In what came as a slight surprise, for the first time in the history of the WPT, the powers that be reduced the number of tournaments on the agenda to just 14 (down from the record 20 tournaments on the schedule during Season 6).
Two events dropped from the schedule, the Mandalay Bay Poker Championships and the Mirage Poker Showdown, were tournaments held in May that bridged the gap between the WPT Championship (in April) and the beginning of the World Series of Poker (in June).
The problem with these two events was they didn't draw in the number (or caliber) of players the WPT would have liked; most professional players, with the six-week marathon the WSOP has become, decided to rest up rather than chase the money.
Other events that are no more include two foreign tournaments: one in Barcelona (a last-minute addition for Season 6 to replace the Grand Prix de Paris at the Aviation Club in France) and the highly unsuccessful Turks & Caicos Poker Classic in the Caribbean.
The Reno stop (the World Poker Classic, one of the originals on the WPT schedule) and, perhaps most controversially, the Ladies Night tournament have also been cancelled.
At first look, some may say this is an ominous sign for the World Poker Tour. When it first came on the scene in 2002, nothing like the WPT existed. Fast-forward the clock to 2008 and there are now several competitors out there, including the World Series of Poker Circuit, the European Poker Tour, the Asia Pacific Poker Tour and other local tournament schedules.
Steve Lipscomb and company at the WPT must have been acutely conscious of this. With so much competition in the market, it made sense to reduce the schedule to the North American continent (the North American Poker Championship will still be held in Niagara Falls, Canada) and, at the same time, to reduce costs the WPT incurs producing the television shows.
The reduced schedule, though, is not necessarily a bad thing for the WPT or poker fans. By dropping underperforming tournaments, the WPT has elected to focus more on tournaments that have proven not only popular with the players but also a major part of its success.
While the sun and sand of the Caribbean or exotic Spanish architecture and coastlines are alluring, passionate poker players would trade them for battles on the felt in true poker hot spots like Las Vegas, Los Angeles and even Connecticut.
With the departure of the May tournaments, poker now also has somewhat of a "season," albeit not a calendar season. By dropping the May events, the WPT may seem to have ceded attention and priority to the WSOP.
But now the poker season can begin with the World Series in June and July and work around to an end with the WPT Championship in April, with a month of off-season before the WSOP begins again.
Then again, the poker world is always in a state of flux. What will be interesting to see, with the ongoing changes in poker laws and situations in the international community, is if the WPT will add foreign tournaments to its mix of offerings in future to live up to the "world" part of the WPT moniker.
Even if it doesn't, it still has a solid product. Players will participate in WPT events and people will watch the tournaments when they're televised. Overall, the reduction in events may not be as bad for the WPT as you might imagine.