The North American Poker Tour has been long in the creation and short in the actual play of events. We here at PokerNews have kept abreast of many of the developments of the fledgling poker organization, including the addition of tournament director Matt Savage to organize the tournaments for the group. Now the organization is making its first venture into the casinos to start their 2006-07 season and has announced some changes, including a broadening of their objectives for the fledgling organization and tour.
The Tour announced on March 3rd that Hollywood Park Casino would be the first stop for the organization's debut season and that the tour would be known as the International Poker Association Tour. The organization itself would change its name to International Poker Association to demonstrate their desire to make poker even more of an international game, including tournaments in international locations and featuring many professional players from around the world. "We felt that the former name was too limiting in the goals of our Tour and that the new name will allow for more international involvement," said William Waldrop, chairman and CEO of NAPP Tour, Inc., who founded the IPA Tour with fellow poker enthusiast Wade Mezey and poker tournament director Matt Savage.
The Hollywood Park Open will take place from May 8-19 and should feature some excellent competition. Some of the tournaments that will take place during the event include No-Limit tournaments that range in buy-in from $300 to $2,000. Also featured during the run of the Hollywood Park Open are two interesting tournaments, a $5,000 Chinese Poker event and a $5,000 mixed game event (at this time, the format hasn't been determined). These tournaments all will lead to an exceptional Main Event for the introductory Hollywood Park Open.
The Main Event will be a $10,000 No-Limit event, with a guaranteed prize pool of $2 million and a very exclusive qualification process to determine who will be playing in the event. Player eligibility is determined by three different criteria: players will be invited to play by the IPA, they will earn their way in by being in the Top 200 players in the world on either the CardPlayer Magazine or Bluff Magazine Player Rankings, or they can earn their way in through satellite events at the tournament location or through online qualifiers. The exclusivity of this event, along with its timing (following the conclusion of Season Four of the World Poker Tour and prior to the start of activities for the 36th renewal of the World Series of Poker), should be a major drawing card for the International Poker Association Tour.
The Tour is currently finalizing its agreements with sponsors and a broadcast partner, fulfilling its intention to televise each event, which is a "must have" in the tournament poker world of today. All tournaments on the Tour will build up toward a multi-million dollar Tour Championship, to be announced at a later date.
What will be interesting to see is how much of the world will be covered by the new IPA Tour. Other regional and national tours have had their share of difficulties in sustaining activities, but if the organization can truly cross international borders it could be one that becomes just as popular as the mainstays of tournament poker. The aspect of international involvement would be something that we don't see often enough in the tournament world as well. While it may have been a long time in coming, the International Poker Association Tour becomes a reality at Hollywood Park in May and we'll be keeping an eye out on future developments.