Breaking a decade-long tradition of holding its prestigious championship event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the World Poker Tour has moved the epic competition to the Borgata in New Jersey, where online gambling was legalised late last year, and Borgata leads the field.
On Monday the $15,000 buy-in competition, which carries a $5 million guaranteed prize pool, kicked off with the action running through April 26, and the winner taking home more than $1.35 million.
Last year the event was won by David Rheem (see previous report) who boosted his bank balance by $1.15 million after besting a field of 122 opponents.
Matt Savage, executive director of the World Poker Tour, said that as of Monday morning there were seven online qualifiers and 27 live satellite seats awarded. Three more satellites were still on the schedule.
Borgata president Tom Ballance told the Associated Press news agency that moving the championship to Atlantic City underlines the growing appeal of poker in New Jersey, particularly since the state began offering Internet gambling last November.
“With online gaming and the popularity of the Borgata brand, the centre of gravity of poker is moving to New Jersey,” he claimed.
Ten players qualified for the event through Internet play. Another 30 qualified online for events in the Borgata Spring Open, which began earlier this year, the news agency reported.
Televised highlights will be broadcast nationally next month.
Adam Pliska, president of the World Poker Tour, said the move to New Jersey was done in part to take advantage of and highlight the availability of online poker there.