PokerMedia Australia chats with the World Poker Tour’s Vice President – Global Tour Management, Angelica Hael, about the inaugural WPT Australia, to be held at The Star Gold Coast from 27 September to 7 October 2019.
PMA: The World Poker Tour is finally coming to Australian shores for the first time this September. What’s taken so long?
Angelica Hael: As you know, we have worked for many years to turn the dream of holding an event in Australia into a reality. We wanted to find the right fit when entering Australia and The Star Gold Coast made perfect sense once the opportunity was presented. The years of waiting paid off thanks to our partner in The Star Gold Coast, who we cannot wait to work directly next to in September.
PMA: How did WPT Australia become a reality? Who “made the first move” so to speak in partnering with The Star Gold Coast and what were the main challenges in making it happen?
AH: The WPT entered New Zealand in Season 16 (2017) and we were able to work directly with Martin Coughlan, who played a key role in running a great event there. Our APAC lead, Danny McDonagh, stayed in touch with Martin when he transitioned to The Star Gold Coast and became a part of their table games team. Our relationship with Martin helped the WPT to move the needle within The Star Gold Coast and advance talks to the point where WPT Australia became a phenomenal win-win for both The Star Gold Coast and WPT.
PMA: Of course, Australia has a couple of very well-known poker rooms at The Star Sydney and Crown Melbourne. Why did you choose The Star Gold Coast as the venue?
AH: The WPT considered many options when finding a destination for WPT Australia. Once we were able to work directly with Martin and The Star Gold Coast, the decision made sense for both parties. As an overall venue, The Star Gold Coast is perfect for an emerging market with their world-class resort and sparkling new poker room that we cannot wait to help break-in.
PMA: What can players expect from this tournament series?
AH: The WPT Australia festival has buy-ins for all bankroll types and we expect to see a diverse turnout for the full event. Not only will players experience all the amenities The Star Gold Coast has to offer, but they can also expect a world-class tournament staff to run the festival to perfection.
PMA: What are your own expectations in terms of turnout? No doubt it will attract plenty of local players but are you expecting much of an international presence?
AH: The WPT’s APAC events have done extraordinary well in attracting players from around the globe and we expect this event to be no different. In terms of total numbers, there is no specific expectation but we are highly confident that players will have a memorable experience.
PMA: Over the past few years the WPT has launched new stops in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and most recently Cambodia. What is the reason for this rapid expansion into Asia?
AH: The emerging markets in Asia are a natural fit for the WPT’s plan to grow the game of poker on a global scale. The record-breaking numbers in our first trip to India were a great sign for the strength of the Asian market and the WPT stops in all the countries mentioned have blown away our highest of expectations. I can’t thank the players enough for supporting us during our first events in these countries and for allowing us to be able to run a fun leaderboard like the WPT Asia Swing.
PMA: Can we expect more regional expansion in the future and are there any stops in-particular that we might see added soon?
AH: The WPT is always looking for positive fits in new markets and you’ll be hearing from us again soon on that front.
PMA: Finally back to Australia. What is the WPT’s long-term plan in regards to having a presence here?
AH: As mentioned, with all of our partners, we look at opportunities to form a long-term partnership and we expect to do just that with The Star Gold Coast.