Any poker fan recognises the World Poker Tour as one of the biggest tournament series in the poker world that has expanded globally over the last 20 years after taking its first steps in the United States.

The tournaments within the WPT circuit have been pivotal in the growth of online poker and are now one of the leading brands in global entertainment.

In this article, we'll extensively discuss one of the best poker circuits in the world that introduced prominent figures in this game such as Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu.

The Birth of the WPT

The World Poker Tour, or WPT, as it is also known, was founded in 2002 in the United States by lawyer and television producer Steven Lipscomb with the aim of organising a series of international poker tournaments in some of the world's most famous casinos. The brilliance of the World Poker Tour's name lies in its dual interpretation. “Tour” not only embodies a series of poker tournaments but also signifies a remarkable journey encompassing the world's elite poker events.

Riding on the poker boom at the beginning of the century, the WPT helped create a cool image of the game by establishing a circuit of live poker tournaments. These poker tournaments featured televised broadcasts in a studio with hosts and special cameras that displayed the players’ hole cards and provided all kinds of additional information needed at a time when not everyone knew the rules of poker.

The intense competition with the other major American poker circuit, the World Series of Poker, and the expansion to other continents also marked the history of this iconic brand. The WPT capitalised on the poker boom at that time and became a benchmark brand, using three initials aimed at transforming poker into a major sporting spectacle, following the example of the NBA, NFL, or NHL.

The Contribution of the WPT to Poker

The first edition of the circuit commenced in 2002 and was televised on cable television in 2003. However, the pivotal point in its growth occurred on Super Bowl XXXVIII Sunday, which was broadcast by CBS. NBC made the wise decision to air a WPT “The Battle of the Champions” during the pre-game show. It was a resounding success with over 3 million viewers, the highest audience for any poker program on TV up to that point.

"Super Bowl Sunday is like an American holiday," says Jon Miller, senior vice president of programming at NBC Sports. "And we want to make this [poker] part of the mix."

The World Poker Tour became a major success, primarily due to its production, featuring two charismatic hosts, the recently departed Mike Sexton, a poker hall of famer (since replaced by Tony Dunst), and actor Vince Van Patten, along with a studio presenter who interviewed the players.

However, it was the incorporation of small cameras embedded in the tables that displayed players' hands in real time that made the World Poker Tour a huge success.

Knowing each player's cards at all times provided much more material for the commentators to work with. It also made poker shows much more thrilling and enjoyable to watch. This added a completely new dimension to televised poker games, and despite initial concerns, everyone loved it.

The so-called “hole card cams” are now an integral part of any poker programme on TV or online streaming, but at the time, they were groundbreaking. Almost all TV poker shows didn't reveal players' cards unless the action reached a showdown. Initially, professional players expressed significant concern about their moves and strategies being exposed to everyone, but they quickly realised that the benefits far outweighed the potential risks.

The Evolution of the WPT

The World Poker Tour as a television programme is undoubtedly one of the most influential names in merging poker with audio-visual entertainment. It was also through the WPT cameras that the audience got to know names that are still extremely famous in the poker world today.

The first-ever WPT in history was won by the Danish player Gus Hansen in 2002, propelling him to fame and leading to his participation in different televised poker programmes like High Stakes Poker or Poker After Dark. Other prominent players who performed well that year include the late Dave “Devilfish” Ulliott and Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari, and Howard Lederer, who led the overall rankings.

In the following editions, new names that poker fans will surely remember emerged, such as David Benyamine, Tony G, Mike Matusow, Barry Greenstein, Eli Elezra, and Daniel Negreanu.

poker tables

Carlos Mortensen, known as “El Matador” and of Ecuadorian nationality, won a WPT event in the third season at the Bellagio Casino, earning $1 million. However, Mortensen's most significant victory occurred in 2007 at the WPT Championship, also at the Bellagio, where he won the largest prize ever in WPT history, almost $4 million.

Today, the WPT broadcasts poker tournaments in over 150 countries and territories. The WPT is aired on the regional Bally’s Sports networks in the United States and has come a long way since its first season aired on the Travel Channel in the spring of 2003.

The Travel Channel was the home of WPT in its first five seasons before moving to its permanent home on Fox, following a brief period on GSN.

The worldwide growth in interest in the WPT poker tour recently led executives to secure deals with major broadcasters in different parts of the world. In the spring of 2019, TV Azteca announced an agreement with WPT to broadcast live events in Latin America, and the British broadcaster BT Sport confirmed that it would broadcast all WPT events in the UK and Ireland starting that same year.

As a result of its recent growth, the WPT has become one of the world's leading poker brands, second only to the WSOP.

Celebrity Engagement and Sponsorships in WPT Poker Tournaments

The World Poker Tour has seen significant engagement from celebrities, contributing to the tournament's allure and expanding its reach to broader audiences. Celebrities, attracted by the excitement and prestige of the WPT events, have actively participated, either as players, hosts, or contributors, adding an extra layer of glamour and entertainment to the poker stage.

Stars from various industries, including entertainment, sports, and business, have graced the WPT felt. Notable names like Ben Affleck, James Woods, and Don Cheadle have showcased their poker skills, competing among professional players and adding an element of star power to the tournaments. Their presence not only drew attention from fans but also raised the profile of the WPT events, attracting a wider audience demographic.

Moreover, the involvement of celebrities as hosts or ambassadors for the WPT has been instrumental in popularizing the tournament series. Renowned personalities like Vince Van Patten and the late Mike Sexton, with their expertise and charisma, contributed significantly to the tournament's success. Their on-screen presence, insightful commentary, and rapport with players and audiences alike helped elevate the overall viewing experience, making the WPT more appealing and engaging for viewers worldwide.

Sponsorships have played a pivotal role in the growth and success of the WPT. Partnerships with prominent brands and companies have provided crucial support and resources, enabling the expansion of the tournament series. Sponsorship deals not only enhanced the visibility of the WPT but also facilitated the development of innovative tournament formats, technological advancements, and increased prize pools, thereby elevating the overall standards of the tournaments.

The symbiotic relationship between celebrity involvement and sponsorships has further propelled the WPT's prominence. Collaborations with influential personalities and brands have not only enriched the tournament experience but have also reinforced the WPT's status as a premier platform in the world of poker. The convergence of celebrity engagement and strategic sponsorships continues to be a driving force behind the WPT's evolution and enduring success.

Player of the Year and WPT Records

In addition to the champion of the WPT World Championship, a WPT poker tournament held at the end of each season, the tour also awards a prize for the Player of the Year, recognizing the player who consistently achieves the best results in tournaments throughout the season.

Similar to what happens at the WSOP, a points system based on the size of the prize pool for each event is utilised, rewarding players who perform well at the conclusion of each tournament.

To date, 20 players have been honoured with this title:






Howard Lederer



Erick Lindgren



Daniel Negreanu



Gavin Smith



J. C. Tran



Jonathan Little



Bertrand Grospellier



Faraz Jaka



Andy Frankerberger



Joe Serock



Matthew Salsberg



Mukul Pahuja



Anthony Zinno



Mike Shariati



Benjamin Zamani



Art Papazyan



Erkut Yilmaz



Brian Altman



Jake Ferro



Chad Eveslage

Not only have these names made history in the WPT. In fact, several players hold impressive records, such as Darren Elias, Phil Ivey, and Anthony Zinno.


WPT Titles Record





Darren Elias



Eric Afriat


Brian Altman

Gus Hansen

Carlos Mortensen

David Rheem

Anthony Zinno


WPT Final Tables Record





Darren Elias



Phil Ivey



Scotty Nguyen



Eric Afriat


Gus Hansen

Michael Mizrachi

Daniel Negreanu

David Pham

J. C. Tran

Anthony Zinno


WPT Number of Cashes Record





Darren Elias



Anthony Zinno



Mohsin Charania



Jared Jaffee


Jonathan Little

Lee Markholt


WPT Historic Moments

The WPT has created a wealth of unforgettable moments and iconic matches that have become milestones in the realm of televised poker tournaments. These events have shaped the very essence of this global phenomenon.

Since its inception, the WPT's maiden season heralded a paradigm shift in the realm of poker entertainment. The Bellagio's grand stage introduced televised high-stakes poker tournaments, instantly captivating audiences and laying the foundation for a cultural spectacle that would define an era.

The WPT Championship, the cornerstone of historic triumphs, has witnessed unforgettable victories that have etched players' names into the annals of poker history. Alan Goehring's conquest in the 2003 WPT Championship stands as an embodiment of skill and strategic prowess, cementing the tournament's distinguished legacy.

Poker luminaries such as Doyle Brunson have indelibly marked the WPT poker tournaments, showcasing their adaptability and fortitude. Brunson's enduring victory at the WPT Festa al Lago in 2004 illuminated the capabilities of seasoned players in the ever-evolving poker landscape.

As the WPT gained momentum, record-breaking victories became synonymous with the tournament's legacy. Joe Bartholdi's historic win at the 2006 WPT Championship ushered in an era of escalating prize pools and heightened competition, propelling the tournament's allure to new heights.

Amidst the triumphs, the poignant victory of the late Mike Sexton at WPT Montreal in 2016 remains an emotional cornerstone, honouring the legacy of a revered poker ambassador and serving as a reminder of his profound contributions to the game.

The introduction of the WPT Tournament of Champions stands as a testament to the tournament's rich history. This exclusive event brought together past champions in an elite competition that celebrated their achievements and legacies, adding another layer of prestige to the tournament series.

Moreover, intense heads-up battles between poker titans became iconic moments on the WPT stage. Legendary matchups like Phil Ivey vs. Daniel Negreanu and Gus Hansen versus Phil Hellmuth exemplified the intensity, skill, and dramatic allure of high-level poker, captivating audiences and leaving an enduring imprint on the fabric of the game.


The rivalry between WPT and WSOP is worth examining. While the WSOP, in existence since 1970, focuses on a series of tournaments featuring different poker variants and buy-ins, taking place over a few weeks at a fixed location (initially at Binion's Horseshoe Casino, presently at Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas).

The WPT, created in 2002, involved participation from various casinos across the United States (and later from casinos worldwide) culminating in a grand finale in Las Vegas, offering significant prizes.

The organisers of the WSOP did not want to lag behind and chose to create the WSOP Circuit in 2005, which doesn’t feature events in July or August due to the annual break for the live WSOP in Las Vegas.

In terms of timing, the WPT circuit ran from summer to the following spring when the grand finale took place, whereas the WSOP circuit begins in January and ends at the year's end.

Subsequently, the WPT moved its starting dates a bit earlier, kicking off in May. The international expansion of the WSOP circuit also eventually occurred, albeit a few years after its WPT counterpart, but somewhat in parallel directions. Besides the WSOP Europe, which is considered a distinct brand, the WSOP circuit hosted stops in Canada and South Africa before expanding into Europe starting in 2015, with regular stops in Campione, Italy, or Rozvadov, Czech Republic.

From 2016 onward, other countries began hosting WSOP circuit tournaments, including Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Portugal, Belgium, Australia, and Morocco.

From a marketing standpoint, the WSOP brand stands out due to its antiquity and authenticity, being pioneers in organising large-scale poker tournaments. At the same time, the WPT is a brand renowned for its broadcasts, transforming poker into a televised spectacle that attracts more fans and enthusiasts for the most spectacular strategies and plays in poker.

Moreover, the WPT also created other WPT brands that are not part of the main circuit, such as the WPT Nationals (WPT national circuits) or the WPT500 (tournaments with a $500 buy-in), all maintaining the original concept regarding studio television broadcasts and other details that make the WPT a unique and recognisable product.


WPT’s Cultural and Economic Impact

The WPT has left a significant imprint on both the cultural and economic landscapes, reshaping perceptions of poker and leaving a lasting impact on local economies. As televised poker gained popularity through the WPT, it evolved into a mainstream sport, influencing pop culture and attracting enthusiasts globally. The tour’s fusion of entertainment, strategy, and competition transformed poker from a card game into a cultural phenomenon, captivating audiences and transcending societal boundaries.

Simultaneously, the economic impact of the WPT on host cities and regions cannot be overstated. These tournaments serve as major attractions, drawing in participants and spectators, thereby boosting tourism and local economies. The influx of players, media attention, and increased footfall in hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues during WPT poker tournaments contribute significantly to the economic vitality of host locations, fostering growth and revenue generation.

The WPT's success lies in its ability to expand internationally while adapting to diverse cultures and regulations. As the tournament series ventured beyond its American roots, it encountered various cultural nuances and legal frameworks in different countries. Adapting to these differences required flexibility in tournament structures, broadcasting regulations, and player accommodations, ensuring that the WPT events maintained their integrity while respecting local customs and laws.

In its international expansion, the WPT facilitated cultural exchange, bringing together players from diverse backgrounds and creating a global poker community. The tournaments acted as a melting pot of cultures, fostering camaraderie and mutual understanding among participants, transcending linguistic and cultural barriers.

Additionally, the WPT's commitment to charitable initiatives and social impact deserves acknowledgement. Through fundraising events, partnerships with charitable organizations, and efforts to promote responsible gaming, the WPT has endeavoured to give back to society. These initiatives aimed to support various causes, from healthcare and education to community development, showcasing the tournament's social responsibility and its role beyond poker.

The convergence of cultural influence, economic stimulation, international expansion, and social consciousness within the World Poker Tour exemplifies its multifaceted impact, transcending the realm of gaming and leaving a broader legacy that extends into society and global communities.


In summary, the World Poker Tour represents one of the most remarkable revolutions in the poker industry. Founded in 2002 by Steven Lipscomb, the WPT brought a breath of fresh air to the world of poker by transforming it into a globally recognised televised spectacle. By creating a circuit of live poker tournaments broadcasted on TV, with cameras revealing players' cards and offering a unique insight into what players might be thinking, WPT helped popularise poker in an almost unprecedented manner.

Moreover, the WPT expanded internationally, becoming an influential brand worldwide, rivalling only the iconic WSOP. The circuit provided poker players with a global stage to compete and achieve fame, as seen with names like Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, and Carlos Mortensen.

With its technical innovations and the vision to turn poker into sporting entertainment, the WPT remains a dominant force in the world of poker. Broadcast in over 150 countries, the brand continues to attract new players and fuel the passion of poker enthusiasts. With a rich history brimming with memorable moments, the WPT remains an integral part of poker history and an example of how a bold vision can transform a card game into a global spectacle.

Poker lover and player, Frederico brings topics of interest about the modality to our blog. Articles about strategy, tips, news or simple curiosities will be a regular presence here at 888Poker.