Making up for lost time
Though the United States – and the world, for that matter – is far from out of the COVID-19 woods, things are most definitely improving, leading the poker industry to be optimistic about the return of live events this year. In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, PokerGO president Mori Eskandani said he fully expects all of his company’s live productions to move forward in the second half of the year.
“I have a feeling the cameras are never going to shut down for us to catch up with what we missed and produce what we are capable of doing,” Eskandani said.
He also believes that it is important for the future of poker in the US to try to get live events ramped back up as soon as possible. With sports betting and online casino gaming spreading throughout the country, Eskandani doesn’t want poker to be left behind.
make sure we move as fast as everything else that’s moving around us”
“When it comes to online gambling, online sports betting, and poker just comes right along with all of that,” he said. “So there is no question that this is going the right direction, and all we have to do now is make sure we move as fast as everything else that’s moving around us.”
Eskandani doing what he does best
Mori Eskandani is one of the most influential and important people in poker history. Working with hole card camera (also known as the “lipstick cam”) inventor Henry Orenstein, Eskandani got his poker television start producing the Poker Superstars Invitational in 2004.
He built on that, developing such hit poker shows as Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker, which are now owned by PokerGO. In 2009, Eskandani’s company, Poker PROductions, took over the presentation of the World Series of Poker Europe, and then the traditional WSOP on ESPN in 2011.
Looking forward to later this year, Eskandani told the Review-Journal that in addition to new episodes of Poker After Dark and High Stakes Poker, he expects PokerGO to host its big, name-brand tournament events like Poker Masters, the US Poker Open, and the Super High Roller Bowl.
Before any of those, PokerGO plans to film the next iteration of High Stakes Duel between Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu in the next couple weeks.
Live tournaments slowly coming back
Though the live poker tournament landscape is still sparse, some events have already been held this year, with others on the way.
In January, the World Poker Tour Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida was the first major live tournament in the United States since shutdowns began nearly a year ago. The Venetian in Las Vegas also successfully hosted the WPT DeepStacks Venetian in late January/early February.
The WPT Russia Main Event just finished up over the weekend in Sochi, and it appears that the European Poker Tour Sochi stop is still on for March 19-28. The Portomaso Casino in Malta is also set to host the DeepStack Open Tour’s “USDO 5 Special” starting next week.
player and staff safety is the top priority
Further down the road, European poker tournament organizers are making plans to get back to live action. Martin “Franke” von Zweigbergk told VegasSlotsOnline News last week that The Festival In Tallinn (Estonia) is on track for June. He emphasized that player and staff safety is the top priority.
Still up in the air is the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship (PSPC), which is tentatively scheduled for August at Casino Barcelona.