Editorial: WPT, Bring Back the Shooting Star!



Earlier this week, the World Poker Tour announced the remainder of its Season XVI schedule. On the roster of events were the usual suspects that have been a part of the WPT for quite some time, tournaments such as the Borgata Winter Poker Open and the L. A. Poker Classic. While those tournaments have been on the schedule of the WPT for years – in the case of the LAPC, since the WPT’s inception – there is one notable absence on the roster of events.

In one fell swoop and with no reason given, the Bay 101 Shooting Star was knocked off the list of tournaments for Season XVI of the WPT. The elimination of the tournament also destroys the popular WPT “California Swing,” another reward that the players enjoyed and competed for hard. This rather rude departure has many clamoring for justice – hey WPT…bring back the Shooting Star!

The Bay 101 Shooting Star has been a part of the WPT schedule since the second year of the tour and it held the distinction of being arguably the most unique tournament on the schedule. The Shooting Star was a bounty tournament, one in which 50 top tournament poker professionals entered with a monetary bounty on their heads, and until the advent of the WPT bestbet Bounty Scramble the ONLY bounty tournament on a major tour’s schedule. Along with this, there were usually two-Day Ones in which the end-of-day leader of each was given a sizeable bonus for the achievement. The bounties and the achievement bonuses allowed some players to take part in the event and, without even cashing from the tournament itself, earn back their buy in or even more.

The players responded in droves year after year for this tournament. Earlier this year the tournament saw its peak number of entries, with 806 entries received for the tournament (the Shooting Star originated as a $10,000 event; by 2016, it was a $7500 buy in), and pros were actually on a waiting list to be chosen to be a Shooting Star for the event. Thus, it is obvious that it isn’t that the tournament wasn’t doing well enough to be a part of the WPT schedule.

With all of this evidence, just why did the WPT decide to knock off the Bay 101? That’s the perplexing thing…there hasn’t been a reason given for the erasure of the Shooting Star from the WPT schedule. If they were looking to eliminate a tournament, the powers in charge could have cut one of the multiple stops they make at the Borgata or at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL.

If it was because of the number of players, there were other options available. While it is nice that the WPT is trying to put the “world” back in its name, the WPT Amsterdam only drew 224 entries back in May. Additionally, the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic pulled in 489 players in February. If the WPT isn’t happy with a tournament whose entry figures had gone up in each of the last four years during a time when there has, at the minimum, been a plateau in tournament poker participation, then there isn’t a tournament on the schedule that can feel secure.

Could it have been nothing to do with the WPT? Could the Bay 101 have said, “We’re tired of putting this tournament on. We’re tired of tying up our card room for a week with only this tournament going on (not true, but just saying). We could make better use of this time by not having the WPT come into town.” When you write it out like that, then you can see the lunacy in the statements and conclude that the Bay 101 didn’t decide to suddenly shut down the Shooting Star.

Was there not enough time in the schedule? This never stopped the WPT before. The “California Swing” was unique in that it put three tournaments within a month-long window (the “California Swing” was the LAPC, the Shooting Star and the WPT Rolling Thunder at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln, CA). Instead of leaving the space between as was tradition, the LAPC ends on March 1 and the WPT Rolling Thunder starts March 2. And before you say there isn’t the room after the close of the WPT Rolling Thunder, there is six open weeks before the finale of Season XVI at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown is contested. (Writer’s note:  A spokesperson for the WPT contacted Poker News Daily following this editorial and stated that it was not the choice of the WPT to discontinue their association with the Shooting Star event.)

The man in the difficult spot is WPT Executive Tour Director (and the creator of the Bay 101 Shooting Star BEFORE the WPT came along) Matt Savage. While he wants to see his creation a part of the schedule, he must acquiesce to his bosses at the WPT. Earlier this week, Savage mentioned to this writer that “he wasn’t happy” about the exclusion of the Shooting Star, but he was talking with Bay 101 to try to figure out the future of the tournament.

Perhaps all it will take is a little uproar from the fans and the players and the WPT will put the status quo back in place. As of now, however, the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star is no more. The history books will show that Sam Panzica was its final champion – at least while it was a WPT event – but there are hopes that this was just a mistake made by the WPT.

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