Corona might be on everyone’s mind right now but the World Poker Tour has flipped the script by partnering with Budweiser.
The two companies are set to host a new online charity series known as The King’s Celebrity Poker Challenge. Taking place on ClubWPT, the MTTs will feature A-list celebrities and sports stars from around the world.
Like PokerStars’ recent efforts, the aim is to raise money for coronavirus relief efforts but also embrace the moment and provide a new type of online entertainment.
WPT Using Star Power to Raise Money for Charity
The action will take place on ClubWPT, the WPT’s free-play poker site, and the celebs will be connected via Zoom. Tony Dunst and Lynn Gilmartin will provide the commentary, but everyone at the table can add to the entertainment.
The first episode of The King’s Celebrity Poker Challenge sees a diverse mix of celebrities ante up.
NBA all-star Pau Gasol, comedians Kevin Pollak and Jason Alexander, champion surfer Kelly Slater, and Hollywood star Jon Hamm are all in action. Also in the game is World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés.
Although the tournaments will use ClubWPT’s free-play software, the money donated to charity will be real. Budweiser will give $15,000 to a nominated charity on behalf of each player ($90,000). It will also donate an extra $35,000 in the winner’s name, taking the total amount to $125,000.
With Andrés at the felt in game number one, World Central Kitchen will receive the first donation. From there, the aim is to select other charities and use the power of poker to affect positive change during testing times.
Budweiser Deal Signals New Era for Poker Entertainment
The WPT has forged a number of high-profile partnerships in recent years. The deal with Budweiser has a slightly different feel. With coronavirus putting the brakes on live sports, there’s a gap in the market that poker can fill.
At a time when branding opportunities in baseball and football are limited, the WPT is providing a competitive platform. Budweiser jumped on this and, in turn, helped to create an event that’s beneficial on multiple levels.
Raising money for charity is the primary benefit. However, The King’s Celebrity Poker Challenge also taps into the new wave of online entertainment. With the WPT unable to produce its regular TV content, online streams are the next best thing.
Finally, the partnership with Budweiser is a positive for the industry as a whole. As an international brand, it has the power to bring attention to anything it touches.
The deal with WPT isn’t on par with the $1 billion licensing agreement Budweiser struck with the NFL in 2010. However, it’s a sign that poker is now being considered, at least in some way, in the same bracket as sports like football.
This could be huge for the industry. If poker can build a new fanbase among sports fans while there’s a lack of live action, it could have a lasting effect. That will not only benefit the WPT, but everyone else connected to poker.
The first episode of The King’s Celebrity Poker Challenge will air as a two-hour special on the WPT’s and Budweiser’s Twitch channels on May 28 at 8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT.