Companies in the poker and esports industries are looking for ways to bring the two worlds closer together.
There are some similarities between the products, of course, and some significant overlap between the communities. Efforts to “sportify poker” have not exactly caught on like wildfire, but the game does align with some modern gaming initiatives.
The World Poker Tour recently announced plans to hold a televised final table inside the new gaming arena at Luxor in Las Vegas. The public venue hosts virtual reality platforms, retro consoles and modern esports competitions, with poker soon to join alongside. The WPT’s sub-tour, WPTDeepstacks, also offered a mobile esports setup outside an event in Holland last year.
Today, the World Series of Poker announced a minor esports partnership of its own. UMG Media Corp. will provide competitive gaming booths for patrons attending this summer’s WSOP in Las Vegas from May 29-July 17.
According to a press release, players and spectators will compete against each other in games like Fortnite, Hearthstone and FIFA.
The promotional video is… not very exciting.
It sounds like the setup will be hard to miss at the Rio.
The UMG Esports Stage will occupy the raised area along the back wall of the Pavilion (that’s the big room). The series’ primary poker room comes complete with a built-in stage that’s perfectly positioned for partners. You may recall DraftKings occupying the space in the past.
During the series, UMG will host dedicated WSOP contests across a number of games and platforms. Expect to see more sports games and first-person shooters in addition to the titles already mentioned. Both PCs and Xbox One consoles will be available for gamers.
Players need to download the UMG app in order to participate in the contests, and staff will be on site to help them through the process.
The agreement basically fills a spot for the WSOP and its parent company, Caesars. The Pavilion stage would be empty without a partner, and there’s revenue to be earned from leasing the real estate. UMG seems to have a complementary product that shouldn’t detract from the WSOP (at least not too much).
For WSOP attendees, esports could provide a nice diversion from the monotony of summer poker. Whether you’re playing, watching or working, spending the better part of two months at the Rio can take a mental toll. Having run that marathon several times, I definitely would have welcomed the occasional FIFA match against colleagues on dinner break.
The partnership makes a lot of sense for UMG, too. The esports company has been running LAN tournaments in brick-and-mortar locations since 2008, which is pretty early for the industry. Small events like those have blossomed into enormous, world-class esports competitions in recent years, and UMG is part of the growth.
CEO Dave Antony says a presence at the WSOP is part of a larger effort in Las Vegas:
Last year we watched our initiative to grow esports in Las Vegas grow by leaps and bounds. Bringing the UMG Esports Stage into the World Series of Poker events is an amazing next step in continuing this initiative into 2018 and beyond.
UMG will utilize its ground breaking event management app to help organize the event and to constantly update participants of upcoming play and special events at the UMG stage.
According to the press release, UMG Online has hosted more than 18 million matches to date, and it serves almost two million monthly users. It’s mission is to “bring competitive gaming and quality gear to gamers everywhere.”
“Everywhere” will include the WSOP this summer. More than 250,000 people from all over the world will visit the Rio during the 50-day festival — many of whom dabble in online gaming of some sort.