Players often have to choose between competing events as various tours schedule series simultaneously, but it is less common for the same operator to force that choice on the players. PokerStars did just that last week, pitting the Nottingham stop of the PokerStars LIVE United Kingdom and Ireland Poker Tour (UKIPT) against the return of the North American Poker Tour (NAPT). However, there was an ocean between them.
Last week, the poker world on two continents was excited about a pair of big regional series. For players in the United Kingdom, the UKIPT hit the poker hotspot of Nottingham for nine days of action, while across the pond, North American players descended on Las Vegas for the return of the storied PokerStars NAPT for the first time in more than a decade.
There was £1 million guaranteed by PokerStars in the UKIPT Main Event on the east side of the Atlantic, while on the western shores, the NAPT ran its first Main Event since April 2011.
Both series saw strong interest from players, with both Main Events seeing more than 1000 entries. There was £1,177,920 in prizes for the UKIPT Main in Nottingham and $1,609,650 to play for in the NAPT Main Event.
While the UKIPT was still trying to decide a winner at the time of writing, the NAPT Main finished out on Saturday, November 11, with Sami Bechahed taking down the first NAPT Main Event title in more than 13 years for a cool score of $268,945. As this is being written, the final few players are still at the felt in Nottingham, however, battling for the top prize of £201,700.
Poker Meccas Battle on Two Continents
If players think of a single spot in the US related to poker, chances are Las Vegas will be the choice. Sin City is intimately associated with gambling and poker and was the obvious choice for the return of the NAPT from Nov 4 – 12, 2023.
Across the pond, Nottingham may be the UK equivalent. While it might get competition from London, the home of the storied Dusk Till Dawn poker club is among the most popular poker destinations in the UK. European players descended on the club from November 5 – 13 for UKIPT Nottingham.
NAPT vs UKIPT — Tale of the Tape
|Dates: Nov 4 – 12, 2023
|Dates: Nov 5 – 13
|Main Event – Nov 6 – 11
|Main Event: Nov 5 – 13
|Winner: Sami Bechahed
|1st Place: $268,945
|1st Place: £201,700
The NAPT and the UKIPT have a storied history in their regions for top-notch regional poker action. While the NAPT had been off the schedule since Black Friday decimated the US poker industry, the UKIPT had its hiatus in action before returning after the pandemic.
Given the hype around the NAPT both back in the day and on its triumphant return to Vegas this year, it is remarkable that the tour only ran three events before the Blackness descended.
Part of the hype surrounding those first three events was related to the rise of Vanessa Selbst, who bagged two of the three original Main Event titles on her rise to dominance in the poker world.
Over $8 million was awarded in 2010 and 2011 in the three main events during the original run. Those tournaments were $5k buy-ins and two of the three games amassed more than $3.2 million in prizes each.
For the latest incarnation, the NAPT Main was dropped to a $1,650 buy-in, making it the biggest field of the lot and the first one to crack 1000 entries.
That huge field meant that the total prizes in this year’s $1650 edition were barely $100k away from the total prizes in the final $5k edition in April 2011, so it seems clear that, as far as the NAPT is concerned, absence really did make the heart grow fonder.
The UKIPT, on the other hand, has a much longer history on the British and Emerald Isles. With its first running in Galway in 2009, the tour quickly became a European favorite over five seasons of poker action. By the time the original incarnation closed its doors in 2015, the tour had made more than 40 stops in various locations around England, Scotland, and Ireland.
While it had become a crowd favorite, restructuring at the Red Spade morphed the existing tours like UKIPT and EPT into PokerStars Festivals and Championships, and the older brands were dropped, bringing an end to the original run of the UKIPT.
With big questions around the success of the rebranding, as the industry emerged from the world-changing pandemic, one change that dawned was the return of tour brands like UKIPT. Since then, stops on the tour have seen solid attendance as players are happy to return to the familiar brand.
The most recent edition of the series in Nottingham neared 1250 entries for the Main Event, clearly showing that, like the NAPT, the UKIPT is back on the poker calendar — by popular demand.