After much debate in the poker, business and legal worlds, World Poker Tour Enterprises and the Travel Channel have finally come to an agreement regarding the broadcast home of the Professional Poker Tour. The decision by the two entities will be bringing 44 weeks of poker programming to American audiences. After the conclusion of Season Four of the World Poker Tour on the Travel Channel somewhere in the third quarter of 2006, the Professional Poker Tour will take over the 9-11PM (Eastern Time) with its debut season.
The Professional Poker Tour is the "all star" event that may turn out to be revolutionary for tournament poker. Hosted by actor/poker enthusiast Matt Corboy and 2005 World Series double bracelet winner Mark Seif, the first season of the tour featured five tournaments which gathered the greatest names in the game together. Much like professional golf, not everyone was eligible to play in these events; "tour cards" were given out to almost two hundred players in one, two and three year increments, ensuring that only the cream of the professional poker community would be able to participate in the $500,000 freeroll events. Not only would this ensure that the PPT would have "star power", but it would also provide for a display of excellent poker from the combatants.
Five tournaments will be featured in the first season of the PPT. Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, Bay 101 in San Jose and the Bellagio and the Mirage in Las Vegas all held hotly contested tournaments in the first season. Some of the players featured during those tournaments are the true "stars" of the game, including Erick Lindgren, Jennifer Harman, PokerNews' own Dennis Waterman and former World Champions Dan Harrington, Tom McEvoy and Doyle Brunson.
This also brings to an end a rather contentious situation that had been existing between both WPTE and the Travel Channel. During sometimes heated negotiations, WPTE had filed suit against the Travel Channel for blocking its efforts to find a home for the exclusive poker tour. That seems to be in the past now, as a statement release along with the announcement of the broadcast agreement stated, "WPT Enterprises and The Travel Channel are pleased to announce that they have resolved their differences amicably and terminated the litigation between them. Both parties look forward to continuing their mutually prosperous relationship."
"The World Poker Tour created the televised poker boom, and the PPT is the perfect extension of that franchise to bolster our position in the marketplace," said Steve Lipscomb, President, CEO and founder of WPT Enterprises, Inc. "The WPT is the first legitimate televised sports league in history that lets the viewer at home come play with sports greats. And now, when you play in World Poker Tour events, you don't just have a shot at life changing money and instant television stardom. With the addition of the PPT, you get a shot at living the professional poker player lifestyle. Win a World Poker Tour event and you immediately get a three year "tour card", allowing you to compete on the Professional Poker Tour."
The Travel Channel seems to be pleased as well with the addition of the Professional Poker Tour. "This deal allows the Travel Channel to feature 44 weeks of premiere episodes of WPT and PPT programming each year, which is great for poker fans who have asked for additional premieres, and really bolsters our "Wednesday Night is Poker Night on the Travel Channel" platform," enthused Pat Younge, the executive vice president and general manager of the Travel Channel.
Now that the PPT has found a home with the Travel Channel for its broadcasts, the second season can now begin filming. It had been delayed until May of this year due to the lack of a broadcast outlet. It should also prove to be as successful (if not more) as the WPT has been for the Travel Channel, as these tournaments are going to feature "name" players that the average poker audience can readily recognize. Overall, it is a winning situation for WPTE, the Travel Channel and poker as a whole.