Already entrenched along the front lines of online poker, PokerStars has spent the last six years nurturing a live tournament regiment to a robust state of health all the world around — or most of it. The 2004 Barcelona Open officially launched its first live series, the European Poker Tour. Seven stops have grown to 13 on the EPT, and PokerStars' world conquest was only just beginning. They spread roots to the east and began the four-stop Asia Pacific Poker Tour (APPT) in 2007, and the three-event Latin American Poker Tour kicked off in Uruguay in 2008. These tours have already matured to become the premier poker series on their respective continents, spreading even further to include smaller regional tours like ANZPT (Australia & New Zealand), UKIPT (United Kingdom & Ireland), IPT (Italy), RPS (Russia), FPS (France), and the Estrellas Poker Tour (Spain).
Until 2010, however, there was one rather populous continent conspicuously absent from the roster. Chatter of PokerStars launching a North American Poker Tour began somewhere along the way with rumors flying around the forums about potential destinations, massive fields, and the chance to be seen on prime-time national television. Those rumors finally came to fruition at the 2010 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where a press conference announced that the first season of the long-awaited NAPT was launching right then and there in the Bahamas.
The PCA is guaranteed to be enormous every year as snowbirds need no excuse to head south for a little Caribbean sunshine in the dead of winter. Earlier this year, Harrison Gimbel overcame a field of 1,529 players to take down that $10,000 Main Event, a whopping $2.2 million (not bad for a 19-year-old), and the tour's inaugural trophy. The NAPT held two more events over the next three months, one at the Venetian in Las Vegas and the other at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. There was no letdown as the events continued to draw some of the best players in the world, each stop also including a $25,000 high-roller event. Just after the summer's WSOP madness had died down, PokerStars announced the fourth and final stop of the first season, a November trip to The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. The camera crew was there rolling tape once again, and the high-roller event was dropped in favor of a made-for-television 81-player Bounty Shootout, which recently aired on ESPN2.
Expectations are high when PokerStars attaches its name to something, and there's no doubt its debut year in North America was a resounding success. Take a look at the vital statistics for Season 1:
|Tour Stop||Buy-in||Entrants||Prize Pool||First-Place Prize||Champion|
|2010 PCA||$10,300||1,529||$14,831,300||$2,200,000||Harrison Gimbel|
|Mohegan Sun||$5,000||716||$3,264,244||$750,000||Vanessa Selbst|
|Los Angeles||$5,000||701||$3,229,857||$725,000||Joe Tehan|
PokerStars faced the same hurdles as the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker Circuit faced when they were the new kids in town, but the site has started off strong from infancy with a lofty standard to live up to. The NAPT's robust beginnings bode well for its future success, but gaining a lasting foothold will be difficult, especially considering the uncertainty of U.S. poker legislation. Still, the players go where the money goes, and it's possible that a full $20,000,000 of it is headed to the PCA this year. All estimations indicate that close to 2,000 players will likely show up for the start of NAPT Season 2, and NAPT Media Coordinator Garry Gates says it's going to be a worthy sequel.
“This is only the beginning,” he says. “My NAPT Season 2 forecast calls for bigger fields, richer prize pools and the continued growth of the game in the North American region.” If its other live ventures are any indication, expect PokerStars to continue to innovate and expand its product throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.