It’s no secret there’s been some poker happening in Las Vegas recently. The World Series of Poker is coming to a close after its seven-week run, with the Main Event now underway. But the Rio isn’t the only place to play poker in Vegas lately. The World Poker Tour moved into Aria Resort & Casino for the WPT500, a unique format tournament series with six Day 1s feeding into a final Day 2.
With so many people already in Las Vegas for the WSOP, it’s no surprise nearly 3,600 people ponied up the $500 entry fee to play one of the Day 1s. Some big names showed up to try for a share of the $1,799,500 total prize pool, including Phil Hellmuth, Bill Perkins, and Dan Shak, plus Team partypoker.com members like Kara Scott, Mike Sexton, and Marvin Rettenmaier.
Two Canadians cashed in the field as Toronto’s Mike Leah took 153rd place for $1,500, and Scott Montgomery from Perth, Ontario finished 28th for $8,000.
Sean Yu was the player who finally collected all the chips, making his way through the 3,599-entry field to secure first-place money of $260,000. Despite busting on Day 1a, the biotech sales consultant from Los Angeles came back for the final Day 1, telling the WPT “I entered on Day 1a but didn’t get through, so I had a go at the last chance satellite at 8.30 a.m. this morning. In one day of poker I have turned $565 into $260,000 – it is really amazing, I love the format.”
In addition to the cash, Yu won a £2000 package to the next WPT500, coming up November 11-16 at the epic Nottingham, UK poker room Dusk Till Dawn. The package was presented to the surprised Yu by Dusk Till Dawn Director Simon “Aces” Trumper.
The unique combination of a large number of entry flights with a small buy-in seems to have hit a sweet spot. The event was the largest field in WPT history and everyone involved is looking to the future. Adam Pliska, President of the WPT, seemed excited about the series. “The idea with the WPT500 was to offer all you would expect from the World Poker Tour, but with a more accessible buy-in, and we are delighted by the response. I would like to thank our valued partner Aria Resort & Casino for going the extra mile to accommodate players. Now we cannot wait for the next year’s event and the next WPT500 which takes place at WPTUK at Dusk Till Dawn in Nottingham in November.”
Aria’s Director of Poker Operations echoed the enthusiasm. “We would also like to thank partypoker, WPT, and the Aria poker staff. We all care about poker players. We hope you experienced that during this event. There is always a next. This next is July 2015. Bigger and better.”
Part of the success is undoubtedly due to partypoker.com online qualifiers. Qualifiers to the WPT500 satellited in for as little as $1, and satellites for the next WPT500 in Nottingham in November start running on partypoker.com and partner sites from August 3.
Partypoker Group Director Jeffrey Haas was excited about the size of the field. “This event was an amazing success that surpassed our expectations and really seemed to strike a chord with the community. There were more than 100 online qualifiers from partypoker and partners, all of whom seemed to love the opportunity to qualify online to play one of the greatest events in Las Vegas this summer.”
With the massive turnout for the inaugural event, it seems clear the future is bright for the WPT500. Plans are already underway to repeat the event at Aria in 2015, in addition to the November series in Nottingham. Haas may have summed it up best. “We cannot wait for next year’s event when we expect bigger fields, richer prize pools, and an even more FUN experience for recreational poker players from around the world.”