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Gaming Guru

Jeff Haney

Jeff Haney on the new schedule for World Poker Tour's sixth season

24 January 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The World Poker Tour has released its schedule of events for its sixth season, and the lucrative, made-for-TV tournament poker circuit will again have a strong Las Vegas presence.

World Poker's Season 6 begins in May with a tournament at the Aviation Club in Paris, followed by two consecutive events on the Strip: the Mirage Poker Showdown (May 19-23) and the Mandalay Bay Poker Championship (May 29-June 2).

Later in the season, the Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic will take place Dec. 13-18.

The Bellagio will also reprise its role as the host of World Poker's season-ending tournament, the World Poker Tour Championship, April 19-25, 2008.

With a couple of additions or changes possible, the sixth season of World Poker figures to include 14 full-fledged open tournaments along with two special events: the fourth "Ladies Night" at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles and a celebrity invitational at Southern California's Commerce Casino. Buy-ins for the open tournaments range from $5,000 to $15,000, with the exception of the championship event, which carries a $25,000 buy-in.

The World Poker Tour is in the midst of its fifth season, which began last May at the Mirage and concludes in April at the Bellagio.

Each final table on the World Poker Tour is taped for later broadcast on the Travel Channel (Cox cable channel 66).

Doug Dalton, director of poker operations for the Bellagio, described how parent company MGM Mirage's alliance with the World Poker Tour has benefited the organization's bottom line beyond the realm of the poker room.

"We have some of the top poker players in the world, the ones that you guys see on TV all the time, coming into our casino," Dalton said. "They don't just play poker. They play big-limit slots, they play craps, they play 21. You see an increase in your customer base for the pit, which comes from poker."

Team poker

The creators of the inaugural "World Team Poker" tournament, scheduled for March 2-4 at the Rio, say the event is "styled after the Ryder Cup."

Very loosely, apparently: The three-day poker tournament includes a slot on Day 2 in which players can compete in activities such as pinball, darts, basketball and golf putting "to avoid elimination and get back into the action," according to a synopsis of the event, which was developed by tournament player Joe Connor (23rd place in the 2005 World Series of Poker main event).

On the first day, team members play individually and are ranked by chip count, according to Harrah's, owner of the World Series of Poker and the Rio. On the third day, team members alternate hands competing with the team's chip stack until a champion is determined.

The total entry fee for each three-person team is $7,500, with a projected prize pool of $1 million. For information or a registration form, visit

Blackjack notes

Cable network GSN (Cox cable channel 344) will tape its fourth World Series of Blackjack program beginning Saturday at the Las Vegas Hilton, with the finals scheduled for Tuesday at the Hilton Theater (home of Barry Manilow).

Spectators at the taping will be limited to family and friends of the participants, with the new season of shows scheduled to begin airing in June, a GSN spokesman said.

The 13-episode third season of the World Series of Blackjack last year on GSN was also filmed at the Hilton. It featured 40 players competing for a $500,000 top prize.

The Ultimate Blackjack Tour, a blackjack tournament circuit founded by 1994 World Series of Poker champion Russ Hamilton, will conduct its first open "elimination-style" competition on the Strip at the Venetian in July.

The UBT made its debut on CBS (KLAS Channel 8) last fall. In the elimination format, the player with the smallest stack of chips is knocked out of the tournament at various predetermined intervals, a twist that requires shifts in the competitors' tournament strategy. The World Series of Blackjack uses a modified version of the elimination format.

Jeff Haney on the new schedule for World Poker Tour's sixth season is republished from