Backed By the Name of a Poker Legend, WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic Presents Big Opportunity for ARIA

May 20, 2018

By Sean Chaffin

WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic felt

The cards are in the air at the inaugural WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic at ARIA Resort & Casino, and ARIA poker officials hope the $10,000 buy-in event becomes one of the bigger events on poker schedule – and a very special way to honor the legacy of a poker legend.

Sean McCormack, director of poker operations for ARIA, sees the WPT Baldwin Classic as a way to bridge a gap in the property’s major tournament offerings.

“When I arrived here in late 2015, the only real tournament that we had going on here were big events like the WPT500, of course, and then we had the Super High Roller Bowl,” McCormack, who’s been with the company for 12 years, said. “You’re talking a $300,000 buy-in tournament and a $500 buy-in tournament, and I was like, ‘We’re going to bridge the gap here a little bit. We’ve got to get something in the middle.’”

Formerly with Bellagio for 10 years, McCormack says the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic is one of his favorite events and saw the WPT Bobby Baldwin as a way to bring similar prestige to ARIA.

“There’s such an opportunity at ARIA,” McCormack said. “ARIA is the new up-and-coming poker room. The game went from the Golden Nugget to the Mirage to Bellagio. Bellagio is always going to be a staple of Las Vegas poker, but ARIA is kind of like sharing that pie with our sister property.”

McCormack worked with other ARIA officials to bring in a $10,000 event, and players had been clamoring for a major WPT event at the property, McCormack said. With that, the poker brass seized the opportunity.

I tossed the idea around to Bobby Baldwin and Angelica Hael, [VP of global tour management for the World Poker Tour],” McCormack said. “The timing and everything just worked out. They were also looking for an opportunity to bring the WPT Tournament of Champions here, so we kind of just rolled it all in one.

“Then it took me all of about 30 seconds to say that the event needs to be named after Bobby, probably one of the greatest men ever to play the game of poker.”

That meant the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic was born. What was his reaction when McCormack presented the idea of naming the tournament after him?

“He was excited for the opportunity for the property to get more exposure, with that level of player and a 10K buy-in,” McCormack said. “I told him I wanted to name the event after him. He’s a pretty humble guy, so he was like, ‘Oh that sounds good.’ That was literally his reaction. A lot of other guys would be like, ‘Yeah that’s great, I love it!’ but Bobby is very humble.”

Organizers behind the event hope the Baldwin cachet carries the event on for years to come.

I’m a Bellagio guy, I’m an MGM Resorts guy,” McCormack said. “I come from there and we were charter WPT members over there, and the very first WPT event. They’re still doing WPT Five Diamond today and it’s such a great event. I see this event and our partnership with the WPT going for many years.”

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