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WPT Announces Schedule for Tournament of Champions, New Event

Originally set as a singular event, the World Poker Tour recently announced that the third running of the WPT Tournament of Champions, this year being held for the first time at ARIA in Las Vegas, would be joined by a new tournament previously unscheduled as well as other preliminary tournaments.

What is now being called the “Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions Festival” will kick off on May 17 with its first event, a $ 10,000 buy-in Omaha Hi/Lo tournament. There will also be four one-day $ 25,000 “High Roller” tournaments and a solo $ 100,000 “Super High Roller” event. What will close out the festivities are the two official WPT events on the schedule, one the previously known Tournament of Champions and the other a new event.

The final official stop of the Season XVI schedule will now be the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, a $ 10,000 buy-in event that wasn’t previously part of the discussion. The tournament is named for the former World Champion whose prowess on the poker tables and the boardrooms of Las Vegas have become legendary. With one opportunity for re-entry into the event, it is possible that the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic – which replaces the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale of the past two years – could be one of the bigger tournaments of this year when it begins on May 20.

“ARIA takes great pride in being the host of the Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions,” said Sean McCormack, director of poker operations for ARIA. “We have developed a tremendous festival of events, highlighted by the premiere of the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, and are excited to welcome the biggest names in poker to Las Vegas in May.”

Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour, added, “The World Poker Tour is thrilled to bring the illustrious WPT Tournament of Champions to the luxurious ARIA, as we close out a historic Season XVI. The WPT Tournament of Champions is our most prized event, and the winner will join Farid Yachou and Daniel Weinman as a WPT Tournament of Champions winner. We look forward to returning to Las Vegas, the birthplace of the WPT and the global home of poker, to crown this season’s champion of champions.”

Once the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic has concluded, the WPT Tournament of Champions will kick off its action. On May 24 (the day after the conclusion of the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic), the ToC will open play for its third ever event. All the champions of the Season XVI schedule will be in the field (they have already had $ 15,000 deducted from their prize winnings) and, if any previous WPT champion wishes to join the tournament, they will put up $ 15K to get in the game. In the past two seasons, there have been other additions to the prize pool, including last year’s tournament which saw an Audi up as one of the spoils to the victor.

One problem that the ToC has had:  getting the players out to take part in the tournament. Once you limit the field to only previous WPT champions (now totaling 237 players; it will be 243 by the end of the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, if no previous champion wins again), you then must look at who is going to show. Some former champions, including Doyle Brunson and Mel Judah, aren’t as active in the tournament world anymore. Someone like Howard Lederer isn’t exactly considered welcome in tournaments (outside the WSOP, it seems) and unfortunately others have passed away (David ‘Devil Fish’ Ulliott). A look at the first two staging’s of this tournament demonstrate this difficulty in getting players.

When it was originally held in 2016 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, 64 players came out as Farid Yachou captured the inaugural championship. Fast forward to 2017 and the number clicked up to 66 as David Weinman defeated Michael Mizrachi to capture the title. With the move to Las Vegas for the 2018 ToC, it is perhaps thought by WPT officials that more former champs will come out and take part in the tournament rather than go across the country to play the ToC in Florida.

It promises to be an outstanding week of poker in May as the WPT wraps up its Season XVI schedule by crowning its final champion, its Player of the Year and the next “champion of champions” with the Tournament of Champions!

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