The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a huge blow to the live poker industry in 2020. With casinos, public venues, and other non-essential businesses closed and international travel and mass gatherings prohibited for the most part of the year, major live poker brands were forced to cancel their tournaments to keep everyone safe. As a result, players missed out on the big events and live action that have traditionally kept them busy in recent years.
But in South Korea, a new poker brand was able to help fill the void. The World Class of Poker (WCOP) launched right in the middle of the pandemic, and was created as part of the “JYK” brand founded by no other than Ji-Young Kim, the winner of the 2019 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Ladies Event.
WCOP Brings New Poker Experience to South Korea
The WCOP organizes live poker tournaments in South Korea. The brand hosted its first poker event in November 2020 at the Gyeongnam Changwon World Class Arena. One of the tournaments on the schedule was a KRW 1,000,000 buy-in, KRW 30,000,000-guaranteed 3Bet High Roller which was ultimately won by Dongwoo Kim for KRW 11,000,000.
In March 2021, the WCOP also ran three events at the same venue, including a KRW 300,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event. Hyungyu Park outclassed a field of 750 entries to take home the top prize of KRW 44,000,000.
Kim, one of South Korea’s successful poker pros, said her main goal of setting up a poker brand is to promote the game in her home country, build partnerships with other homegrown companies, and enable local players to experience how it feels like to compete in big tournaments, similar to major poker events overseas.
Tyler Jang, who currently serves as WCOP’s planning manager, also said it’s always been his dream as a poker player to help expand the Korean poker market base and establish a recognizable poker tournament brand not just in Korea but also globally.
He said they are currently focused on allowing the WCOP to grow and be equipped with the right ability to create its own tournament system which would then enable it to continually run and manage multiple tournaments across the country.
The WCOP is also committed towards providing a platform for local amateur players to showcase and improve their skills, and the brand will do this by running affordable yet high-quality tournaments that players can proudly display in their poker resume.
WCOP Future Plans
WCOP’s vision for the future is for it to become a globally competitive brand, running events not just in Korea but across other international markets as well. It also aims to join forces with more companies to promote and grow the brand. The team are now beginning to work towards that goal, starting with creating its own franchise, the “World Class Hold’em Club”.
Through that franchise, the WCOP is able to hold satellite games at several locations in Korea, giving the brand more opportunities to organize bigger tournaments and offer a wide range of poker formats and variants.
In terms of partnerships, the WCOP is currently being powered by gaming solutions provider WPI, the same company that manages another poker brand, BBPoker Korea. So far, the JYK brand has entered into partnerships with over 100 contracting companies and 11 affiliates.
The WCOP acknowledges the importance of having a roster of ambassadors to help promote the brand in the highly-competitive poker market. Joining Kim in building the WCOP image are some of Korea’s prominent pros, such as Vivian Im and Sunny Jung, both of whom are Asia Pacific Poker Tour Main Event champions, and Gab Yong Kim, winner of the 2019 European Poker Tour Prague DeepStack Championship.
The brand is expected to add more ambassadors in the near future.
The WCOP is planning to hold more events throughout the year. They’ll announce the details via their official website, wcop.co.kr.