WPT Season 1

WPT Season 1

The World Poker Tour is where it all began back in 2003. This collection of 8 DVDs contains all 13 ninety minute episodes that started the televised Texas Hold ‘Em phenomenon. This set is a Hold ‘em player’s dream because it has 1200 minutes of action with the top players in the world squaring off against each other. Hundreds of hands can be replayed and studied by viewers. Watch the action while picking up a couple tips to improve your game and this box set will quickly pay for itself.

The World Poker Tour premiered on the Travel Channel back on March 30th, 2003 and found its regular spot on Wednesday nights starting on April 2nd, 2003. Virtually every Wednesday night since then, the World Poker Tour has been a staple for the network. Soon after it began airing, the WPT drew record ratings for the Travel Channel. Now, as it enters its third season, this program continues to be a ratings monster.

The World Series of Poker has been televised on ESPN for the past few years, but, until this year, it never caught on like the World Poker Tour. There’s a very simple answer: hole card camera. The WPT developed this technology which allows viewers to see a player’s hole cards. By seeing these cards, viewers at home are able to play “armchair quarterback” and follow the action with more interest. Add in a first class production crew plus high tech on-screen graphics and this show had a recipe for success. Poker pro Mike Sexton and Hollywood Vince Van Patten do the announcing, while former Playboy Playmate Shana Hiatt handles the interviews and other features.

The content on the DVDs mirrors the action that was originally televised on the Travel Channel, minus the commercials. This was somewhat of a disappointment as the DVD set presented the opportunity for additional poker coverage to be added to each event. Apparently, once that action was edited from the TV version, it was never able to be retrieved from the cutting room floor.

There are two additional features included but they added very little value to the box set. The first extra is the WPT “Poker Primer” which is a short “how to” on Texas Hold ‘em. There is nothing of value for the established poker player in this segment. The second feature is the WPT Road to the Championship, essentially a ninety minute highlight reel of the first twelve World Poker Tour episodes. If you’ve watched all the other episodes of the first season of the WPT, save your time and skip this segment.

(Warning! Spoilers ahead.)

The first event on the DVD set is the Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic. Viewers are introduced to the now famous Gus Hansen, who makes his debut at a final table, along with 1998 World Champion Scotty Nguyen and worthy pro John Juanda. The action comes down to Juanda and Hansen, with Gus knocking out John when he went all-in with KK vs. Juanda’s AJ.

The Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino is the second tournament. The competition includes Kathy Liebert, the first female to make a final table as well as Mark Seif, Hon Le, Stan Goldstein, Chris Karagulleyan, and Can Kim Hua. Hon Le and Karagulleyan square off for the heads up action with the deciding hand being Chris’ pocket queens beating Hon Le’s jack ten.

Up next is the Ultimate Bet Poker Classic in Aruba. The format of this episode was a changeup from the prior episodes. There were two divisions, amateurs and professionals, with the winner of each division facing off in a heads up freeze out. Phil Gordon comes out of the professional side against Phil Hellmuth, Jennifer Harmon and Scotty Nguyen. Juha Helppi sits in for the amateurs, after beating pro Kathy Liebert who earned a seat on the amateur side by qualifying online. Juha is declared the winner when his AJ wins the race versus Gordon’s pocket fives. Shana Hiatt fans can watch closely and see her sporting a bikini.

The fourth episode takes place in Costa Rica. The Costa Rica Classic features Dewey Tomko versus a cast of unknowns. This event had a very small buy-in of only $500. How such a tournament made the World Poker Tour is anyone’s guess. While the action was decent, it didn’t live up to the fifth episode, where Phil Hellmuth returns along with Chris Bigler. Chip trick expert Antonio Esfandiari makes his debut along with Paul Darden. The poker play boils down to Darden and Bigler who butt heads for the championship. Ultimately, Darden wins when he makes a flush against Bigler’s stone bluff.

The world’s largest casino, Foxwoods, is the location of the sixth WPT tourney. The lineup at the final table is solid, including Layne Flack, Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer and Andy Bloch. Flack and Lederer match wits for the grand prize in a classic dual with Lederer’s patient style outlasting Flack’s kamikaze methods.

Up next is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, Jack Binion’s World Poker Open in Tunica, Mississippi. Phil Ivey makes another final table and battles with David “Devilfish” Ulliott for the near $600K first prize. Devilfish outlasts Ivey and takes the first prize back to his home in Europe.

If smack talk is your gig, then episode 8, based in France, will prove to be an excellent training tool for you as Tony G demonstrates how to run his mouth in an attempt to knock his opponents off their game. The poker gods don’t look kindly upon this type of behavior and Tony G ends up being the second player eliminated. Swede Christer Johansson eventually is crowned the champion when his pocket sevens cripple runner-up Claude Cohen.

Gus Hansen secures his second WPT title when he outlasts a field of relative unknowns in Episode 9. The always fun to watch Bob Stupak makes his first WPT appearance but doesn’t last long after some aggressive play while short stacked.

The 10th episode featured the first WPT pro-celebrity invitational. Lakers Owner Jerry Buss makes the final table, along with the late Andrew Glazer. Men “The Master” Nguyen and Layne Flack also join the cast. The heads up action features Buss and Flack, but it quickly becomes apparent that Buss is no match with Flack, who almost toys with him before finally putting him to the felt.

Another two time WPT champion was established when Howard Lederer won the 11th event of the World Poker Tour. Professional player Chip Jett along with 4 lesser known players rounded out the field. Jett ultimately lost to Lederer when they went heads up.

The Reno Hilton was the location of the 12th competition of the World Poker Tour. With only 87 entrants, this was the second smallest field on the WPT. Only 2 “name” players made the final table, T.J. Cloutier and Paul “quack quack” Magriel. T.J. was the short stack going in and was the first player eliminated. Magriel was running bluffs all day and was eventually called down, ending up in fourth place. Ron Rose, a WPT regular, took home the first prize of almost $170K.

The WPT Championship, held at the Bellagio, was the 13th and final event on the tour and required a then-record buyin of $25,000. The final table featured four popular figures in the poker world; Doyle Brunson, Ted Forrest, Alan Goehring and Phil Ivey. This was arguably the best episode on the DVD set. Since this was the premiere event on the Tour, there’ll be no spoiler here. You’ll have to buy the set to find out how the action plays out.