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Best of Ryan McLane
Two World Poker Tour tournaments sandwiched the World Series of Poker this summer, allowing professionals to arrange their Las Vegas playing schedules around several events with championship-caliber buy-ins.
The two major poker brands compete for players and a rivalry exists, but both WSOP and WPT officials say scheduling has more to do with the properties that host their tournaments than the brands that bring in the customers.
WPT CEO Steve Lipscomb says his company did not specifically schedule their Mandalay Bay Poker Championship (May 22-June 2) and the Bellagio Cup III Championship (Begins today) to serve as bookends for the WSOP.
"(WSOP Commissioner) Jeffrey Pollack and I are friends and we're both mindful of each other's schedule," Lipscomb said. "Sure there's a rivalry and sometimes we compete for players, but I believe we are both made stronger by the other's existence."
Lipscomb said his schedulers did their best to avoid taping major tournaments while the WSOP was running.
But the Bellagio, looking to take advantage of the influx of players in Las Vegas during the Series, asked the WPT to tape their growing Bellagio Cup III Championship Event and WPT officials agreed.
The Bellagio Cup Championship Event begins today, one day after the WSOP completed the first four days of the Main Event.
Dozens of professionals, who busted from the Main Event, are looking to quench their championship thirst by playing for millions at the Bellagio.
The Bellagio event has two Day Ones, meaning even more professionals might make their way to the WPT tournament after they bust from WSOP Main Event Day 2A.
Justin Bonomo, Steve Paul-Ambrose, Barry Shulman, Blair Rodman, Dan Shak, Roland De Wolfe, Scott Fischman, Kristy Gazes, Joe Pelton, David Ulliot, Michael Mizrachi and Antonio Esfandiari are some of the better-known pros playing at the Bellagio.
"The Bellagio events always draw the top players," Lipscomb said. "It has more to do with that then where the tournament falls on the schedule."
Both brands see the players as their primary customer, meaning neither wants its events to conflict with other major tournaments.
"Our only plan is to schedule ultra-prestige poker tournaments," Pollack said. "We don't really worry about what anyone else is doing.
Lipscomb said the WSOP is more likely to schedule one of their circuit events around a WPT event to take advantage of having professionals in the area.
Pollack disagreed, saying the circuit-event schedule depends wholly on when various Harrah's properties schedule tournament series.
"We try and make it so the players don't have to choose," Lipscomb said. We had a snafu with the NBC Heads-up Championship (WPT hosting L.A. Poker Classic), where players had to choose between that great event and ours. They weren't happy about it."
Lipscomb believes these scheduling conflicts will continue.
"Our schedule is packed," Lipscomb said. "It's becoming harder to avoid conflicts."