The World Poker Tour returns tonight with the inaugural on-air broadcasts of their Season XVI schedule on Fox Sports’ regional network of outlets.
There are a few changes to the show, some that haven’t been done since the start of the program back in 2002. For the first time in the history of the WPT, Mike Sexton will not fill the analyst’s seat beside announcer Vince Van Patten. With Sexton stepping aside, former “The Raw Deal” host Tony Dunst will step forward to man the bridge with Van Patten. In a rather interesting subtext, 14-time World Series of Poker champion (it is contractually an obligation that we say that) Phil Hellmuth will take over hosting “The Raw Deal” segments. Along with anchor Lynn Gilmartin (in her fifth year), the show is looking stronger than ever.
“The WPT is thrilled to premiere a brand-new season of world-class poker and entertainment for the 16th consecutive year,” Adam Pliska, the Chief Executive Officer of the World Poker Tour, noted during the announcement of the changes. “The WPT is the number one regularly scheduled program on FOX Sports Regional Networks and one of the longest-running shows of all time. In Season XVI, we welcome Tony Dunst to the commentary booth, award our one-billionth prize dollar, return a televised event to Europe for the first time since Season XII, and introduce Phil Hellmuth as the WPT’s new “Raw Deal” host. All of this and more makes the television debut of Season XVI of the World Poker Tour a truly can’t-miss event.”
“As the World Poker Tour celebrates an incredible 16th season as the premier name in internationally televised gaming and entertainment, it is my honor to join the WPT commentary booth full time starting with WPT Choctaw,” Dunst added. “Alongside Vince Van Patten, Lynn Gilmartin, and Phil Hellmuth, and backed by the entire WPT family, I look forward to carrying on the WPT’s tremendous legacy as we crown new WPT champions and poker-made millionaires worldwide.”
The first tournament captured by the WPT cameras for broadcast this season was the WPT Choctaw in Oklahoma (as mentioned by Dunst). The historic West Coast stops of the WPT at the Bicycle Casino and the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles and the East Coast stops at the Borgata in Atlantic City and the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, are also set to be a part of the Season XVI broadcast schedule. In the mix will be the historic stop by the WPT for its inaugural European Championship, which took place in January at the Casino Spielbank in Berlin, Germany (and which will be the first televised broadcast of a European event for the WPT since 2011). It will conclude with the broadcast of the WPT Tournament of Champions at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, which will be played in late May.
The history of the WPT on television is a lengthy one. It all started back in 2002, when a little cable channel called the Travel Channel took a risk on a new program and idea from WPT founder Steve Lipscomb. The “World Poker Tour” exploded on the Travel Channel when it premiered in 2003, taking viewers to far-flung locations such as Aruba, Paris and Costa Rica while bringing them the best in tournament poker. Over those early years, the WPT hit those locales and others across the States of America, Canada and the Bahamas (yes, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure was once a WPT sanctioned tournament).
In 2007, the Travel Channel declined to renew its contract with the WPT, but the Game Show Network stepped up and served as a one-year home for the tournament series and its broadcasts. In 2008, the WPT signed a deal with Fox Sports Network and its litany of regional networks for broadcasts of the tour. That deal was extended in 2016, when Fox Sports and the WPT signed an extension to broadcast the tour until the close of the WPT’s Season XIX run.
As far as an actual time for broadcast, it is suggested that you check the schedule for your particular Fox Sports Regional network. Because each regional network has its own broadcast schedule, the new WPT episodes can air anytime between 8PM and 11PM. They will also repeat several times through the week before a new broadcast premieres every Sunday night.