The World Poker Tour’s 18th season debut on Sunday, April 18 will bring a new wrinkle, as the WPT will provide its fans and viewers with the opportunity to purchase unique, digitally authenticated virtual collectibles. In partnership with Theta Labs, a blockchain-based video delivery network, the WPT will be introducing collectible and authenticated video “Moments” and digital trading cards through Theta’s NFT (non-fungible token) marketplace.
The “Moments,” which are brief video clips of famous scenes in World Poker Tour history, will be announced during each episode and will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The first such video Moment will feature legendary WPT broadcaster and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton, who passed away from cancer last September.
Also arriving during the WPT’s Season XVIII debut is the first drop of virtual trading packs, with cards featuring famous WPT figures. Cards of each included player will be available in common, rare, and “Legendary” versions. Fans can register for a chance to bid on virtual packs of these cards by visiting ThetaDrop.
What’s an NFT, anyway?
A non-fungible token, or NFT, is one of the latest buzz words making the rounds. Simply and roughly put, an NFT is a digital signature that can be embedded into virtually any digital asset. That signature can be uploaded to the supporting blockchain, and it serves as an authenticator, allowing many assets to be created as unique digital collectibles. Without such a digital signature, an asset such as a card image or a video stream is easily copied and thus, has no value as a digital collectible.
Theta’s deal with the WPT for these new digital collectibles also includes the use of Theta’s proprietary video delivery network, and a token (virtual coin) also created by Theta Labs. The project is linked to Ethereum and other digital currency platforms, meaning the NFTs can be migrated from one such crypto-coin to another, making them more liquid and, potentially, more valuable.
WPT moves in on digital collectability
The WPT is the first major poker brand to make the move into digital collectibles, which have seen skyrocketing exposure due to the ongoing surge in interest in trading cards and other such items. “Our exclusive NFT launch with Theta Network is one of our biggest digital initiatives to date and, for the first time ever, we’re combining our global reach of live televised poker with an NFT marketplace,” said World Poker Tour CEO Adam Pliska. “[We’re] giving our fans an interactive, real-time opportunity to collect a piece of the WPT poker action.”
Pliska added, “We are thrilled to bring some of our top poker pros, players, and celebrities to the NFT world, featuring rare and legendary WPT packs in weekly drops, and running exclusive, one-of-a-kind auctions for super-rare poker moments.”
Some players to share in revenue stream
Creating a new revenue stream on the back of a surging collectibles craze represents a chance for significant reward with relatively little overhead. And if the WPT’s new virtual trading cards take off, the pictured players will receive a slice of the pie as well.
According to an official WPT statement given to CardsChat News, “Players will receive a portion of WPT NFT sales in perpetuity. We’re pleased to be able to reward our players beyond their initial TV final table appearance and look forward to creating moments from all 18 seasons.” The statement also clarifies that only televised final-table players and WPT personalities will be included in the release, though with the WPT’s long history, the opportunity exists for several different series of virtual trading cards, should consumer interest be significant.
The WPT’s act of reserving a slice of revenue for depicted players also acknowledges the tricky issue of players’ image rights, which have been an occasional source of controversy for as long as such collectibles have existed. Poker itself is an unusual market in that regard, as its lack of a players’ association (as with most major sports) has meant any creator of a trading-card set needed to negotiate individually with players for image rights.
While the new NFT-signed video moments are entirely under WPT control, individual player likenesses remain more of a grey area, yet one that may turn out to be profitable for all involved.