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Poker News: March 29, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 Poker Mag.

Foxwoods Aces On Poker: Room Gets Tour Branding

Four years ago last month, Steve Lipscomb went knocking on Kathy Raymond’s door at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The founder of the then-unheard-of World Poker Tour, Lipscomb had a vision for turning no-limit tournament poker into the ultimate sports fantasy: a game where Vegas meets Hollywood; where the prize money is unimaginable; and where any Joe who’s ever sat down with a rack of chips has a legitimate hope of making the final table alongside the best in the world.

Raymond, the longtime head of poker operations at Foxwoods, and the rest of the casino’s top management needed just half an hour to act on Lipscomb’s pitch. “We’re about to launch a new sport,” Lipscomb recalled telling the Foxwoods executives in his introduction to poker legend Mike Sexton’s 2005 book “Shuffle Up and Deal.” “It will change the poker world, but more important for you, it will promote the heck out of your casino and bring people streaming through the doors.” Raymond called Lipscomb back on his cell phone after the meeting.

They were in. Fast forward to last Thursday, and it’s as sure a thing as pocket aces that Foxwoods’ little gamble on the World Poker Tour has paid off big. Hollywood starlet Carmen Electra provided plenty of eye candy at the opening of the casino’s WPT-branded World Poker Room. But the crowds were there for one reason: to play cards. The casino’s card room has grown to 114 tables, with around-the-clock tournament play and a steady stream of visiting poker stars.

The WPT just added a second annual event to Foxwoods, giving the casino even more global exposure. Lipscomb’s creation has morphed into a national TV success and cultural phenomenon thanks to the WPT broadcasts on the Travel Channel. And while he’s got no monopoly on no-limit Texas hold’em - copycat shows are everywhere, and the World Series of Poker is still the biggest event of the year - the branding power of WPT may be unrivaled.

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