Professional Poker Tour
Oct 17, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

The World Poker Tour has been a major hit since its inception in 2002. The combination of big buy-in tournaments at the most exclusive casino resorts in the world and top professional players facing off against unknown qualifiers - not to mention the innovative "hole cam" that allows viewers to see what cards each player has as a hand progresses - have combined to make the WPT a cable ratings giant for the Travel Channel. Now Steven Lipscomb, creator of the WPT, has a new card up his sleeve - the Professional Poker Tour. The PPT has already completed its first season, and its creators will continue its development by bringing it to television in the near future.

 The PPT differs from the WPT in several important ways. The first, and most noticeable, is that the PPT is limited to what its organizers call "the top 250 players in the world." In practice, that means that only select players will be given a PPT card - much like a PGA Tour card in golf - that allows them to play events. Winning major tournaments (such as WPT events or the WSOP Main Event), making multiple final tables in major events, and being recommended by the PPT Advisory Committee are just a few of the ways of getting a card. (A full list of qualifications for a card can be found here.) The second big difference is that players never have to put up any of their own money to compete in PPT events. All the prize pool comes from sponsors, making each PPT tournament a freeroll for everyone who competes in it. A third difference is that unlike the WPT, where players may take as much time as they wish to make a decision in any particular hand, PPT players will only have 90 seconds once the action has come to them. (Online players will be able to sympathize with the pressure of these situations!) Finally, players will be allowed to wear sponsorship logos.

The presentation of the PPT will differ from the WPT in several ways as well. Where Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten would sit during a WPT event, you'll find Mark Seif and Matt Corboy during PPT events. Seif is a well-known professional player who is sponsored by Absolute Poker and won back-to-back WSOP events in 2005. Corboy is an actor who has appeared in several movies and television series, including a recurring role on the FX drama "The Shield" and a role in the independent poker film The Big Blind. The coverage of each tournament will also be expanded from what viewers are accustomed to seeing with the WPT. Instead of only showings the final 6 players from an event draws hundreds of players and goes on for several days, the PPT's approach will be more like that of the World Series of Poker Main Event episodes broadcast on ESPN. Camera crews will be present during the entire tournament to cover the action that leads to the final table, and dealers will pause action at any table where there is an all-in situation until the cameras are present. This will allow viewers to see how players make their way through large fields to make the final table.

Plans call for WPT Enterprises (WPTE) - the parent company of the WPT and PPT - to bring the PPT to television in early 2006, though the home of the show hasn't yet been determined. This is mostly because of a lawsuit between the Travel Channel and WPTE. The Travel Channel, thanks to its contract to air the World Poker Tour, had the rights of first and last refusal on any future series that WPTE might create. When the two parties couldn't agree on a deal, WPTE began developing the series with ESPN. Then, according to WPTE's lawsuit, the Travel Channel threatened legal action against WPTE and ESPN, actions which “had and continue to have the effect of disparaging WPTE, interfering with its pending and anticipated contract and relationship with ESPN and causing severe and significant damages.” While the lawsuit is still pending in court, WPTE and ESPN have broken off their deal and the Travel Channel is back in negotiations with WPTE to air the series.

Only time will tell where the PPT ends up on television, but with its new approach to covering a tournament in its entirety it's almost sure to be a hit when it finally debuts. Look for it on a cable channel near you early next year.

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