The Return of the "Wonderful, Accessible and Familiar" UK & Ireland Poker Tour
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The UK and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) made its triumphant return to the live poker scene last month, with a successful event held at the iconic Hippodrome Casino in London.
Back then, it was James Rann who went home £86,568 richer after topping a 645-player field. The UKIPT's return continues this week with the tour's first stop in Dublin for six years, and a stop in Malta planned for next month.
PokerNews spoke with staff and players involved and asked for their thoughts on the return of the tour.
Bringing Back Memories
Head of Poker at The Hippodrome Casino is Kerryjane Craigie says that the return of the UKIPT to London was a tremendous success.
"The UKIPT is a wonderful brand that everyone has always looked forward to returning," she said. "And it's like it's never been away!"
The return of live poker has seen record fields in various events, and although no new record was set in London back in April, Craigie says that the field was full of different types of players all enjoying the UKIPT experience.
"We've had a lot of new players, lots of European players coming over, lots of recreationals and players I've not seen before. It's brought back memories of the old UKIPT, with that community and a new generation of players. It's just been wonderful to be involved."
Players like Julien Sitbon, who made the final table in London, agree that the playing experience was a positive one.
"The structure is amazing, and with satellites online I think it's going to bring in more players. After playing online for a year and a half during lockdown, new players are coming and emerging. Now they'll finally be able to touch some chips and enjoy live events.
"It's a good way to start and balance and play here consistently, and then move up and potentially go to the EPTs."
Another person with memories of how the UKIPT used to be is photographer Danny Maxwell who has a long history with the tour, covering it first for his own site and now being part of the official PokerStars photography team.
"When I heard it was coming back, I thought it was interesting," said Maxwell. "Speaking to old regs from back in the day, it's just special to have them back together. These are the original guys who started going to the UKIPT events together, and became a poker family."
Familiarity and Aspirations
PokerStars Ambassador Ben Spragg played at UKIPT London, and narrowly missed out on a place at the final table finishing in 15th for £5,920. Some of his first cashes came on the UKIPT, in Galway and Bristol, and says that it was one of the first accessible tours for up-and-coming grinders — something the tour retains into 2022.
"Back in the day when I was starting out, I would sell action to the UKIPT Main Event. It was kind of a big deal! Now there are events that are more accessible, but there's still at an aspirational level.
"There's big money to be won, but it's nice to have that connection to those starting out in poker, maybe played a little bit and want to get to a real live stop that's not quite as big as the European Poker Tour (EPT) for example."
The pandemic has seen many people pick up poker, some for the first time, and Spragg says that events like this are the perfect opportunity for people to play live poker for the first time.
"I think it's nice that they have the connection between PokerStars and us as ambassadors or other UK poker players, and this is the first time they're playing in a real venue with real staff.
"It can be intimidating for people to walk into a card room where they haven't played before. But [at UKIPTs] they see the PokerStars Ambassadors and people know these faces. It's where people are playing online, you can qualify online, and you can buy in with your online account here. There's a degree of familiarity."
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Will Shillibier is based in the United Kingdom. He started working for PokerNews as a freelance live reporter in 2015 and joined the full-time staff in 2019. He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German. He also holds an NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism.