It’s hard to believe, but Thursday’s action at the Bike marks the start of the World Poker Tour’s tenth season, and with it comes a slew of new additions that will change the WPT’s presentation from top to bottom.
The first major change for this season on the WPT is the addition of two new stops in emerging poker destinations. The Jacksonville Poker Room in Florida and the Parx Casino just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will each host televised events for the first time. The entire production staff and all of the on-air talent will also be traveling to two European stops, as the WPT stops in Paris in September and Italy in 2012.
Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten will be back on commentary, and anchor Kimberly Lansing will be coming back as well. Tony Dunst will return for his second season with his “Raw Deal” segment, and his duties will be expanded beyond the television broadcast this year. For the first time ever, the WPT will be live streaming its final tables, and Dunst will be part of the commentary team. The live streaming will be on a delay, and feature hole cards, chip counts, and analytics.
Ali Nejad is new to the WPT team, as he takes the role of tournament announcer and final table host. Nejad is not the only fresh face that will appear on the WPT broadcast, however, as there are two new Royal Flush Girls. Melissa and Mica join Melanie, Melyssa, Sunisa and Michelle for all US stops, and there will be European Royal Flush Girls for the two stops on the other side of the Atlantic, who will be revealed before WPT Paris.
There will also be some new hardware for those fortunate enough to capture a WPT title during season X. Instead of a bracelet, winner will now receive an engraved Tiffany’s card protector, and that’s only the beginning. They will also join the WPT “Champions Club”, where they will receive exclusive benefits, be assigned a WPT personal concierge and receive VIP treatment at WPT events.
All champions will also have their name engraved on the brand new WPT Champions Cup, a trophy measuring nearly three feet tall and weighing 30 pounds. This trophy will bear the names of every former WPT Champion, and will travel from stop to stop. Winners will receive a miniaturized version engraved with the specific event they won.
The last piece of new hardware is the Player of the Year trophy, an all-crystal trophy that will be awarded to Andy Frankenberger and all subsequent winners.
Finally, the spectator experience for all those attending WPT events will change, as the Royal Flush Girls Social Bar will serve as a way to more fully involve the audience. A series of 42″ monitors will display a Twitter feed, chip counts, and audience polls.
The new season of the WPT will begin to air on FSN in early 2012, and the tenth season looks to continue to improve its audience. For the first time in their history on FSN, an episode of the WPT garnered 1 million viewers, and total viewership was up 50% from Season VIII to Season IX. In addition to a preview show prior to the start of the season, there will be a pair of one-hour behind-the-scenes specials featuring Sexton, Van Patten, Lansing, Dunst and all of the Royal Flush Girls.
“Season IX was a watershed year that raised the bar for televised poker,” said WPT CEO Steve Heller, “but it was a new day, not an ending. Season X will see it continue as we make our tenth anniversary unlike anything seen before in the poker world,”
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