In the early 70's, noted Rolling Stone music critic Jon Landau was so inspired by the raucous and energetic performance of a young man and his band that he was led to write, "I have seen the future of rock 'n roll, and his name is Bruce Springsteen." While that assertion may be a forum for debate, we may well be seeing the future of tournament poker, and it's name is the Professional Poker Tour.
Since the dawn of poker, the players have been the ones who fronted the money to play, whether in the rings games or the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. The risk was entirely on the players; if they performed badly, they left much poorer than when they entered the gates of the particular cardroom of their choice. If they won, they left with the riches their compatriots had donated. With the money generated by the game for the casinos and, today, television, it was inevitable that something along the lines of the Professional Poker Tour would come into being.
For decades, professional golf has offered tournaments without any expenditure from the pros, excepting maybe their travel to the events. Prize pools have reached astronomical levels and players such as Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie have become household names because of the sport. Someone finally thought of the concept for the world of poker, and it was the man behind the World Poker Tour, Steve Lipscomb.
Lipscomb envisioned the Tour to be much along the world of golf. The players would spend no money to play in the freeroll events, and they would be allowed to wear sponsorship logos to earn more money, much like their golfing siblings. Entry into these tournaments, however, would not come easy. There would be a limited number of professionals who would be good enough to meet the stringent requirements to earn their one, two or three year "Tour Card", making them eligible to play. Some of these qualifiers would be past Main Event of the World Series of Poker World Champions, World Poker Tour Champions, and other performance driven criteria. Over two hundred players met these regulations, and the list of players reads like the Mount Olympus of Poker: Brunson, Hellmuth, Chan, and PokerNews' very own Tony G and Roy Brindley.
The first season has begun, with John Juanda taking the first ever Professional Poker Tour Tournament Championship during the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods, CT. The second event of the five-stop tour will be held during the L. A. Poker Classic on February 8th and 9th with the final table to be played out on February 25th. With the quality of players in the field, all the tournaments should be a highly combative and excellent display of world class poker.
What begins small may only be the pebble that causes the avalanche. The Professional Poker Tour is what all players would love to see the world of tournament poker become. With the tour the players, playing in buy-in tournaments and doing well, have earned a reward for being one of the greats of the game and a chance to compete on a world class stage against similar caliber players without having any expenditure. For the fans, it is a chance to see the legends play and compete against the other legends. And, for all, it is a chance to move poker further into the mainstream, with corporate sponsorship and major media focus. The future is now, and it is the Professional Poker Tour.