History of the World Poker Tour
The WPT, together with the EPT and WSOP, was arguably the catalyst which drove poker, particularly Hold ‘Em poker, to the lofty heights that it now enjoys throughout the world. The tension and thrills at each final table of the 20 or more tournaments scheduled for each year, has kept thousand, nay millions, of avid fans enraptured in their own living rooms. There is very little that can beat the excitement of watching consummate pros winning and losing thousand of dollars across a green felt table!
Not many would have put their money on poker becoming one of the most watched ‘sports’ on television and it probably would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Steven Lipscomb, the WPT and the players themselves.
Apart from the soaring television ratings, the tour itself has grown enormously since its debut in 2002. The inaugural tour boasted just 14 events but now in Season Six there are 20 events counting the latest WPT offering, the 2008 WPT Ladies Championship to be held at the Bellagio Casino later on in the year.
The Tour in Trouble
Although the tour has met with dazzling success it has had its fair share of problems. In 2006 seven of the most influential poker pros decided to take the tour to task for its anti-competitive stance.
Their complaints arose from the fact that the WPT contractual paperwork interfered with their contractual obligations to other companies, including casinos, other poker tours and online poker rooms.
One of the major issues to be ironed out is that WPT Enterprises Inc., the governing body of the tour, had a contract with hosting casinos which, in effect, excluded them, and other casinos owned by the same parent company, from hosting non-WPTE events.
The players, including famous pros Howard “The Professor” Lederer, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, and World Series champs Joseph Hachem and Greg Raymer, argued that WPT Enterprises Inc. made them waive lucrative rights to use their images and names to promote products and video games before they could enter WPT tournaments.
“All I’m asking is that they not compete against me, with me, without even offering to pay me or asking my permission,” Lederer said. “People are being paid seven-figure endorsement contracts. These are rights that should not be demanded of us for nothing.”
The trial date has been set for August 2008.