The wait is almost over! The highly anticipated return of PokerStars’ North American Poker Tour (NAPT) is just around the corner, marking a triumphant comeback after a 12-year hiatus. This time, the iconic US poker tour is making its grand return to the heart of the poker world, Las Vegas.
Taking place from November 4 to 12 at Resorts World, the NAPT Las Vegas boasts plenty of not-to-be-missed events, including mystery bounties, PLO, senior events, women’s event, PokerStars Cup, and a $1.5 million guaranteed Main Event.
PokerStars has left no stone unturned to ensure the NAPT Las Vegas generates an buzz — offering hundreds of online qualifiers, promotions, and social media contests. Countless players have secured their Vegas packages, with some even winning coveted seats to the upcoming Formula 1 race in the Sin City following the conclusion of the NAPT festival.
In a special announcement, PokerStars has also revealed the triumphant return of the beloved high-stakes poker show, The Big Game, running concurrently with the NAPT series.
As the NAPT re-emerges from its 12-year hiatus, pokerfuse had the privilege of sitting down with Steve Preiss, the Vice President of PokerStars North America, which covers PokerStars USA (including sites in online poker in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and the PokerStars Ontario app.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into the reasons behind resurrecting the NAPT brand, the choice of hosting the NAPT in Nevada, future plans beyond US borders, the evolution of live poker, and a wealth of other intriguing insights.
1) How enthusiastic are you about the NAPT’s long-awaited return?
On a scale of 1-10, this is a solid 10. For a brand that was relatively short-lived, I’ve been blown away at the excitement shown from the poker community in reviving the NAPT.
2) Could you share the rationale behind resurrecting the NAPT brand after more than a decade?
For sure. PokerStars Live events all over the world, especially on the European Poker Tour (EPT), has a reputation for being the gold standard for player experience and content. As the market leader in North America, it was important for us to bring the NAPT back as means to connect with our players in a live setting.
Additionally, as we’ve expanded our presence in North America, creating great content for our players is an increasing focus. The NAPT gives us additional opportunities to do so, from live streams to broadcast to our plans to re-imagine The Big Game as well.
3) What exciting changes or innovations can players anticipate experiencing at the NAPT compared to its previous iterations?
The poker world is very different today than 12 years ago. The industry has evolved, as has the level of service players expect from major live events. It’s not necessarily one or two big innovations we’re rolling out, but a collective of player-focused services and activities.
From the concierge-level of service, multiple player-focused events over the week, or even little things like phone chargers at the table—every little thing adds up and matters, creating an overall customer-first experience.
4) The resurgence of live poker, evidenced by record-breaking attendance at events like EPT and PokerStars’ sponsored festivals across the globe, is quite remarkable. What factors do you believe are driving this renewed interest?
I’m not so sure that the uptick we’re seeing at live events is so much of a resurgence of interest as it is a confirmation of what we already know: the appetite for poker both in North America and globally never went away. There’s simply more variety and opportunity for players at all skill levels to play.
If you look at the overall number of people playing poker globally—from real-money sites to free-to-play to VR—the game is still growing and strong. As more people are exposed to the game and love playing it, that would naturally translate to a live setting. We’re just seeing all of these players finding more opportunities at a variety of buy-in levels to give live poker a shot.
5) How does PokerStars envision the NAPT competing with other live poker events offered by competitors in the US?
There’s a place for all the major brands and tours to uniquely connect with their customers. For us, we are putting the focus on providing an incredible on-site experience for all of our players while creating great content.
PokerStars has always truly been a customer-first brand. We strive to provide our players a safe environment with world-class service. That’s the same goal offline too.
6) What factors contributed to the decision to host the NAPT in Nevada, a state where PokerStars is not yet active, as opposed to locations like Atlantic City or Philadelphia, which have established online poker markets?
First and foremost, Las Vegas is the global capital of poker. If you want to re-introduce a brand, it’s one of the best markets to do so.
Second, the NAPT relaunch takes place right before the F1 Vegas Grand Prix. Being able to tie our live events closer to F1 and our partnership with Oracle Red Bull Racing provides the opportunity for generating more exposure for the tournament and ability to capture more unique content.
7) Is there a possibility of including the Bahamas stop in the NAPT in the future?
That is always a possibility. We’re always looking at locations that would be great fits for the PokerStars Live brand and our tours.
8) Are there plans to expand the NAPT beyond the US?
All I’ll say is – watch this space!
9) As the NAPT returns, what role do community engagement and player feedback play in shaping the event, and how do you plan to involve the poker community in its growth and development?
This is a great question and one that’s not asked enough. There’s already an active feedback loop with our players from PokerStars Live events. We have a strong idea of what players want — but we also recognize every market is different. We will engage with our players on the ground at the NAPT to learn what this market responds to and then adapt and adjust our offering moving forward based on that feedback.
10) Can you share any special promotions that players can look forward to during the NAPT events?
While maybe not a promotion necessarily, you’ll see a number of player-centered events during the NAPT. We want to provide an opportunity for our players to meet and interact with our pros and personalities. This NAPT will have a player party at Resorts World and opportunities to get offsite during down time. It’s those type of add-ons we believe speaks well to the more casual player. Yes, you’re at a NAPT to play poker. But there are other ways to connect with the PokerStars brand, our personalities, and the community away from the felt too.