The World Poker Tour released the schedule for its season-ending Tournament of Champions, and for the first time, Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas will play host. This annual tournament follows the inaugural WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, also at Aria, for two weeks of high-stakes action prior to the start of the 2018 World Series of Poker.
The Bobby Baldwin tournament runs May 20-23. The Tournament of Champions follows, May 24-26.
The Tournament of Champions, previously the WPT World Championship prior to Season XIV, will conclude Season XVI, and is only open to past and present Main Tour winners. Current season champions are automatically entered, and previous winners must pay the $15,000 buy-in.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, has hosted the event the past two years.
In a somewhat unusual move, the Tournament of Champions will finish away from the Aria, with the final table moving a mile down the street to the Luxor, a casino that closed down its poker room last year to make space for a new Esports Arena, scheduled to open March 22.
Daniel Weinman, the defending TOC champion, is in exclusive company. Other past winners include 2001 WSOP Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen (Season V), “MasterChef” and 2004 WSOP Main Event runner-up David Williams (Season VIII), and high-stakes crusher Scott Seiver (IX).
Among the 15 Tournament of Champions winners, Weinman’s $381,500 score was the smallest. Mortensen holds the record for biggest win ($3,970,415).
High Stakes Aria
Aria is becoming the unofficial home for high-stakes poker in the US. The Las Vegas Strip casino already hosts a monthly high-roller series, the Poker Masters, Super High Roller Bowl, “Poker After Dark,” the upcoming U.S. Poker Open, and features “Ivey Room,” a cozy room within the casino’s main card room where some of the highest stakes cash games in the world are played.
Aria will host a high roller series in the days prior to the WPT events, with a $10,000 tournament on May 17, then four $25,000 tourneys held throughout the week, capped off by a two-day $100,000 Super High Roller on May 24.
Aria is an MGM Resorts property that opened in 2009 and sits smack dab in the center of the Strip, walking distance to other popular poker rooms such as Bellagio and Caesars Palace.
From Poker Pro to Casino Exec
The inaugural $10,000 WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic represents the final opportunity for players to earn a Tournament of Champions entry.
The World Poker Tour is honoring poker legend Bobby Baldwin, the 1978 WSOP Main Event champion and current president and COO of Aria.
Baldwin has been a regular in Ivey Room and in other high-stakes cash games and tournaments around Las Vegas. He’s one of the legendary poker grinders, along with players such as Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Amarillo Slim, who dominated the game long before the 2000s poker boom.
The former world champion and four-time WSOP bracelet winner was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2003.