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The 8th Season of the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio Casino

195 of the best poker players in the world convened in the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas for the start of the WPT's (world poker tour) Season eight World Championship on April 19th, 2010.

But while attendance records were being achieved in Italy on the European Poker Tour's (EPT) latest stop and the brand new North American Poker Tour (NAPT) continues to travel across the U.S. proving the game of poker is anything but a passing trend, attendance at the World Poker Tour Championship are in a decline.

Just three years ago, the Season 5 of the WPT Championship attracted 639 participants. With a $15,495,750 prize pool permitting eventual champion Carlos Mortensen to take home $3,970,415 in 1st place cash prize, the tournament established a record for the richest ever held outside a WSOP Main Event that still stands today.

In 2008, player attendance dropped to 545 players. One year later, attendance slide down to 337 players, marking another thirty-eight percent drop. Now, hundreds of poker players skipped the preliminary poker events at the Bellagio to participate at NAPT Mohegan Sun and although many of the participants are the biggest names in the poker circuit, this week's $25,000 buy-in championship event failed to attract even 200 players.

2004 World Poker Tour Player of the Year and Team PokerStars Pro member daniel negreanu said that the reason why the WPT Championship attendance continues to fall while poker tours by the online poker room that he is representing continues to grow is simple.

Negreanu said that the NAPT and the EPT and anything PokerStars does regarding the poker tour are in a different level compared to the WPT Championship. He said that what affected the WPT's model as a company was not connecting themselves to online satellites. Negreanu added that running online satellites helps improve the attendance of a poker tournament.

But while the answer sounds easy enough, Bellagio Tournament Director Jack McClelland said that the implementation of such move is hard. McClelland said that all the online sites that would like to send poker player cannot because their financial people say that they cannot accept the money. When PartyPoker acquired the World Poker Tour in the fall of 2009, the group expressed an interest in offering more satellite events for WPT events and holding the way open for competing online poker sites to do the same thing.

But with online poker involved in some legal problems in the U.S., McClelland said that Bellagio cannot accept buy-in money from online poker rooms even if they wanted to. The facility has petitioned the Nevada Gaming Commission to have the issue cleared, but no resolution has come yet.

Negreanu said that another important factor is the fact that EPT San Remo and the EPT Final in Monte Carlo are just a few days apart, helping attract at least third of the potential WPT Championship poker players across the sea for a few weeks of traveling in France and Italy. He also said that a lot of the money from the Wall Street that once occupied in the WPT's tournament went up in the air with the economic crisis.

But despite the fact that a $25,000 buy-in may be too expensive, Negreanu said that the bottom line is still the satellite poker events. McClelland said that the ash from volcanic explosion in Iceland that affected air travel in the European continent may have cost the poker event twenty to thirty players who would have flown to Europe.

But even with the air space opening up and the online satellite poker event issue cleared up, he believes that a lot of changes needs to be made to attract players back to the World Poker Tour Championship.


John Tucker

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