In January 2014, the Senior Poker Tour (SPT) launched at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. This year, from Feb. 19-22, the tour is headed "Back to the Beginning" to celebrate its one-year anniversary with a four-day series full of poker events culminating in a $550 buy-in Main Event.
Last year, the SPT Horseshoe Tunica Main Event attracted 121 entries and created a prize pool of $65,500. Glen Biddle of Centerville, Ohio won that event, and other SPT Season 1 winners included Leaonard Finkel (SPT Pala Casino Spa), Thomas Kougias (SPT Stratosphere), and Joaquin Sosa (SPT Fort Pierce), just to name a few.
"We continue to grow and partner with casinos of all sizes to highlight this 'over 50' segment of the poker world," said SPT CEO Lupe Soto. "We have much planned for 2015, including a Senior Poker Tour World Championship held at sea with Card Player Cruises, and Senior's Poker Week that will coincide with the World Series of Poker."
Representing the SPT at various stops are team pros that include Dennis Phillips, Linda Johnson, Mark "P0ker H0" Kroon, Jan Fisher, Susie Isaacs, Marsha Waggoner, Donna Blevins, Nancy Todd, Robert "Chip Burner" Turner and The Duke of Fremont Street, who was featured in an interview with PokerNews last year.
PokerNews recently caught up with SPT Vice President Hal Coblentz to talk about the SPT's first year.
PokerNews: What has been the biggest SPT highlight for you over the past year?
Coblentz: Our true highlight has been the great response from our players. It's clear seniors enjoy playing in a field of their peers. It was never more evident as with our SPT Venetian Casino event, which drew over 400 people and created a prize pool of $250,000. Our first-place prize winner, Mitch Hecht of Canada, took home $49,496 for his efforts. This was our biggest one-day event to date.
What has been the biggest challenge in the SPT's first year?
As a new tour, our biggest challenge initially was of course establishing host casinos for our events. There are many tours out there and we needed to position ourselves as a respected tour with a product that will draw players to the host venues, which fortunately we have done. Also seeking sponsors was a challenge initially, but now we are entertaining several that could represent valuable partnerships with us and for our players.
What are some things you learned in the first year that you may change moving forward?
Seniors are different. We found senior players prefer an earlier start time than normal, prefer two-day tournaments over one-day marathons, and they enjoy the variety of games we offer. We constantly seek feedback to improve our offerings. Amazingly though, many senior players have not caught up to the techno world we live in, so how we deliver information to our players has adjusted tremendously.
Can you shed any light on the new stops/markets we may see this year?
We have several new stops this year which include Cherokee Casino, West Siloam Springs on April 6; Senior Poker Week which is a variety of events with several venues in Las Vegas this summer; and one series we are extremely excited about is the "SPT Seniors Championship at Sea" a seven-night Western Caribbean Cruise Aboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas with Card Player Cruises. Our newest tournament is the "Super Seniors" event that features players over 70.
Will we see any more pros added to the roster this year?
Yes. Our newest addition to the Team SPT Pro family is Poker Hall of Fame member Barbara Enright. Barbara was the first woman to win an open event at the World Series of Poker, the first woman to win three WSOP bracelets, and is the only female player to have made it to the final table of the Main Event. We couldn't be happier to have an icon such as Barbara join our team.
For more on the SPT, check back on this video featuring highlights from their first season:
*Lead photo courtesy of SPT.