20-12 months WPT Workers Share Reminiscences and Insights


The twentieth anniversary of the World Poker Tour was an enormous deal. Few firms can keep intact and related for twenty years in an ever-changing trade like poker. In truth, solely the World Sequence of Poker has an extended historical past than the WPT of stay event choices on a big scale.

The WSOP and WPT do share a typical element of a robust model that gives worth for gamers and followers alike. Each have title recognition from a few years of tv productions.

There are main variations, although. And the World Poker Tour showcased a lot of them on the WPT World Championship at Wynn this month. These variations will turn into obvious by the insights of 4 individuals who have been with the WPT from the start.

A Typical Hollywood Launch

When the World Poker Tour started, founder Steve Lipscomb had a dream. He found poker by his budding filmmaking profession, as his partnership with Norman Lear took him to the World Sequence of Poker in Las Vegas. He not solely filmed the WSOP for a documentary on the subject of event poker, however he performed and received a satellite tv for pc to compete within the WSOP Primary Occasion.

Clearly, Lipscomb didn’t win the Primary Occasion. However his movie analysis led him to the idea that the WSOP, because it was being broadcast on ESPN, was boring. And that led the entrepreneur to start to develop an concept for making poker right into a sporting occasion, one with merchandise and licensing, a deal with the gamers, a complete model. Most significantly, it was going to supply one thing unavailable to followers of any main sport – the power to play with one of the best of one of the best within the recreation.

Lipscomb discovered buyers and a skeleton crew. They rented workplaces on the Warner Brothers lot in West Hollywood, which was – at the moment – a hub of tv and movie concepts and productions in Los Angeles.

They discovered companion casinos to host the poker tournaments. They labored with famed inventor Henry Orenstein to license the brand new hole-card digital camera to tug viewers into the poker palms. Lipscomb discovered poker professional and businessman Mike Sexton to be the voice of poker on the tv broadcasts alongside actor and poker fan Vince Van Patten for colour commentary. And rapidly, the renters of some workplaces on a Hollywood lot expanded to take over a lot of the constructing. And inside only a few years, the corporate went public, moved to govt workplaces within the Mid-Wilshire District of Los Angeles, and have become a pressure on the time that poker was making ready for its growth.

The World Poker Tour was within the recreation to remain.

WPT Veterans

There are various individuals who have been with the World Poker Tour since its first season. For the aim of this reflective piece, I spoke to 4 of them with whom I’m most acquainted.

As talked about, Van Patten was with the corporate from the start, one of many two voices of the World Poker Tour when it appeared in its preliminary years on the Journey Channel.

Match Director Matt Savage was tapped to deal with the event finish of the motion, working with casinos to develop tournaments with constructions that had been each interesting to gamers and prime for tv manufacturing.

Adam Pliska served as the final counsel for the startup firm. He initially labored with Lipscomb for a couple of weeks to deal with the authorized logistics of trademarking and branding the World Poker Tour. The weeks became a couple of months of contracts with casinos and new staff. By the point Lipscomb determined to take the corporate public, Pliska was on board for the lengthy haul. At this time, he’s WPT President and CEO.

Deb Frazzetta dealt with accounting for the startup on the Warner Bros. lot when all of it started. She climbed the ranks as the corporate grew. For greater than a decade now, Frazzetta has been the CFO of the WPT.

(To be clear, I labored as Frazzetta’s part-time assistant on the lot when the WPT was getting off the bottom. I moved to a full-time place across the time that the corporate went public, solely leaving to turn into a contract poker author a pair years later in the course of the poker growth.)

Have WPT Veterans Watched Each WPT Episode?

Surprisingly, no.

Van Patten, Savage, and Frazzetta admitted to not having watched all reveals within the 20 seasons of the World Poker Tour.

Pliska mentioned that he missed a couple of tournaments on tv through the years, however his background in manufacturing and present position as CEO put the reveals in his palms earlier than they go to the community for broadcast. “I get the tough cuts earlier than they make it to air,” he mentioned. “So, technically, sure, I believe I’ve seen each episode.”

Stand-Out Gamers and Occasions

As a broad query, the interviewees had various responses.

Pliska:  “I’ve so many for therefore many alternative causes. It’s like selecting a favourite baby; I can’t actually do it.

“I do keep in mind plenty of touching moments, a lot of them involving gamers who completed second at closing tables however remained gracious. I keep in mind Vanessa Selbst being so gracious to Anthony Zinno when she misplaced to him. Everybody within the room knew that she was so aggressive, however she was so sort to him.

“One participant that stands out was JJ Liu on the closing desk of Bay 101 (in 2007). She insisted that she keep on the closing desk even if she seemed to be going into labor. There was even a paramedic readily available. Later, I had a dialogue together with her about it, concerning the braveness to play by labor, and she or he mentioned she’d had a child earlier than and knew the way it labored.”

Savage:  “I largely keep in mind Bay 101 Taking pictures Star closing tables as a result of these occasions had been so particular to me. They had been in my hometown, however additionally they had a distinct ambiance, with poker followers all over the place, gamers signing autographs and taking footage.

“I keep in mind memorable moments like Danny Nguyen profitable at Bay 101 (in 2005), when he caught working sevens to win 1,000,000 {dollars}. He was a neighborhood, and the place erupted.

“My all-time favourite winner must be Mike Sexton. Seeing movies of him nonetheless makes me emotional. I miss him. I miss him lots.”

Mike Sexton’s interview with Vince after profitable the WPT Montreal! Congrats Mike! pic.twitter.com/iqkhqabQ9k

— Playground Poker (@PlaygroundPoker) November 18, 2016

Van Patten:  “My favourite is watching Mike Sexton win his championship in Montreal. When individuals had been saying older gamers couldn’t win, Mike proved all of them incorrect. It was so nice!

“Considered one of my favorites was additionally Will the Thrill (Failla) when he received at WPT Legends of Poker (2011). I might actually relate to his New York character, and he was simple to root for.”

Frazzetta:  “I all the time prefer to see our Clubbies (ClubWPT qualifiers) do properly in any event. They’re the nicest gamers. I went on the WPT Cruise in Europe after we hosted some Clubbies. They joined my son and me on excursions, and we nonetheless be in contact with them to today.”

Favourite Job Reminiscences

There have been a couple of standout recollections that had been distinctive to the WPT expertise.

For Frazzetta, it was the bizarre necessities that went together with working the finance and human assets departments. She as soon as needed to prepare for an armored automobile to ship event buy-ins to Commerce On line casino in Los Angeles. “LOL. I by no means know what every day goes to deliver on the WPT.”

Van Patten has all the time liked the possibility to give you recent and humorous strains that work on the tv present. The most effective, although, had been quick video clips he did with Sexton. “They put Mike and I in humorous conditions, just like the Rocky skit. They’re such nice recollections!”

Pliska and Savage each named the gamers and coworkers as the favourite components of their jobs.

Pliska:  “It’s completely the individuals. To create working setting requires a recipe, and it’s an artwork, not a science. All people has their strengths and weaknesses, however you place all of them collectively and make the individuals really feel secure and valued. And whenever you get out of their means, the result’s that magical issues can occur.

“The rule of the World Poker Tour is to be clear and personal your errors. I’m the chief mistake-maker of the corporate, however we’re all in the identical boat. And we’re all simply attempting to get throughout the river by supporting one another to get there.”

Savage:  “Interacting with individuals is one of the best a part of my job. I get to know so many alternative individuals, and I’ve a knack for having the ability to learn them properly, joke with them on the proper instances, and attempt to ease the pains of dangerous beats or downturns of their careers.

“Even the dangerous beats…I don’t thoughts them. It’s an essential a part of my job and essential for gamers to have the ability to inform their tales. I’m not going to recollect each beat, however I hear and respect the gamers.”

Least Favourite Roles

As Savage talked about, he doesn’t thoughts dangerous beats. What he does thoughts is when individuals don’t contemplate what all should occur to create and full a fluid, clean event. “There’s a lot work that goes on behind the scenes.”

Van Patten talked about briefly that the a part of the pre-show preparations involving make-up and attaching the microphone aren’t his favourite moments. And Frazzetta had no qualms about saying that the 2 instances the WPT went public had been the worst due to the seemingly countless audits and meticulous particulars.

For Pliska, one would possibly suppose that firing individuals is the worst a part of his job, however he mentioned he’s really actually good at that. His philosophical strategy makes it a chance to clarify that the WPT was a chapter or a web page in somebody’s journey, however their guide is a lot larger.

In actuality, Pliska admitted that the hardest a part of his job has been to just accept errors and transfer ahead. “While you attempt to do one thing grandiose, you make errors and disappoint individuals. Over the course of years, there have been instances we’ve disenchanted individuals. … I’ve realized that I’ve to take heed to individuals’s criticisms and critiques in a really open means and embrace them.”

Pliska recalled a state of affairs that completely exemplified the significance of accepting a mistake, absorbing the frustration of the participant, and fixing the issue so it doesn’t occur once more.

Shawn Cunix received the WPT Jacksonville Primary Occasion in 2012. It was one of the crucial memorable wins for some on the WPT due to the participant’s latest experiences and the emotion he displayed upon profitable.

Only a few weeks after profitable in Florida, Cunix performed the WPT World Championship at Bellagio in Las Vegas. That’s the place Pliska met Cunix.

“I met Shawn after I received a name from George, our producer. He mentioned he was with a really upset participant on the event flooring who needed to speak to me. I walked by Bellagio to fulfill him.

“Cunix instructed me he couldn’t consider what he noticed. He introduced his household to Las Vegas to see his title on the WPT Champions Cup, however it wasn’t there but. And on high of that, the cup was soiled. There have been fingerprints on it, and it didn’t appear like a trophy ought to. He was very upset.

“I checked out him and mentioned, ‘You’re precisely proper.’ Generally, the reply is simply sure, we’re incorrect. I used to be upset by it. However we used that second to wash the trophy proper then and there, and we carried out a brand new process that includes somebody all the time carrying gloves to wash and shine the cup.

“Generally, you simply must face your criticisms and be higher.”

Studying Classes

Being with an organization for 20 years, one inevitably goes by ups and downs. And all through the years, they find out about themselves and infrequently turn into higher due to these experiences.

Van Patten:  “My greatest accomplishment has been pushing myself 12 months after 12 months to make the present somewhat bit higher and myself somewhat bit higher. The WPT has taught me to take pleasure in my work and benefit from the course of; we’re on TV for a dwelling! And most of all, I’ve realized to understand and construct up my coworkers. Life is brief.”

Savage:  “Alongside this journey, I’ve needed to be taught to be adaptable. I’m the Govt Tour Director but additionally part of the expertise crew. I’ve commentated, executed on-the-spot interviews, take part in numerous points of manufacturing and event directing. And thru all of it, I’ve realized to be affected person and to be listener. I take pleasure in listening to individuals’s tales. And I’ve realized the significance of educating individuals, being a mentor to newer individuals within the trade. It goes a protracted technique to making the entire trade higher.”

Frazzetta:  “The largest accomplishment is just not mine however the entire firm’s. This WPT World Championship was an enormous enterprise. It touched each worker and govt on the WPT. Everybody labored collectively to make this magic occur. It’s a proud second.”

Pliska:  “Yearly, I write an essay to myself. Generally, I publish it. It’s a sequence of notes to my 20-year-old self. It’s an inventory of accomplishments and steering. All through all of it, I see that I’ve turn into much less delicate to criticisms. As a lawyer, I used to really feel that I had to reply to every part with a protection. However I’ve realized to soak it in typically, to be much less delicate and be taught all through the method.”

What Units WPT Aside?

There are lots of firms within the poker world that supply totally different companies, numerous types of poker and methods to make the sport thrilling. It’s not so usually a contest between these entities as a drive to deliver extra gamers to the sport with larger and higher choices.

Few will deny, although, that the World Poker Tour and the World Sequence of Poker compete in some respects. The 2 are arrange uniquely to supply totally different alternatives for poker gamers, however there may be an underlying but usually-friendly rivalry for the hearts of the gamers and followers.

Generally, the WPT has a uniqueness about it. And when speaking to the 4 interviewees about their 20 years with the corporate, it was essential to tug their ideas about what units the WPT aside from its rivals and from others basically within the poker house.

Van Patten pointed to the manufacturing and gamers. From the very begin, from displaying the opening playing cards and making poker thrilling to observe, the World Poker Tour has been on the forefront of elevating poker on TV.

“I believe we’ve distinctive manufacturing worth and nice producers and groups. I additionally suppose it’s enjoyable for the gamers, as we construct them up and inform their tales.”

Savage echoed the participant focus.

“The WPT is what I all the time needed it to be: the player-friendly tour. We deal with issues that make poker an expertise. Within the early days of the World Poker Tour, it was on the Journey Channel, so the locations had been essential. However individuals like Mike Sexton put the gamers first, insisting that the gamers had been the precedence as a result of, with out them, there wouldn’t be a WPT.

“While you come right into a WPT occasion, you’re going to be acknowledged. The WPT and the on line casino are going to concentrate to you. That goes for gamers in any respect ranges. I believe – I hope – that each sort of participant feels somewhat extra particular once they depart a WPT occasion.”

As Frazzetta spends most of her time within the WPT workplaces in Southern California, she had a distinct perspective. The WPT is a particular place to work.

“The WPT household is actually that – a household. At instances, we’re a dysfunctional household and might drive one another loopy, however in the long run, all of us come collectively and respect one another.

I’m able the place I’m and have all the time been capable of work together with each worker of the corporate – in any respect ranges of the corporate – for the previous 20 years. So many personalities. Many staff have left the corporate and have returned years later, saying that working at WPT is just not like every other firm.”

Completely happy twentieth Birthday @WPT, my profession has been intertwined with the tour for all 20 years and whereas many nice individuals have come and gone a core group of household stays. Wanting ahead to creating many extra recollections with our nice companions and gamers that proceed to assist. pic.twitter.com/3XqCRXfwdz

— Matt Savage (@SavagePoker) Could 27, 2022

Pliska pulled all of it along with a recipe metaphor, noting that the WPT hires one of the best individuals to technically and professionally do their jobs, however their dedication and creativity give the World Poker Tour the flavour that makes it distinctive.

“We focus closely on a life journey, on telling a narrative. We’re the canvas of 1000’s of tales.

“We’re not simply trying on the construction of the tournaments, we’re trying on the individuals who play. Impacting individuals’s lives will get me up within the morning. We’re serving the group. That’s why we deal with a first-time participant and Phil Ivey the identical on the tables. The definition of success is for each of them to consider that the expertise fulfilled one thing of their life, that the WPT served because the canvas for that.”

Sincerely, Thanks gamers to your assist over 20 years and making the @WPT #WPTWCWynn a hit. The WPT Household appreciates you greater than we are able to ever categorical ?

— Adam Pliska (@pliska007) December 16, 2022


Author: Roger Mitchell