China’s Alibaba Group Behind Major New Poker Tour

December 2nd, 2016 | by Kaycee James
Alibaba sports International Poker Tour

Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group has announced the creation of a new series of events called the International Poker Tour. (Image: AFP Photo/Tobias Schwarz)

China’s Alibaba Sports Group has announced the formation of a new poker tour with more than $7 million in prize money up for grabs.

The sports group, which is part of China’s largest e-commerce business Alibaba, will be putting up guaranteed prize money for events set to take place in Europe, North America and Asia.

Although the dates and venues have yet to be announced, officials from the company said that the new series of events would be called the International Poker Tour (IPT).

News outlet DZPK was at the Shanghai press conference and seemed to suggest that the tour may also include chess, bridge and “other sports poker projects.” The inclusion of games such chess at poker events is nothing new.

PokerStars has often held crossover events on the European Poker Tour, but what is different about this project is the level of backing behind it.

Big Bankrolls Backing IPT

Alibaba is one of the largest companies in the world and its founder, Jack Ma, is the second richest man in China with a net worth of $26.5 billion. As well as a huge amount of financial might, Alibaba is a trusted brand in Asia and that will no doubt add an air of credibility to the project.

New poker tours have been hard to come by over the past decade. Although established operators such as the WPT have managed to launch various new events in recent years, they’ve often done so off the back of their main tours.

The International Poker Tour is an outsider in this sense, but that could be a positive thing. Without having to worry about spreading its interests between events or an online platform, the International Poker Tour could thrive in what’s proven to be a tough marketplace.

China Embracing Poker

However, even with the backing of the Alibaba Group, the tour could still struggle if it doesn’t have an effective satellite system. Although it’s not yet clear whether the tour will have any live or online satellite partners, they may be necessary once the tour moves out of Asia.

Regardless of the long-term success of the International Poker Tour, there’s no doubt that China is fast becoming a hotbed for poker. Back in 2015 the WPT was purchased by Chinese social gaming company Ourgame, while a selection of investors in the Global Poker League are based in China.

On top of these moves, David Baazov’s bid for Amaya is being backed by two Chinese companies. These moves, combined with the creation of the International Poker Tour, suggest that China is now starting to show the promise that many have long suggested it has.

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