Bay 101 Shooting Star is No Longer on the World Poker Tour and That’s a Damn Shame
I will admit that I’m not always THAT interested in the schedule announcements for tournament series. Sure, I am always curious what new venues or new tournament types have been added, but not much changes from year to year to get overly excited about. A couple Fridays ago, though, the World Poker Tour (WPT) announced the second half of the Season XVI Main Tour schedule and to my great shock, the Bay 101 Shooting Star was nowhere to be found. And that stinks.
The Bay 101 Shooting Star had been part of the World Poker Tour schedule since the WPT’s second season in 2004. The final table that year featured a heads-up battle that was the early poker boom personified: Phil Gordon defeated Chris Moneymaker.
Bay 101 has been one of the most popular stops on any live tournament circuit. It was unique in that the Main Event was a bounty tournament, with dozens of poker pros named the “Shooting Stars.” The Shooting Stars were the players with bounties on their heads; whoever knocked them out would receive a $2,500 cash prize plus a special t-shirt with the Star’s face on it. The Star would traditionally autograph the shirt and pose for a picture with the player that eliminated them.
The thing about the Shooting Star event was that players really, truly had fun with it. For the pros, poker is their career, the way they make money, and while I’m sure none of them enjoyed being knocked out of a tournament, the ones who were the designated bounties always had such a great attitude about it. Most were nothing but gracious upon elimination, staying for pictures and autographs.
Todd Brunson seemed to have a lot of fun with it, not just signing the t-shirt, but penning a lengthy, profanity-laced essay on it. One of his shorter messages was to Jordan Young in 2011:
“Rot in hell!!! You stupid luck box. Muther fucking dick face jackass internet punkass bitch.”
Of course, he also posed for a picture with Young while flipping the camera the bird.
As much as someone probably wouldn’t normally want to have a bounty on their head when not everybody else does (I have been a bounty before – not in this tournament – and it definitely keeps you on edge), the pros tended to really want the honor of being a Shooting Star at Bay 101. They knew players would be gunning for them more than usual and that they would probably have to sign a t-shirt (after all, only one player wins the event), but pros wanted to be a part of it all. Bay 101 was fun and that is what poker is all about, right?
Railbirds flocked to the tournament, too, hoping to see their poker heroes. Earlier this year, before the Season XV Bay 101 Shooting Star, WPT Host Tony Dunst told Poker Central, “I’ve never seen poker fandom match the enthusiasm you see at Bay 101.”
Maria Ho said, “….it’s such a unique and fun tournament that I never miss it,” and Ema Zajmovic said she was “grateful” that WPT named her a Shooting Star.
But now the event is off of the World Poker Tour schedule, which also likely means that the little “California Swing” competition is also finished. The California Swing was a series of three WPT events in quick succession in the Golden State: L.A. Poker Classic, Bay 101, and Rolling Thunder. The player who performed the best in all three combined won a host of prizes for next year’s California Swing.
In an interview with my friend Earl Burton at Poker News Daily, WPT Executive Tournament Director Matt Savage didn’t shed all that much light on why the Bay 101 is no longer a part of the Tour.
“It was mutually agreed upon between officials on both sides that the Bay 101 would not be a part of the Season XVI World Poker Tour schedule,” he said. “Bay 101 will always have a special place in the WPT history books and we would encourage players to continue to visit our friends at Bay 101 Casino.”