Amid a flurry of poker tournaments staged over the past couple of weeks, the World Poker Tour has arguably left the most prestigious one for last. The WPT L. A. Poker Classic (known by the acronym LAPC) is a venerable stop on the circuit that will begin action on Saturday, bringing back a nostalgia for the way that tournament poker used to run. It’s the finale for one of the biggest festivals in poker that doesn’t have “World Series of Poker” in front of it.
Only Tournament That Has Been on the WPT Schedule Since Inception
Officially, the L. A. Poker Classic dates back to 1993, making it one of the longest tournament series in the world. Only the World Series of Poker (born 1970) and the Irish Poker Open (created in 1980) can make claims to have being contested consistently longer than the LAPC. The WPT has been a part of the mix since their very first season of action back in 2003, making it the only event that has been able to stay on the roster for the 18 years that the WPT has existed.
What makes the WPT L. A. Poker Classic a tournament that everyone wants to take part in? First, the very history that is explained above – not to mention the prestigious “Bronco Buster” trophy that goes to the victor of every event (the WPT version of the Frederic Remington trophy weighs in at 44 pounds!) – makes it a must play stop on the tournament circuit. The crème of the tournament poker world comes out to the Commerce Casino for action in the event, from the lowest buy-in preliminary events to the WPT event.
Second, the WPT L. A. Poker Classic is a throwback to the way that tournament poker “used to be” and some would argue should be again. The $10,000 buy in ensures that there will be a sizeable purse (even in its first year in 2003, the WPT LAPC drew in 136 players for a $1.3 million prize pool). There’s also NO REBUYS for the tournament, making it more of a challenge instead of the “free for all” style of poker that comes about with the unlimited “re-entries” and multiple Day Ones. The worst part of it? The WPT LAPC will not be played to conclusion; it is one of the tournaments that the WPT has decided to move to the HyperX eSports Arena in Las Vegas, where it will be decided in April.
Finally, the lineage of champions for the WPT L. A. Poker Classic reads like a “Who’s Who” of the poker world. Defending champion David ‘ODB’ Baker stopped Darren Elias and the late John Smith from taking the title in 2019 and he is expected back to try to keep his crown. Baker is just the latest notable name to join the roster of LAPC champions, including Daniel Strelitz (2017), Anthony Zinno (2015), Chris Moorman (2014), Sean Jazayeri (2012), Phil Ivey (2008), Michael Mizrachi (2005), Antonio Esfandiari (2004) and inaugural champion Gus Hansen (2003).
Season XVIII Player of the Year Race Tightens Up
The 2020 WPT L. A. Poker Classic is going to offer some big time points for the Player of the Year race as one of the big-dollar tournaments on the schedule. As such, there is a great chance for players to creep into the mix for the Season XVIII Player of the Year mix. Over the past couple of weeks, that battle has tightened up considerably after it once looked like a runaway.
Riding the two final tables he’s enjoyed on the Season XVIII schedule (including one win) and leading the final table of a third tournament, Brian Altman is the man people are looking to catch. He’s been able to build up 2100 points as he surges towards the line and the POY title. Eric Afriat may have something to say about that, however, as his recent title win at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic pushed him up the ladder into second place with 1700 points. WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic champion Alex Foxen added 50 points to his total by cashing at the Fallsview event, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Afriat with his 1450 points.
Here’s the remainder of the race for the Season XVIII WPT Player of the Year:
1. Brian Altman, 2100 points
2. Eric Afriat, 1700
3. Alex Foxen, 1450
4. Donald Maloney, 1400*
5. Toby Joyce, 1400
6. Geoffrey Hum, 1300
7. Aaron Van Blarcum, 1275
8. Milen Stefanov, 1200
9. Kevin Albers, 1200*
10. Simon Brandstrom, 1200*
(* – ties broken by tournament earnings)
The potential champion of the WPT L. A. Poker Classic would cast themselves right into the mix of the POY race. Should the prize pool for the tournament crack the $4 million mark (546 players turned out in 2019, building a $5.1 million prize pool), 1400 points will be available for the champion. This would mean that any player in the Top 61 on the WPT POY leaderboard would catapult over Altman (should he not cash in the WPT LAPC).
Cards will hit the air on Leap Day at noon (Pacific Time), with eight levels scheduled for action without a dinner break (another “old school” move). The excitement will be palatable as the WPT begins one of their legendary events, looking to crown their next poker millionaire.