on May 26.
Location drives quantity
The respective field sizes of 66 and 64 in the first two Tournament of Champions are good but not great. There is the potential to hit at least 80 with the move to Las Vegas and later start date than seasons prior. Season XIV and XV hosted the Tournament of Champions in April.
However many players wind up in the Tournament of Champions field, they have elite value waiting for them.