World Poker Tour Returns To California With Legends of Poker Main Event

Written By Steven Schult on July 21, 2022
WPT returns to Southern California Casino

One of the World Poker Tour’s most iconic tournaments is returning to the Bicycle Casino this year.

Last week, the WPT announced it will bring the Legends of Poker main event back to the Southern California casino. The no-limit hold ’em tournament will run from Aug. 27 – Sept. 1 and cap off the larger Legends of Poker festival.

The WPT-branded main event will have a $5,250 buy-in. The week-long, four-day event will feature three starting days and a $2.5 million guaranteed prize pool. The final table will be live-streamed on all WPT platforms, including YouTube and Twitch.

Legends of Poker is ripe with poker history

Next month will mark the first time the series returned to the WPT since the start of the pandemic. With California mandating some of the toughest COVID-19 restrictions, it took the Golden State longer than others to bring back large-scale poker tournaments.

However, prior to the virus, Legends of Poker was a bedrock of every season’s schedule.

The Bell Gardens cardroom was one of the first venues to ink a partnership with the WPT. Since the tour’s first season in 2002-2003, the Legends of Poker main event was a WPT-branded tournament almost every year.

The only outlier came in 2018 when the event was replaced with a stop on the WPT500 series. The experiment was short-lived as the event returned in 2019 with Aaron Van Blarcum winning the tournament for $474,390.

WPT CEO Adam Pliska echoed the historical sentiment in the announcement:

“The Legends of Poker event holds a very special place in the history of the World Poker Tour,” said Pliska. “Collaborating with The Bike on another event is a fitting continuation of our 20th anniversary celebration.”

A look back at past Legends of Poker events

YearBuy-inEntries WinnerPayout
2019$5,000520Aaron Van Blarcum$474,390
2017 $4,000 763Art Papazyan $668,692
2016 $4,000687Pat Lyons$615,346
2015$3,700786Mike Shariati$675,942
2014$3,700593Harry Arutyunyan$560,969
2013$3,700716Jordan Cristos$613,355
2012$3,700622Josh Hale$500,000
2011$3,700757Will Failla$758,085
2010$5,000462Andy Frankenberger$750,000
2009$10,000279Prahlad Friedman$1,034,000
2008$10,000373John Phan$1,091,428
2007$10,000485Dan Harrington$1,635,365
2006$10,000466Joe Pelton$1,620,670
2005$5,150839Alex Kahaner$1,150,900
2004$5,150667Doyle Brunson$1,198,260
2003$5,080309Mel Judah$579,375
2002$5,080134Chris Karagulleyan$258,000

Past winners include some of poker’s biggest names. Poker Hall of Famers Doyle Brunson and Dan Harrington won the event in 2004 and 2007, respectively.

Despite the legendary resumes of Brunson and Harrington, their Legends of Poker victories were the largest scores of their illustrious careers. For Brunson, it was the only time he cashed for at least $1 million.

Several young online poker stars won the event in the later years of the modern poker boom.

John Phan earned a seven-figure payday for his victory in 2008. Prahlad Friedman, well-known for his high-stakes exploits under the screen name “Spirit Rock,” took it down the following year.

In recent years, the new class of high-stakes regulars typically made waves at the Bicycle Casino. Art Papazyan was a regular on live-streamed nosebleed stakes cash games, but made his mark on the tournament world by winning the event in 2017.

Preliminary events start next week

The WPT main event is just a small piece of the greater Legends of Poker series. The Bicycle Casino kicks off prelim events next week with the start of a $260 no-limit hold’em “Quantum” event on July 25.

The five-week series features 36 events, varying prize pool guarantees, and daily satellite tournaments. Aside from no-limit hold ’em, the Bike will spread pot-limit Omaha, seven-card stud hi-lo, Omaha hi-lo, big O, and HORSE tournaments.

Photo by World Poker Tour / Joe Giron
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Steven Schult

Steve serves as managing editor for PlayCA and a handful of other sites across Catena Media. The New York native is a veteran of the gambling world. He started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker's most prominent media outlets before adding the broader US gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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