North American Poker Tour
About the North American Poker Tour
When the North American Poker Tour began in 2010, sponsors never dreamed that it would become another big-name poker competition, slowly creeping up the ranks until it was frequently mentioned alongside poker giants such as the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and European Poker Tour. PokerStars.com, the primary sponsor of the event, was moving assets around, creating a new tournament out of the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, which had already been a part of both the WPT and EPT during its lifetime. While the NAPT is still considerably smaller than any of the other tournaments in its class and is developing far slower than any of them did in their early years, the events that the NAPT has offered since its beginning have already made poker history and offered a new echelon of almost exclusively North and Central American poker players a change to put themselves on the map.
The NAPT So Far
Season one of the North American Poker Tour kicked off with the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, an event that had seen action before in both the World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour before coming to rest in North America with the newest addition to the PokerStars.com family of poker tours. Almost all of the action in the first two seasons has been dominated by Americans, which is not to be unexpected given the location of the events.
Season 1 of the NAPT gave a lot of unknown in the poker world a chance to compete and show their stuff; as a result, most of the winners of the first season don't have any other big wins under their belts and many are amateur players or kicked off their careers with their NAPT win. Harrison Gimbel won the PCA Main Event and 2.2 million dollars, while William Reynolds took the high roller event and $576,240. The Main Event and the High Roller were won by Tom Marchese and Ashton Griffin, respectively, and once again the payout for the main event was greater ($827,648 as opposed to $560,000).
One of the most notable accomplishments of the North American Poker Tour came at Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, where then 25 year old Yale law student Vanessa Selbst captured the title. The truly remarkable part? She defended the title in Season 2, making her a two-time winner of a hefty prize and the dominant force on the east coast of the US. Selbst, who had already won a World Series of Poker bracelet before the NAPT, made enormous strides for women in poker as she won $750,000 the first year and an additional $450,000 the second.
Just a couple weeks later, Jason Mercier would win the Mohegan Sun High Roller Bounty Shootout, scoring $475,000, making this his second big high roller event win in a major tour; the first came two years earlier when he won the London high roller event at the European Poker Tour. Seven months later, Mercier would be knocked out of NAPT Los Angeles in seventh place by Joe Tehan, a WPT Season 5 title holder, who would go on to win the event and $725,000. Unlike most of his competitors, Tehan doesn't thrive on online play, but instead focuses his energy on live tournament play. Tehan would place sixth against Vanessa Selbst the next year at the Mohegan Sun main event.
Halfway through Season 2, the North American Poker Tour hit several major roadblocks due to evolving legislation in the US. First PokerStars was forced to withdraw their sponsorship from the event in Los Angeles, California, due to a change in state legislation regarding gambling. The LA event was one of the largest of the year, so losing it was a huge blow for the NAPT. PokerStars dropped the locale and it was renamed The Big Event, so it seemed as though the world of poker would continue. This was not the case.
Shortly thereafter, on what has come to be known as "Black Friday", the United States Justice Department made a vicious ruling that further restricted gambling in the country. PokerStars.com was forced to pull out of the US market for online poker, as were fellow online gambling giants Full Tilt, Absolute Poker, and Ultimate Bet. Although the EU has been investigating the legality of the actions that the United States government has repeatedly taken, supposedly in the interest of its citizens, little has come of these inquiries. Recent actions from the US, however, make it seem as though the government is in fact banning companies from outside the US (this is the basis of the EU's objection), as the Justice Department filed lawsuits against the previously mentioned online gambling sites, accusing them of bank fraud, illegal gambling, and laundering "billions of dollars". To date, the future of the NAPT is uncertain, although rumours have leaked that the tour will be pulled from ESPN if it does continue. Given the remarkable performances that we saw in the short time that the NAPT was alive and well, letting it flounder is a crime.
How To Qualify for the NAPT
Qualifying for the NAPT is simple-- as with all the other tours sponsored by PokerStars.com, PokerStars offers daily satellite tournaments that you can enter for your shot at winning a seat at one of the NAPT events. Many of these satellites cost only a small amount to enter, and many more are freerolls or are free with Frequent Player Points (the reward currency of PokerStars). In addition to online poker tournaments, there are also live poker tournaments held at the Mohegan Sun Casino and on the west coast of the US that allow players to qualify for play in any and all of the NAPT events. In addition to winning a seat at the North American Poker Tour, entrants may also win cash prizes and other prize packs revolving around the NAPT and other PokerStars.com events. Only time will tell whether the NAPT will continue, but PokerStars will not only be the first to know for sure, but they'll be the solid ticket into the events.