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World Poker Tour: Poker at it's Finest

Every once in a while, we are treated to some top flight poker tournaments that show the casual viewers the intricacies of the game. These are where the big dogs of poker play. Legendary professionals, young guns who want to earn themselves serious cash and the all important reputation factor, and sometimes out of nowhere - the underdogs; almost everyone can take a shot at the pot.

World Poker Tour is one of these tournaments. It serves as a reminder that poker has truly come of age. Debuting in the early part of 2003, the first World Poker Tour Championship (WPT) took place at the prestigious Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada in April of 2003. This debut season was shown on American cable TV in the spring of 2003 and was aired on the Travel Channel.

A string of Texas hold 'em poker tournaments makes up the World Poker Tour. It is held internationally although most games are played in the United States. The television broadcast of the tournament is a contributing factor on the rising popularity of the game. Online poker sites and casinos are the main sponsors of the tournament.

The show is co-hosted by the actor Vince Van Patten and professional poker player Mike Sexton. A World Poker Tour Walk of Fame was instituted in 2004. Only three had been inducted and these are Doyle Brunson, Gus Hansen and the actor James Garner.

Technical innovations such as players' hole cards being shown in TV made the show more compelling to watch, drawing in more and more viewers from around the world - casual and poker fans alike. Because of the seemingly meteoric rise of the show, several special tournaments were held. These include "Ladies Night" and "Hollywood Home Game".

The tournament is currently in its fifth season. Travel Channel broadcasts the show every Wednesday. For those who have missed the first three seasons, NTSC DVD copies are available.

Player of the Year awards are given to the top ranking player per season. Howard Lederer, Erick Lindgren, Daniel Negreanu, Gavin Smith and J.C. Tran are the winners for seasons one to five respectively.

One of the main attractions of the WPT is that anyone - as long as that individual can pay the buy in amount - can compete against big name poker stars such as Doyle Brunson or Daniel Negreanu.

Poker has now undoubtedly garnered a mass media appeal that was missing a few years back. The World Poker Tour will only serve to make it more popular. Better days are yet ahead for poker and poker players alike.