A few weeks back, it was announced that Matt Savage, one of the most respected tournament directors in the poker industry, was hired by the World Poker Tour as its new executive tour director. It was the first of many changes announced just prior to the Bellagio Cup getting under way this past weekend. We caught up with Matt to discuss his new role, and what some of the things players can expect from WPT Season Nine.
Where did the idea for your new position with the World Poker Tour stem from?
Basically, for the most part, the WPT kind of lost touch with the players and the properties themselves. So they needed somebody in there who was in the industry to try to bring them both together again. It was perfect timing for them, because as I said they lost that connection with the properties and the poker players.
How do you think the WPT got into the position you just mentioned? Where did they lose touch?
Consistency was not a part of the tour itself. Some things needed to be changed; changes to the television show in my opinion, just the basic consistency. The player-of-the-year points, the way the show looked, bringing more of the event itself into the show. As a tournament director at some of the WPT events, you basically had players coming in to play a WPT event, but you really could not tell it was even a WPT event until the final table. I think that some of that is going to be changed.
What are you most excited about with the new gig?
I'm most excited about the television show. You are going to see some great changes starting with the Bellagio Cup. The show is going to have an entirely new look with the new cast of characters (Kimberly Lansing and the Royal Flush girls). We're going to be covering the events starting on Day 1 instead of just covering the final table. We have a real opportunity to cover some of the new, younger players on the scene now. We're not changing out the old guard, because those players are still very popular, and what drives the game, but we're enhancing the show with a new focus on the youth.
Is the show transitioning itself for a more sophisticated, intelligent poker-viewing audience?
We're in Season Nine now, and you can basically say that the first eight seasons the show looked the same. Steve Lipscomb had the show the way they wanted it, it became an easier show to produce because it became a carbon copy from show to show. Now the show is going to be taking some chances and doing things that have not been done before. I think that's definitely going to build some excitement.
How about the events themselves? What can players expect?
I think that the changes are going to be little by little. Obviously the final table structure has been tweaked a little bit to provide a little more play at the final table. I don't feel like every final table should be 12, or 14 hours, but at the same time I think we should give the players a reasonable amount of play. We had a World Poker Tour summit with all of our properties to discuss some of our issues, and I think we've really come out of that meeting with everyone feeling very excited about the future. We're gonna do bust-out tournaments at each event, so each event will now support the next event. The Bellagio Cup will run an event for the the upcoming tournament at the Bike. I think that will provide some consistency and continuity into the tour, which it's never had before.
In terms of the full tournament structures, will there be a unified WPT structure?
I don't think so, and the reason why is that every WPT event is unique. At the Bellagio players receive four-times their buy-in in chips, at Bay 101 we have hour long levels, but the final table plays very deep because we switch it over to six-handed play when the field gets smaller. I think everybody has a unique structure, but what I will do is I will get involved with the new casinos and try to steer them in the right direction. I'll hopefully have some input in the international events as well, and as part of my contract if they want to hire me as a tournament director they can.
The WSOP player numbers are up across the board, do you see that rolling over to the upcoming WPT Season Nine?
I would hope so. Obviously we think that the online factor is a big part of it, and we're reaching out to everybody not just one site. We want every site to send players to the WPT. We're working on those issues to explore whether or not that's possible. Obviously there are so many players sent from online to different events, that we're excited that we will be able to do that. We have strong relationships already, Full Tilt Poker sent players to Bellagio Cup, so that is exciting for us.
With so many events around the world, what would you say to get players to to choose the WPT as opposed to some of its competitors?
I would say that the WPT has some of the best properties out there, it's got some of the most unique event, and some of the best structured events. Look at our tour and you've got Foxwoods, and Bellagio, and Commerce, and Bay 101, all of those unique spots around the country that really aren't working with the other tours. They are established, you know what you are going to get as far as structure goes. You know that the event is going to be run very well. Our live update team does a great job, and going forward fans will see even more changes that will make it more exciting to follow.
Well thanks so much for your time! We wish you the best of luck with your new endeavor.
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