The World Poker Tour (WPT) 2014 Championship will be played at Atlantic City for the first time. For the past 12 years, the Las Vegas based Bellagio casino used to host it, but this year, it will be played in New Jersey’s Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa.
Tom Ballance, president of the Borgata, said: “With online gaming and the popularity of the Borgata brand, the center of gravity of poker is moving to New Jersey.” The WPT’s decision to shift venues does indicate that Atlantic City has become more popular after the Garden State legalized online gambling in Nov 2013. Most of the gambling companies that sponsor professional live poker events have partnered with land casinos in Atlantic City. Party Poker is the host of the WPT 2014 Championship event, and Bwin.party, which is a partner of Borgata’s online gambling site, owns the company.
Speaking about the shift of venues, WPT President Adam Pliska said that the tour intended to highlight the fact that legal online poker is now available in New Jersey while simultaneously taking advantage of the increased media attention on Atlantic City’s land casinos. New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware are the only three US states that have legalized online poker.
This year, the championship event will have a field of 328 players, and the Borgata expects an overlay as the field is insufficient. The event promises a guaranteed prize of $5 million, $1.3 million of which will be awarded to the winner of the WPT championship title. This year, the entry fee has been lowered to $15,000 from $25,000. As many as 36 players will return home with cash prizes. The player who finished in the 36th position will win $30,085.
The field includes 10 players who qualified online. Thirty percent of the field qualified through an online event that formed part of the Borgata Spring Open. Ballance said, “The fact that after such a short time, we have had people qualifying online says a great deal about the changing face of poker.”
One of the participants will be Ken Aldridge, a professional poker player from North Carolina. Aldridge, who has won more than $1 million playing live poker tournaments, said: “I enjoy these tournaments and I’m fairly successful in them. I’m using poker to travel the world. I just got back from Chile.”
The WPT will be shown on Fox Sports Net. The events of April 2014 will be broadcast in May 2014.