When you examine the timeline of 'Great Poker Moments', it's filled with markers like the start of the World Series of Poker, the advent of online poker, and the invention of the Aussie Millions (OK, maybe not that one!).
One spot on that timeline most definitely belongs to the World Poker Tour, the TV show and series of live events that helped spawn the modern poker boom we know today.
As online poker was in its infancy at the turn of the 21st Century, there was nothing on television to help feed this new-found poker interest. That was until Steve Lipscomb came up with the idea for a series of big buy-in Hold'em tournaments that would be televised, with viewers at home able to see players' cards live on-screen.
With revolutionary 'hole cams' fixed into the poker tables, we could see the pros' hands relayed on our television screens, making it easier for the legendary anchor team of Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten to commentate on and evaluate.
The World Poker Tour is now broadcast in over 150 countries, with the tour now in its 11th season. Major online poker player, bwin.party, acquired the tour several years ago, and with it the tour now has a major online presence.
The WPT was hugely popular with armchair poker enthusiasts when it began in 2002, helped in no small way by a bright and breezy 'sports' approach, fast editing and charismatic players who would go on to become household names.
Gus 'The Great Dane' Hansen was the winner of the first event in 2002 – the Five Diamond World Poker Classic – and his aggressive, exciting style inspired millions of recreational players. Within two years, Daniel Negreanu had burst into people's consciences with two WPT titles, while Phil Laak, Phil Ivey, and Antonio Esfandiari were also launching their poker careers with WPT gongs of their own.
Although there hasn't been a generation of players quite on the level of that series of TV-friendly pros in recent years, the WPT still provides plenty of entertainment. With bwin.party's takeover of the tour, various new features were introduced, with online satellites (on bwin and PartyPoker) allowing amateurs to qualify for the hefty $10,000-buy in events for cheap, 'Royal Flush Girls' to add some glamour to the events, and a wider coverage of hands, from Day 1 onwards.
Live Events in 2017
Over the past few years, the tour has broadened its horizons from its regular American haunts like the Bellagio and Borgata to hit South Africa, China and London. In 2013 alone, Cyprus, Paris and Prague have all hosted WPT events, as well as the tour's first ever stop in South Korea. The annual WPT World Championship – a $15,000 No Limit Hold'em Main Event – takes place at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in May.
On the other end of the scale, the new $100,000 buy-in 'Alpha8' high roller events are attracting the big-name pros to its St. Kitts Caribbean base.
How You Can Qualify Online
PartyPoker.com and bwin both host a great range of online qualifiers to WPT events, and Aussies can get involved by opening a real-money account with one of those providers. The tour has introduced plenty of lower buy-in 'Regional' events across Europe recently that carry buy-ins more along the lines of $1,500-$5,000, so satellite-ing in online is a viable option for many.