World Poker Tour Debuts on Fox Sports Net


World Poker Tour Debuts on Fox Sports Net, by Dan Cypra - 5th January 2009
(Credit: Poker News Daily)


On Sunday night, the seventh season of the World Poker Tour (WPT) kicked off. Part one of Bellagio Cup IV aired, which featured a final table that included Mike Watson, David Benyamine, Luke Staudenmaier, Ralph Perry, John Phan, and Gabriel Thaler. It was the first WPT tournament to be sponsored by FullTiltPoker.net, which received a sizable amount of exposure throughout the one hour episode on Fox Sports Net.

The first of 26 installments hit the airwaves on Sunday night. The Bellagio Cup IV was actually the second WPT tournament of Season VII. In May, a non-televised Spanish Championship took place in Barcelona. The Bellagio Cup IV took place in July, just after the start of the 2008 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. For Season VII, the WPT inked a sponsorship agreement with FullTiltPoker.net. As such, the educational gaming site received an ample amount of publicity throughout the show, including in its opening.

Each of the on-screen displays of chip counts featured a FullTiltPoker.net logo, as did the graphic that appears when players peek at their cards. One of the most noticeable changes included the felt in the center of the table, which contained a digitally-produced FullTiltPoker.net logo. This were added in during post-production of the episodes, as Full Tilt did not sign on as a presenting sponsor until November, four months after the tournament was filmed.

Two other companies also received a considerable amount of exposure. Southwest Airlines, one of the major carriers in the United States, is also a sponsor of the seventh season of the WPT. As such, it received prominent placement, including a voiceover by WPT Co-Host Vince Van Patten, who claimed, “Tonight’s broadcast sponsored in part by Southwest Airlines.” The WPT also featured its ClubWPT MySpace page in signage on the Bellagio Cup IV set. The advertisements directed viewers to view the subscription-based online poker room’s MySpace page, located at myspace.com/worldpokertour.

On the inside walls of the tables were logos for the WPT Boot Camp, a roving educational seminar on cash games and tournaments that features such brand name pros as Kenna James, Poker News Daily Columnist Linda Johnson, T.J. Cloutier, Tom McEvoy, and Jan Fisher. The next ring game Boot Camp is scheduled for January 17th and 18th at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, California.

In addition to its MySpace presence, ClubWPT also received a multitude of advertising spots. The commercials noted that players competed for over $100,000 in monthly prizes and that membership is $19.95 per month. ClubWPT is open to customers of the United States due to its subscription status. It is one of the last subscription sites standing, as two of its competitors, Zosoz and Fleet Street Games, closed their doors near the end of the 2008 calendar year.

The presence of WPT Live Updates hostess Amanda Leatherman is also a noticeable difference. During Sunday’s episode, she appeared on screen interviewing Erica Schoenberg, the fiancée of tournament competitor David Benyamine. The Frenchman won his first WSOP bracelet in the $10,000 buy-in World Championship of Omaha Hi-Low Split Eight or Better for $535,000 in June.

Phan is fresh off being named Bluff Magazine’s 2008 Player of the Year. He donned both of his WSOP bracelets on set for the Bellagio Cup IV. Along with Benyamine, he gave Full Tilt even more exposure, as both were wearing the online poker room’s gear. Benyamine and Watson entered the final table as the two chip leaders; the two would eventually finish first and second, respectively.

Because of the episode being an hour long, only two eliminations (Phan and Thaler) were shown. The end of the show featured a preview for next week, which consisted of each of the four remaining players moving all in and Van Patten reacting strongly to the result of a hand. The WPT is slated to launch a Channel Finder in the near future in order to assist fans with finding its programming.

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