Magical doesn’t even begin to describe the 2022 World Poker Tour World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas. While I can only speak for myself, I can say with absolute certainty that every single professional and amateur poker player I’ve talked with over the last week and a half shares the same thoughts. A new tradition on the poker calendar, the roughly three-week long festival was full of memorable events. I was lucky enough to stick around for the second half, and here are the ten best parts, in no particular order.
One, a Party of Greeting
It may seem excessive to travel 7,500 miles, or almost halfway around the globe, in 22 hours only to attend a party a few hours later, but this one was not to be missed. With a spectacular welcoming celebration at Area 15, the World Poker Tour certainly did not skimp. Hundreds of poker players were treated to the best in Vegas-style entertainment, including an open bar and a full dinner buffet spread, virtual reality (VR) activities, fire dancers, rides, WPT Passport giveaways, and more.
Vince Van Patten and Isai Scheinberg Acknowledged with WPT Awards
It’s no surprise that the World Poker Tour would use its biggest event to induct new members into the WPT Honors club; one of the newest honorees, a well worthy 20-year WPT veteran commentator, was a surprise, and in the best manner.
Isai Scheinberg, creator of PokerStars, deserved formal industry acknowledgment for his extraordinary and unique contributions to the game for a long time. It warmed the hearts of everyone in the crowded ballroom of poker players, industry insiders, and media members to watch him get the recognition he deserved.
It meant a lot to me to be able to say “mazel tov” and a few words to him, Dora, and Robert in Hebrew, the language we all speak.
- The Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience of My Father
I have gone into great detail on my father, Dr. Josef Strazynski’s, preparation for and participation in the WPT World Championship Main Event, having won a spot there via WPT Global. I recorded his whole poker experience throughout his stay here, from signing up for the event to playing for 10.5 hours to wanting to get in one more 3-hour cash game session before flying home.
Not only did I write about Dad’s experience at the WPT World Championship, but so did other poker media sites, such as my new buddy Landon Blackhall here and my old friend Poker.org Editor in Chief Brad Willis here, who both wrote very moving pieces on Dad’s experience.
Being at Dad’s side through it all was incredible, and I’m grateful to the Almighty for allowing me the chance to obey the Torah’s Fifth Commandment in a very meaningful manner.
The Poker Dinner for the Press
It’s no secret that I like my profession and that I have a lot of respect for the other poker media sites and the many fantastic individuals that work in this field with me. It’s especially difficult to find time to hang out with friends and family when you’re hundreds of miles away from everyone else because of the constant demands of work.
I really appreciated the World Poker Tour’s lavish supper for the media. Having a kosher choice at the Wynn’s SW Steakhouse was a pleasant surprise (huge thanks to our head waiter, Corey! ), but the main dish of the evening was the chance to bond with one another.
The Fantastic Acts Presented During Halftime
To say that the World Poker Tour puts on a show would be an understatement. As evidence, consider the three excellent halftime shows that were presented during the course of the WPT world championship festival.
Inspirational musical performances and jaw-dropping athletic exploits filled the Encore Ballroom during the “halftime concerts;” even WPT CEO Adam Pliska joined in on the action.
6 – Bloom, Molly
In the past, I’ve been able to do an interview with Molly Bloom. She made her debut participation at a big poker tournament in 2018 at the Unibet Open in Romania. She hasn’t been seen much in poker since then, so her large public poker presence in Las Vegas came as a pleasant surprise.
World Poker Tour has already furnished the VIP lounge for ClubWPT members, winners of WPT Global Packages, and WPT champions. The availability of free refreshments, as well as arcade games like pinball and air hockey, ensured that all of the players would have a fantastic day. To top it all off, a “fireside talk” with Molly Bloom was included for the audience’s entertainment.
7th Annual Ladies’ MUG + Championship
Cardplayer Lifestyle’s proactive advocacy for more women’s involvement in poker and the publicizing of successful players and activities in that field has always been a cornerstone of our approach to poker media coverage. Amazingly, the World Poker Tour raised the bar significantly in this regard.
The Ladies Championship was not a sideshow; rather, its final table was shown live on television (won by Lina Niu). The event had already surpassed its $200,000 guarantee and with 578 players it stood tall as the second-largest Ladies event of the calendar year before the ceremonial “shuffle up and deal,” which was delivered with great gusto and visible emotion by Poker Hall of Famer and the first WPT Honors recipient Linda Johnson.
In addition, Jamie Kerstetter did a fantastic job hosting the Ladies MUG. Playing low-stakes Hold’em and H.O.R.S.E. with many other accomplished female professionals and recreational players were a number of current (and prospective!) inductees to the Women in Poker Hall of Fame. That, along with the apparently unending supply of mimosas and candy-filled gift bags, created an upbeat, boisterous environment that had every dealer and employee in the Wynn Poker room cracking grins. No one could stop talking about how frequently we should have gatherings like this.
Eighth, the Main Event Prize Pool is $29 Million
Since such a lofty target had never been set before in the poker business, there was understandable skepticism when the World Poker Tour announced in the summer that it would be hosting a $15 million Guaranteed World Championship Main Event at Wynn Las Vegas. In addition, in previous years, other venues have failed their promises despite having set them far lower at other events.
Wynn and the World Poker Tour did not only meet the $15 million guarantee (by Day 1B! ), they totally destroyed it and blew it out of the water, establishing a $29 million prize pool, which is over twice the stated target. To my knowledge, it is among the most notable and outstanding accomplishments in the history of our field.
Putting Together the Final Table
The World Poker Tour clearly understood how to highlight the culmination of this fantastic World Championship event, making it seem like the big finale it really was.
Latour Ballroom at Wynn replaced Encore Ballroom as the “from stadium to center stage,” and wow, did they build a good one!
They’ve built the ideal conduit for the atmosphere at the three broadcast final tables to be nothing short of electrifying, with poker’s most devoted fans railing the action and cheering on their idols at the felt. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out on the broadcast in the following months.
Reuniting for some poker this winter
The addition of a new, must-attend event to the annual calendar is arguably the clearest indication yet that the poker industry is back on the rise. There’s a twinge of regret as the WPT World Championships come to a conclusion because of how much we’ll miss the excitement of these last two weeks in Wynn Las Vegas for the holidays.
Everyone in the poker community usually looks forward to our yearly summer reunion, but I couldn’t be more thrilled that we now have a yearly winter retreat to look forward to as well. The revelation that the WPT-Wynn cooperation would last more than a year was the finest thing that could have happened to our business in 2022.
Particularly in the wake of the epidemic, we have all realized the significance and uniqueness of face-to-face connection and the ways in which it enhances our lives. There is no alternative for winning moments at the felt, hugs and grins away from the felt, and seeing life’s beauty through poker’s prism in person, no matter how fantastic and vital “Poker Twitter” and other social media platforms are to creating and maintaining our lovely community.