By Paul Seaton
The World Poker Tour is about to kick off the WPT Online Series, with the WPT Online Championship winner getting their name on the famous gigantic WPT trophy for the first time. We caught up with World Poker Tour Champions Club member and former WPT presenting legend turned partypoker Chairman Mike Sexton to discuss the latest developments.
“It’s pretty exciting – the first-ever WPT Online Poker Championship series, especially with the huge guarantees,” Sexton told us. “One of the greatest things about the WPT, since it started, is certainly how global it has become.”
That’s an important point made by one of the integral figures in the WPT’s early success. Sexton was everywhere in the early years right through to 2017, when he became partypoker Chairman. From a cruise ship to the TV studio with regular co-anchor and friend Vince van Patten, Sexton has seen it all.
“For the first seven or eight years, our WPT event in Paris was the only event that gave the WPT its global credibility,” says Sexton. “Kudos to Steve Lipscomb and Bruno Fitoussi for that, as it cemented that it was OK to be called the World Poker Tour. Since Adam Pliska took over as CEO of the WPT in 2009, with the assistance of Angelica Hael [VP of Global Tour Management and Hermance Blum, VP Europe] they have truly done an incredible job of expanding the WPT brand around the world and globalizing the WPT.”
Sexton is equally quick to credit the WPT with adding in the WPTDeepstacks and WPT500 tours alongside the WPT Main Tour.
“It provides so many more players the opportunity to participate in WPT sanctioned events. It’s only because of the WPT’s global expansion that any thoughts of a WPT Online Poker championship could even be considered today, especially since you do so without U.S. participation.”
The WPT’s relationship with online poker has developed from the early stages to a WPT event now being hosted online. As Sexton explains, it’s been quite the ride.
“In the beginning, they recognized how much money the online sites were making and a lot of it was credited to the WPT and the poker explosion that they created. However, they were a publicly-traded company, meaning they couldn’t legally operate an online site. In 2018, the WPT and partypoker LIVE announced a four-year partnership where players could qualify online on partypoker for WPT events around the globe.”
That partnership has already seen players qualify for WPT events far and wide via the comfort of their homes on partypoker software, and that collaboration is something that Sexton believes has kept the WPT poker’s foremost and far flung poker tour.
“Because of the success of WPT events in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere as a result of partnering with partypoker LIVE, it was only a matter of time before the WPT would have an online poker series that was hosted by partypoker. That time for a little poker history to be made is May 3rd – 19th for the first-ever WPT Online Poker Championship!”
Sexton is clearly thrilled that the latest innovation from the WPT and partypoker partnership will see a huge series take place online. The natural assumption during times dominated by news of the current global pandemic we’re all dealing with might be to credit COVID-19 as being the driving force behind this innovation, but Sexton is quick to shut that down as false.
“The truth is that this agreement was finalized last year prior to COVID-19 even existing. Rob Yong deserves a lot of credit for the huge prize pool guarantees being put up, as they are the same as for a WPT live event. In doing that, it shows the confidence he has as to how global the WPT has become.”
Players will be desperate to be the first-ever WPT Online Main Event winner and get their name on that famous trophy. Sexton would like to see them in the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions and being a WPT Montreal Main Event winner, he already has his ticket.
“I’m all for the WPT Online champion getting to play in the Tournament of Champions and he or she should get that opportunity. Honestly, what I’m looking forward to most is for this event to make all the prize pool guarantees, which are massive! The Main Event is a $3,200 buy-in with a $5 million guaranteed prize pool.”
With a WPT500 and WPTDeepstacks events as well as High Roller events on the schedule for the WPT Online Series, there’s a game for everyone. Mike Sexton will be playing plenty of the series himself and looks forward to meeting players at the virtual felt. Satellites are already running now on partypoker for players to qualify.
“I believe players around the globe will love the opportunity to play in the first-ever WPT Online Poker Championship on partypoker!”