WPT Co-Founder Lyle Berman Enjoyed Long Ride in World Championship

WPT co-founder Lyle Berman made a prolific run in the 2023 WPT World Championship, and ultimately finished in 89th place in a field of over 3,800 entrants.

Tim Fiorvanti
Dec 18, 2023
Lyle Berman battled through four long days of poker and more than held his own, ultimately finishing 89th in the 2023 WPT World Championship.

Back in 2001, the World Poker Tour was just an idea bantered about between Steve Lipscomb and Lyle Berman. By early 2003, the earliest episodes of the WPT began to air, and more than 20 years later we’re in the midst of the biggest Championship Event in the history of the tour at the WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.

Berman was there in the WPT’s earliest, most formative days. And on Monday, as Day 4 of the World Championship kicked off with just 132 players in the field, Berman was deep in the mix as a player, with a chance to claim the spoils of a tournament that even he couldn’t have imagined all the way back in the early 2000s.

“I don’t think I ever could have envisioned it,” said Berman. “To have, you know, almost 4,000 people playing from all over the world. I was sitting at my table next to somebody, and I asked, “Where are you from?” He said Hungary. It’s just amazing. And it’s exciting, like everybody likes it. It’s just a great tournament, and it’s gonna go on for a long time.

“When we first founded it, me and Steve Limpscomb, I didn’t think, ‘20 years from now, it would still be going, and not just strong, but stronger than ever.’ So I’m very happy to see that, of course. I often say, when I play with people half my age that you’re playing because of me. And when they ask what I mean, I tell them about the beginning.”

Berman, who carried over 4 million chips into play on Monday , made the first break of Day 4 and officially cracked the top 100 players in this historic event. Unfortunately for him, big into some big hands as his run in the tournament ended in 89th place, good for a $47,100 payout.

“It was a great run. I enjoyed it,” said Berman. “Last year I played, and I went out in about two hours. This year, I played quite conservatively. Today I waited around, and I finally got dealt queens when I had about 4.5 million chips. I got into an all in with a guy who had kings.

“Then, at the end, I still had 2 million. I was on the big blind and after one guy opened, I moved in with Club A Club 3, I figured I’d probably pick it up. But the guy had two aces, even though I had one. It was kind of a disappointing end.”

Berman spoke alongside current WPT CEO Adam Pliska on Day 1D of the 2023 WPT World Championship.

Beyond being a foundational presence at the outset of the World Poker Tour, Berman has been a player on the tour at various points along the way over the last 20 years. Most notably, Berman finished fifth in the 2005 WPT World Poker Finals at Foxwoods back in Season 4 notable for a few factors. It was a final table that featured Allen Cunningham, and it was ultimately won by a then-little known 21-year-old named Nick Schulman, who took home $2,167,500.

Comparing the poker played at that point in time to what he faced in the 2023 WPT World Championship field, Berman had some notes.

“This seemed more intense,” said Berman. “Maybe because it’s much higher stakes – certainly we weren’t playing for this much way back when. You also have many more chips in front of you, millions and millions. The rounds are costing you, I think when I went out, 200,000 chips to play. Maybe it’s just me, because I’m a little tired right now, but I feel like the level of play is more intense here than it did 20 years ago.”

Berman got to share the stage with a lot of familiar faces along the way during the 2023 WPT World Championship, but by the time he made it to Day 4 there weren’t too many that he recognized from previous eras. By the time of his elimination, Berman had tangled with players from all over the world, and left Wynn Las Vegas proud of the effort he’d put forth.

“There were a number of people impressed me with their play, but I didn’t know many of them,” said Berman. “What’s so interesting is that 3,800 people entered and I know a lot of the people in this event. But today, when there was only 132 people left, I think I recognized one player; I didn’t know anybody well, but I recognized Joe Cada by name, only because he had won the WSOP Main Event.

“I didn’t recognize a single other name, and these players are from all over the world,” said Berman. “I know many players who didn’t get this far, and it takes a lot to get down to 90 players. It’s better than I thought I would do.”