The World Poker Tour (WPT) is a series of international poker tournaments featuring most of the world’s professional players. In 2008, the WPT started offering bracelets to its event champions. Players who won a title prior to the release of the bracelet, were given one retroactively.
The World Poker Tour is a collection of Texas hold ’em poker tournaments held internationally, but mainly in the United States. The television show and the broadcasts of the World Series of Poker have led to a boom in the table game across American homes, in local casino poker rooms and online. The key sponsors of the tour are casinos and online poker sites. The show, which is syndicated internationally, is co-hosted by World Series of Poker bracelet winner Mike Sexton, and actor Vince Van Patten. Shana Hiatt served as the show host and sideline reporter in its first three seasons. Courtney Friel took over the host role for the fourth season, and Sabina Gadecki for the fifth. Layla Kayleigh and Kimberly Lansing began serving as hostesses in season six. Poker player and reporter Amanda Leatherman was the hostess for season seven.
The tour had its debut season in the latter part of 2002 and early part of 2003, climaxing with the WPT Championship in April 2003 at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first season aired on the Travel Channel on American cable television in the spring of 2003. The show made its network debut on February 1, 2004 on NBC with a special "Battle Of Champions" tournament, which aired against CBS coverage of the Super Bowl XXXVIII pre-game show. The Travel Channel aired the first five seasons of the Tour. In April 2007, WPTE announced that the series would move to GSN for its sixth season in the spring of 2008. The first WPT tournament to air on GSN, the Mirage Poker Showdown, debuted on March 24, 2008. In July 2008, WPTE announced that the series would move to Fox Sports Net for its seventh season.
The show’s hosts Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten give the impression that all of their commentary is recorded live as the tournament happens, and they have occasionally interacted with the players during the game. However, their comments about hole cards are recorded after the tournament takes place because gaming regulations prohibit them from observing a live feed of the "hole card cameras" while on the set. Consequently, the broadcast audio is a mix of the live recording, and commentary recorded in post-production.
The drawing power of the WPT and most other poker tournaments is that anyone who can pay the "buy-in" (an amount ranging from $2,500 to $25,000) or win a "satellite" tournament is able to compete against the top professional players.
In 2004, the World Poker Tour created a Walk of Fame, inducting poker legends Doyle Brunson and Gus Hansen as well as actor James Garner.
Now in its sixth season of broadcast, it still remains among the highest rated television programs on cable. It airs Mondays on Game Show Network. The first three seasons of WPT are also available on NTSC DVD. (The second season DVD set features audio commentary by several of the players. The third season is only available in a "Best Of" format, featuring just half of the episodes.) CITY TV airs the WPT on Sundays at 4pm PST in Canada with a rebroadcast at Midnight (or shortly after depending on the length of their Sunday Night Movie. The series moved to Monday nights since the move to GSN in 2008. Beginning with the 2008 season, host Mike Sexton no longer toasts the winner of the Tournament with an "official beer of the World Poker Tour" (sponsored in years past by Anheuser-Busch). They now provide champagne glasses for their salute.
The seventh season will be shown on FSN. In accordance with the agreement, one player a week will win a tournament on ClubWPT.com and appear on a televised show.
A series of spin-off tournaments, titled the Professional Poker Tour, began filming in 2004. Broadcast of the series was delayed, in part because of a dispute with the Travel Channel over rights. In the fall of 2005, WPTE announced that "a cable channel" had withdrawn from bidding for the PPT series, and that WPTE was negotiating with the Travel Channel to air the series. On January 30, 2006, WPTE and the Travel Channel announced that they had dismissed all open lawsuits. The series began regular broadcast July 5, 2006, but was suspended after one season as WPTE couldn’t find a television home for a second season.