Prior to the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas, there was little doubt that the event was going to be a success. Sure there were questions about the $15 million guarantee and how it was all going to go down, but when the World Poker Tour brand teamed up with the Wynn, all expectations were that the festival was bound to be a hit.
That said, the extent to which it overwhelmed the industry provided everyone involved with a delightful surprise. The feedback, from beginning to end, was nearly universally positive – especially from the players who received world-class treatment throughout.
So when tasked to pull highlights from a festival overrun with highlights, it’s nearly impossible to have a complete list. There are simply too many – but we’re going to give it a shot anyway and take one look back at one of the biggest events of 2022.
Stars Electrify Opening Meet-Up Game
The “electric” kick-off event of the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas festival set the tone for the entire month. Officially dubbed “The Premier Meet-Up Game: WPT Poker Icons Experience,” it was essentially the concept created by WPT ambassadors Brad Owen and Andrew Neeme infused with the additional star power of Phil Ivey, Patrik Antonius, Steve Aoki, WPT talent, and Doyle Brunson (who received a standing ovation upon arrival). Anyone who was there can attest, the energy in the room was palpable as long-time fans batted against some of their poker heroes in an effort to win one of four WPT $10K World Championship seats being given away. The event, served as a precursor for a festival that more than lived up to the hype.
WPT Prime Surprises Everybody
“Nobody, I don’t think anybody – from WPT, from the Wynn – nobody expected that final number,” said WPT VP Global Tour Management, Angelica Hael
WPT Prime, World Poker Tour’s rebrand for their mid-stakes events, had a successful launch this year, but no one really could have foreseen the heights of the WPT Prime Championship Event at the Wynn. When all was said and done, WPT Prime Championship drew 5,430 entries – absolutely crushing the advertised $2 million guarantee with its $5.2 million prize pool. The event, which many thought would essentially be a prelim to the WPT World Championship, turned into a must-play event all on its own.
High Roller Hits 100, ‘Rampage’ Lives Up To His Name
When Ethan Yau was considering whether to take a shot in the WPT World Championship $25K, he wondered aloud (on Twitter) if the event would see 100 runners – a field size thought by many to be well out of reach. Not only did the high rollers and shot takers show up and surpass the 100-entry mark (make it 108 to be exact) but Yau decided to be a part of that group. It turned out to be a good decision for the superstar poker vlogger. Yau took two shots, and even though he feared he would fall outside the money, he battled late into the night to lock up the largest single score of his young career to the delight of his fans and those tuned into the livestream.
The $15M Guarantee…Never In Doubt
From the time Day 1A got started, there was optimism among organizers that the $15 million WPT World Championship guarantee was going to be easily met. Some even thought $20 million was possible.
However, just 24 hours later at the start of Day 1B, the question wasn’t if, it was when and before WPT could get a big announcement out that the guarantee had hit $20 million…it was well on its way to $25 million. In the end, the prize pool swelled to just over $29 million with players creating a $4.1 million first-place prize – the largest single payday in WPT’s 20-year history.
Also of note: the ripple effect of the World Championship guarantee being surpassed was having so many people ready to fire in other tournaments. All of the side events had elevated prize pools – case in point, the two-day $3K No Limit Hold’em with a $500,000 guarantee on December 15-16 had 907 entries and a prize pool of $2.5 million.
Daniel’s Deep Run
Even though Daniel Negreanu doesn’t travel with the World Poker Tour these days, he’s still a big part of its legacy with two WPT titles and over $5.8 million in WPT earnings – second only to Carlos Mortensen in career WPT earnings.
So when Negreanu, one of the game’s biggest stars, was making a deep run on Day 4 and Day 5 in the WPT World Championship the eyes of the entire industry were on him. Negreanu became a constant reoccurring presence on the WPT Livestream keeping the proceedings light and entertaining even when the pressure intensified. With just three tables left in the tournament on Day 5, it looked like he had a real shot at being in the mix at the very end. However, Negreanu took a staggering bad beat in 17th place when his flopped set of deuces got run down on the river to finish in 17th place for $176,200 – his most significant WPT score since 2015.
Qualifiers Gunna Qualify
Negreanu wasn’t the only big name to show up at the Wynn. On the contrary, it seemed like all of the biggest names in the game made their way to Sin City for the winter. Joining the marquee names though were hundreds upon hundreds of qualifiers who had won their way online through WPT Global and ClubWPT. Perhaps even more impressive were the hordes of players that won their way into festival events through the Wynn’s Milestone satellites.
These Milestone satellites proved to be immensely popular. Rather than play down to a specific number of winners, it encouraged aggression by awarding seats when players reached a specific chip count. The majority, if not all of them, crushed the number of seats they guaranteed including a 50-seat guaranteed satellite that awarded roughly 110 seats.
Women Came To Play
The WPT’s commitment to making the game of poker more inclusive was on display at the festival. The schedule featured another Meet-Up Game exclusively for women spearheaded by Jaime Kerstetter as well as the first-ever WPT Ladies Championship with a $200,000 guarantee, the largest in history for a women’s event. And the women in the poker community responded by showing up in force for the Meet-Up game and crushing the Ladies Championship guarantee to the tune of $560,660.
In addition to Lina Niu winning her first WPT title in the Ladies Event for more than $105,136, women were, as they always are, a major part of all aspects of the festival. From Lara Eisenberg finishing runner-up in the WPT Prime Championship to LoriAnn Persinger, a qualifier, finishing in 30th in the World Championship for $119,300 there was no shortage of major scores for women. Don’t forget legendary tournament pro Kathy Liebert cashed in all of the Championship events, including a final table in the Ladies Event. And in the end, Cherish Andrews locked up the Player of the Festival with a strong run late in the series. For those that care about both growth and diversity in the game of poker, there were wins everywhere you looked.
Kilbane & Co. Crush the WPT Livestream
Obviously, not everyone in the poker world could make it to the Wynn this December. But for those at home, WPT did everything they could to make fans feel they were a part of the action with a world-class stream expertly anchored by Henry Kilbane. The WPT Livestream was must-see TV with a variety of offerings from the vlogger game to the nosebleed stakes of Rail Heaven.
All of the cash game offerings were stellar, but the broadcast took off when the World Championship took center stage, giving people the heart of the historic tournament. In the end, poker enthusiasts had a front-row seat to history.