WSOP, WPT Teaming Up with eSports

As I begin writing this article, I am distracting myself by watching the Overwatch League on Twitch. I am a 42-year old grown-ass man and I am watching a bunch of teenagers and twenty-something play video games. And I am enjoying it. Other than being a gamer myself, I don’t really know why I like this; I don’t care about any of the players, nor do I care about any of the cities they represent. I guess it’s just fun to watch the best players in the world square off in a competition that I, myself, also participate in whenever I can. Just as I am merging poker and eSports right now, so will they be later this month when both the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour will both foster relationships with eSports.

Last week, UMG Media Corp. announced that it has partnered with the World Series of Poker and will host competitive gaming events not just at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino during the entirety of the WSOP, but will have those events on the stage in the Pavilion Room, the main tournament room of the Series.

UMG is as an eSports company with live event centers in a number of North American cities including Las Vegas and Reno. It also hosts competitions for real money around the clock on its website

The UMG Esports Stage will feature games such as Hearthstone, a competitive card game which loads of poker players play, FIFA Soccer, and Fortnite, the most popular online multiplayer game in the world right now. The games will be available on the Xbox One and PC (sorry Playstation users).

Before the WSOP begins, the schedule of eSports events will be posted on UMG Gaming’s website as well as the UMG app, which is available in the Apple Store and on Google Play. Be forewarned: the app gets terrible reviews, though barely anyone has downloaded it (one reason for lack of downloads could be that most of UMG’s competitions are probably hosted online). Hopefully it will be ok for the WSOP, as the main complaint from people is that they couldn’t login. If the app works, it will be useful, as it will have tournament info, competition results, and will allow players to buy tournament entries.

It is certainly possible that having eSports competitions will be distracting to poker players at the WSOP, but people play competitive video games with headphones, so it shouldn’t be a problem (unless the idea is to also entertain spectators and provide game audio and play-by-play for everyone to hear). I would guess that many players – young ones especially – will enjoy letting their mind shift gears between tournaments and participate in a few contests.

“Last year we watched our initiative to grow esports in Las Vegas grow by leaps and bounds,” UMG CEO Dave Antony said in a press release. “Bringing the UMG Esports Stage into the World Series of Poker events is an amazing next step in continuing this initiative into 2018 and beyond. UMG will utilize its ground breaking event management app to help organize the event and to constantly update participants of upcoming play and special events at the UMG stage.”

The World Poker Tour teamed up with ELC Gaming with eSports in October at WPTDeepStacks Netherlands, actually giving players a chance to win entries into the poker tournaments via video game competitions. There were both competitive and casual contests throughout the festival. The Legend Series final was held at WPTDeepStacks Netherlands, as well, as the two finalist teams from preliminary matches around Europe had their match streamed on ELC Gaming’s Twitch channel.

Next week, in an interesting move, the WPT Bellagio $25,000 High Roller will not be held at the Bellagio, but rather at the Esports Arena Las Vegas at Luxor Resort & Casino. The venue, which just opened in March, is pretty insane – it is 30,000 square feet, multi-level, and has a 50-foot LED video wall so an audience can see everything happening in the main stage’s competition. It hosts all sorts of daily play, from just casual gaming to big-time battles. There are even retro-gaming setups and gourmet food for olds like me (I’m a decent Overwatch player, but there’s no way I could hold my own in a real, competitive match).

That’s not all, though. The final table of the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions will also be hosted by the Esports Arena. The rest of the tournament leading up to the final table will be at ARIA. The WPT will also tape a $100/$200 cash game at the facility and will hold its ClubWPT Challenge the Champs tournament there.

Man, the things I miss out on now that I don’t cover the WSOP live anymore.


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