The World Poker Tour climbed to new levels in 2022. It was the 20th anniversary of the WPT, and the year culminated in a record-breaking and industry-changing WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.

Once that series and season was in the books, the WPT released its starter schedule for the first half of 2023. The schedule for Season XXI included the main tour and WPT Prime, starting with the latter in late January in Paris and the WPT main tour kicking off in April in California.

With the Paris stop now complete, action moves to another part of the world before going full speed ahead in the United States.

New Season, New Venue

The 2023 WPT Prime season kicked off at Club Circus Paris, a new stop for the World Poker Tour. The schedule for the festival included 27 events, including satellites, that started on January 22.

All of the tournaments did well. For example, the WPT Opener was a €500 buy-in NLHE event that attracted 472 entries for a prize pool just shy of €200K. And the WPT Closer Freezeout and its €300 buy-in brought in 150 players and a €37,440 prize pool.

French players were out in force for the series, and they claimed all titles except three: Chien Weng of Taiwan won a turbo, Italian Alessandro Pichierri won the Super High Roller, and Lucas Tae of the United States won the Closer.

French Dominate Main Event

The €1,100 buy-in WPT Prime Paris Main Event started on January 31 and ran five flights. The results were:

  • Total entries: 1,071
  • Total prize pool: €1,028,160
  • Paid players: 137
  • Minimum payout: €1,720

Day 2 started with the 137 survivors already in the money. Fabrice Bigot of France was one of them, having bagged 180K chips on Day 1B. Bigot climbed slowly but steadily throughout Day 2, but by the time the field had thinned to just 19 players, he was one of the top stacks. In fact, his 4,675,000-chip stack was second only to the 5.01M stack of Omar Lakhdari and reasonably far ahead of Federico Cirillo with his 3,165,000.

With just 13 players remaining, Bigot was in the lead with 5,525,000, followed by Cirillo and his 4,445,000. Lakhdari had become the shortest stack and busted shortly thereafter at the hands of Sabare Atmani. Bigot continued climbing and cross the 7M mark. After Sabare Atmani busted Mohamed Mamouni in ninth place for €17K, though, Atmani took the chip lead to the final table of eight. Bigot was in second on the leaderboard, followed closely by Cirillo.

The final table began on Sunday, February 5, and on the second hand, Bigot took a bit pot from Atmani to soar into a major chip lead. After Timothee Scotti left in eighth place, Cirillo made a move against Bigot and took over the lead briefly, but Bigot regained his momentum and crossed the 10M-chip mark. Hakim Chnivat departed in seventh place, and play slowed dramatically before Atmani busted Manuel Coimbra in sixth. Bigot then took out Labat in fifth, and Atmani stepped back in to bust Cirillo in fourth.

Bigot then sent Alexandre Le Vaillant out in third, taking 22.25M chips into heads-up play. Atmani had 9.9M chips.

Bigot chipped away at Altmani, and not even a dozen hands later, Altmani risked it all holding T-7 on a J-T-9 flop. Bigot had A-J, and top pair remained the best hand to win the title, along with a seat into the WPT World Championship in Las Vegas in December.

The final table payouts were:

  • 1st place: Fabrice Bigot (France) €177,240
  • 2nd place: Sabare Atmani (France) €113,000
  • 3rd place: Alexandre Le Vaillant (France) €84,000
  • 4th place: Federico Cirillo (Italy) €63,000
  • 5th place: Antoine Labat (France) €47,000
  • 6th place: Manuel Coimbra (Portugal) €36,000
  • 7th place: Hakim Chniyat (France) €28,000
  • 8th place: Timothee Scotti (France) €22,000

To Australia and Cambodia

The next two stops will be WPT Prime festivals. First up is the WPT Prime Gold Coast, set to take place at the Star Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. The festival kicks off on February 23 and runs through March 6. And of course, the Main Event will be the highlight:

  • March 2-6: AU$2K buy-in NLHE Main Event (3 flights, unlimited reentries)

Just after that wraps, the WPT Prime crew will head over to Nagaworld in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The festival will begin on March 9 and play through March 21, with the Main Event toward the end of that schedule.

  • March 16-20: $1,100 buy-in NLHE Main Event (3 flights, reentries, $500K GTD)

Last year, WPT Ambassador Andrew Neeme traveled to the Cambodia Prime stop, not only to play the events but to host a MUGs (meet-up games). It was quite a success, enough to prompt him to do it again this year. And this time, he’s bringing a friend.

Neeme and Owen will host their MUG on March 15, the day before the start of the Main Event. There will be at least a dozen tables of $1/$3 and $2/$5 NLHE cash games running from 1pm onward. Later that night, the guys will also host a meet/greet session with complimentary food and drinks.

Neeme said that he is happy to be able to return and excited to run another MUG. Owen added, “After hearing about Andrew’s time in Cambodia, I really wanted to make the trip as well. I couldn’t let him have all the fun.”

To Amsterdam and Beyond

From there, WPT Prime will continue to travel internationally – Amsterdam, India, Slovakia, Vietnam, and Italy. The dates here reflect the Main Event action only.

  • WPT Prime Amsterdam (March 29-April 1) at Holland Casino in Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • WPT Prime India (April 13-17) at Deltin Royale Casino in Goa, India
  • WPT Prime Slovakia (May 11-15) at Card Casino Bratislava in Slovakia
  • WPT Prime Vietnam (May 25-29) at Crown Poker Club in Hanoi, Vietnam
  • WPT Prime San Remo (June 7-11) at Casino di San Remo in Sanremo, Italy

The WPT main tour will kick off its 2023 year in Northern California at the end of March and into April. It will then hit the opposite side of the United States before stopping in Oklahoma and then back to California.

  • WPT Rolling Thunder (Apr 1-4) at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln, California
  • WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown (Apr 28-May 2) at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida
  • WPT Choctaw (May 5-8) at Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma
  • WPT Gardens Poker Championship (May 21-25) at Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens, California

This all takes Prime through June and the main tour up to the start of the World Series of Poker. They will add more tour stops in the coming months as they solidify schedules.