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Like the World Series of Poker, it seems the World Poker Tour missed the memo.
Since Black Friday, poker television's younger entities have been in shrivel-up-and-die mode. With advertising dollars provided by online giants no longer available, the poker TV landscape seems to have reshaped itself as a facsimile of 2004, with its two longest-standing entities becoming its only ones. However, both have responded with growth; the WSOP had its live stream and ESPN/ESPN2 broadcasts. The WPT is following suit.
Thursday, the WPT held a press conference announcing changes to its Season 10 schedule and formatting. At a time in which everyone else is scrimping and saving their money, the WPT is throwing theirs around. The highlights:
• Final tables will be broadcast semi-live via live stream at worldpokertour.com, with Ali Nejad (announcer) and Tony Dunst (host) involved with the broadcast.
• New stops in Jacksonville, Fla., and Philadelphia, with potential for more to be added.
• Expansion of the television schedule by at least three episodes.
• Improvements to the final table set.
•New ongoing VIP benefits for tour winners.
In addition to the changes, the conference was also a platform to recognize Andy Frankenberger, the WPT Season 9 Player of the Year. Frankenberger scored three cashes over the season, with a fifth-place finish at Festa Al Lago and a win at the 2010 Legends of Poker. The defense of his title started an hour after the conference, with the 2011 event drawing 322 players for Day 1a in an event that features a re-entry on 1b. Matthew Berkey was the clear chip leader at the end of the first day's play.
Other news from the week:
• Chino Rheem, who won the Epic Poker League's inaugural event, was placed on probation by the EPL Standards & Conduct committee due to outstanding debts and alleged refusal to make good on them. The announcement sets a startling precedent that inspires questions about other well-known players in debt and whether the committee should be proactive or responsive, as it was in this case.
•The event Rheem won lead to a shake-up at the top of the EPL's Global Poker Index. Former No. 1 Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier, who did not play in the event, dropped to No. 3, while the former No. 2 and No. 3, Jason Mercier (who finished third) and Erik Seidel (second), moved up to No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. With the latest release of the GPI, Humberto Brenes was the most notable name to make his way onto the list of 300. He debuted at No. 299.
• Brian Hastings emerged victorious at the 2011 WPT Summer Splash, besting 391 runners for a $213,877 prize. While Hastings has had bigger scores (most notably a $4,000,000 payday in heads-up cash games against Viktor "Isildur1" Blom), it was only his second live tournament cash, according to the Hendon Mob database.
• In a press release issued Monday, Aug. 22, FullTiltPoker announced it was no longer in exclusive negotiations with one potential investor. Some are viewing this as a setback.