The World Poker Tour® has announced that it will move all Season 17 televised final tables to Las Vegas, where they will play out at the new ESports Arena located within the Luxor Hotel & Casino property.

The “delayed final tables” approach will mark a major shift for both WPT personnel and the poker players who compete in televised events, and has sparked abundant feedback only hours after PokerNews broke the story.

About the ESports Arena at Luxor Las Vegas

The ESports Arena officially opened on March 22nd of this year, and has already hosted several high profile events including the Ninja Vegas ’18 FORTNITE charity tournament that attracted 700 on-site fans along with 667,000 concurrent live stream viewers, and Golden Knights NHL Playoffs “viewing parties” that have become a hot ticket for locals.

The ESALV venue is conveniently located on the famous Las Vegas Strip, and has instantly become one of the most solicited bookings in town.

As soon as we saw this space, we knew this could really be a great opportunity, WPT CEO Adam Pliska told PokerNews contributor Mo Nuwwarah. “It allows us to give that sport experience. We are so proud that we will be able to use this facility in the future and do some innovative things coming up.”

In a separate Las Vegas Review-Journal article related to the overall business opportunities for the ESports Arena, gaming industry analyst Chris Grove said, “With this venue, this team and this partner (MGM Resorts International), if they can’t make this work, I’m not sure who could at this point in time.”

WPT TV Final Table Move is Exciting News for Poker Industry (Analysis)

Having major, televised poker final tables broadcast within the Esports Arena is most definitely a “win” for poker industry pursuits. Exposing the peer-to-peer, real money wagering card game to fans of popular skill-based eSports titles such as Overwatch, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), and League of Legends is a significant step for getting “competitive” poker formats back into the hearts and minds of an important 21-35 age demographic.

Poker’s popularity may have suffered online over the past decade — as rampant operator scandals coupled with government crackdowns have made the format less attractive to internet players. Yet the “live” game is thriving in certain regional pockets of the United States.

The ESports Arena will lend a certain level of “prestige” and “credibility” to the televised WPT Season 17 final tables, which are likely to attract positive viewership numbers due to economized scheduling that will see the venue host multiple major final tables in a single day — with a total of nine televised final tables programmed for the 2018-2019 season.

The complex is also tailor-made for both live and internet viewership, which should grant the World Poker Tour an opportunity to create high quality broadcast content that will be palatable to a broad spectrum of poker enthusiasts.

On top of this, the ESports Arena will continue to open up numerous commercial partnership opportunities that have not been available to land-based poker operators since Black Friday 2011, when a U.S. Department of Justice crackdown on unregulated internet sites cast a cloud over the entire industry and restricted new investment into the game.

What GPL Had in Mind, Only Much Better?

Initial reactions to the announcement from a handful of media-leaning Twitter accounts and TwoPlusTwo NVG forum contributors have not been positive.

Forum poster Boss716 opened the official 2+2 thread with, “This can’t be true, can it? Make a final table and have to wait weeks/months and travel to Las Vegas? This is terrible, mind blowing actually.”

DougPolkPoker YouTube channel administrator Thomas Keeling (SrslySirius) quickly responded that “It’s an interesting idea. I wouldn’t outright dismiss it. It sounds similar to the sort of thing GPL was trying to do, but superior in every way.”

Alex DreyfusGlobal Poker League vision had similar aspirations — to one day hold a widely-anticipated showcase event at a high profile facility similar to the ESports Arena. But Alex Dreyfus also wanted to veer the League away from U.S. brick & mortar casinos, and was willing to pay the talent for their time, put up $100,000 in freeroll cash, and shop the venue on his own to achieve this — in exchange for multi-year contract commitments and use of League-branded assets.

Unfortunately the logistics of shelling out six-figures USD for international shipping of The Cube made it an expensive date, while the on-air production values of the League made it an expensive flop. This reality was only exacerbated by a lack of meaningful sponsorship or player engagement with the product.

But one distinction the GPL clearly had was that it was not gambling.

But Wait… How Will WPT Decision Benefit Players? (Forum Reactions)

If poker players who participate in WPT events were paid talent (such as the GPL), then the move of nine Season 17 final tables to Las Vegas wouldn’t receive the pushback it has. But players who enter WPT events do so with their own money, while paying an additional “rake” fee on top of the prize pool buy-in to finance event costs.

Forum member WateryBoil drove home the point of how this change will make WPT televised events less attractive to players outside of Nevada — especially those who compete in sanctioned TV tournaments outside the U.S. (although it is unclear whether any international WPT Season 17 events will be televised).

Imagine being the short stack in 6th place, having to wait 4-6 WEEKS, [then] you MUST FLY from X to Vegas to play, then busting in 6th and getting exactly what you would have got if the format remained the same. Like rec players even play 10k lol, that arnt getting coaching or give a **** already. I like how they dismiss EVERY POKER PLAYER in europe as, ‘this idea might be unpopular to euro players.’

Yeah no **** it would be. Im canadian even but its just awful to read. That is simply cancer. You know NONE of the TV ad revenue will go the players either. Disgusting.”

Unofficial TwoPlusTwo NVG Prognosticator Nocturnity agreed. “Imho, whatever benefits the players do get from this change better be good to offset all the negatives (and they are big ones) as stated above by WateryBoil.”

Vote with your wallet. If you don’t like it, and I can see why, don’t play. Make it costly for them,” added Kelvis.

There has already been significant pushback from an industry-leaning California player as well, as former PokerStars lead marketing consultant Steve Badger posted the following.

Indeed, WPT Season 17 participants from Las Vegas who compete in televised events will hold a decided advantage over the rest of the field.

In Summary: WPT TV Final Tables Move to ESports Arena

Although classifying real money poker tournaments as a “sport” is a stretch, brick & mortar casino interests in Las Vegas are not necessarily burdened with the sweeping regulations that are hitting the licensed iGaming industry.

The commercial partnerships that the World Poker Tour has cultivated, along with the brand new ESports Arena venue means WPT officials are likely to “beast it through” and make good on their promise to execute their Season 17 plan. Whether this idea turns out to be a legitimate “win-win” for players (who reside outside of Nevada) remains to be seen. That will depend heavily on how well TV final table participants are treated in Las Vegas.

Individuals who begin competition in their home city, pay the original entry fee there, but then fly out to Vegas weeks later to receive their tournament payout from the Luxor Hotel & Casino may be exposed to a wide array of taxation procedures from different jurisdictions — which could very well force non-Vegas tournament customers to reconsider entering an event that they know will have a televised final table in Las Vegas.

For now, the news is every bit as exciting as has been advertised from an industry perspective. Poker fans who enjoy live-streamed, major final table action are likely to be in for a treat too, and the ESports Arena provides cross-over opportunities that aren’t available at other casino venues.

WPT Season 17 televised final table broadcasts may have a “local” Las Vegas vibe, but that doesn’t mean the shows can’t be uniquely attractive to a worldwide audience.

Only time will tell if these changes result in an embrace or a cold shoulder from WPT major tournament players, but the initial feedback has been overwhelmingly negative.

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