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It was only a matter of time until poker and the fast-rising world of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) overlapped.
That moment appears to have come thanks to a new partnership between the World Poker Tour and Theta Labs, operators of the Theta Network, which will support the NFTs. Select WPT moments will first go on sale April 18 during the premiere of a four-episode cash game series, as poker becomes the latest industry to dive into the popular new blockchain frontier.
The WPT billed the sale as “the world’s first real-time NFT marketplace” in a Thursday morning presser.
“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, giving our fans an interactive, real-time opportunity to collect a piece of the WPT poker action,” said WPT CEO Adam Pliska in the release.
A Brief Explanation of NFTs
A deep dive into NFTs is beyond the scope of this article, but many readers may not be familiar with them, so PokerNews will attempt to provide a brief primer.
Essentially, NFTs are digital collectibles — the later being the “token” part of the equation.
The “non-fungible” part means each one is unique — they aren’t interchangeable the way two monetary notes of the same denomination would be. However, this can be a bit misleading. Each token is unique in the sense that it has its own identity on the blockchain, but other tokens may have the same appearance the same way two identical football cards do.
Here are a few key points from the BBC’s article on the matter from March, during perhaps the height of NFT craze to date:
- NFTs are “one-of-a-kind” assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold like any other piece of property, but they have no tangible form of their own.
- The digital tokens can be thought of as certificates of ownership for virtual or physical assets.
- As with crypto-currency, a record of who owns what is stored on a shared ledger known as the blockchain.
- The records cannot be forged.
- Interest has been fueled by recent headlines of multi-million-dollar sales.
How Does Poker Fit into the World of NFTs?
Examples of popular NFTs that have taken the world by storm include digital art, music and even basketball highlight clips — the latter, NBA Top Shot, appears to be instructive in what the WPT is trying to do.
Like NBA Top Shot, the WPT NFTs will be poker “moments,” probably video snippets documenting a memorable hand or scene at a poker event. Also like NBA Top Shot, the WPT plans to release the moments in three tiers: Base, Rare and Legendary. Rare NBA packs retail for $99 and Legendary ones for $999.
PokerNews inquired as to the pricing of the WPT packs and was told “pricing is TBD.”
WPT moments — there doesn’t appear to be a catchy name like Top Shot, at least as of the presser — don’t figure to fetch the same sort of value as the Top Shots, some of which are selling for six figures. After all, the market for poker fans doesn’t quite match up to that of the NBA.
Still, if poker fans find them endearing or deem them collectible, a market could develop around the NFTs.
The WPT is bringing perhaps its biggest name to bear for the initial drop, the late Mike Sexton. The longtime former commentator and face of the company will be featured in a special NFT with only three releases that will be auctioned off. The smart money would seem to be on Sexton’s 2016 WPT win, which he called one of his life’s dreams at the time.
The WPT moments will go on sale during specially timed “drops” that will occur during upcoming episodes of WPT TV shows. Rather than the usual tournament content, the shows will consist of cash games filmed in October 2020 featuring several big names that will be revealed in the coming weeks.
“Each week during the episode, in-show advertisement and promotional segments will direct viewers to the NFT marketplace to queue up, purchase exclusive WPT packs for a limited time and participate in the live auction for a unique legendary poker moment,” the WPT presser explained.
The episodes will run on four consecutive Sundays, April 18 through May 9. It wasn’t indicated when or how often the NFTs will be available after that.
Theta Network to Power WPT NFTs
While most NFTs are housed on the Ethereum blockchain, the WPT has partnered with Theta Network, a blockchain company focused specifically on media delivery. It touts itself as a faster, more eco-friendly network when compared to ETH.
The corresponding cryptocurrency, THETA, has been among a number of surging coins in a recent bull run in the markets. At the time of writing, THETA had the 11th-ranked market cap according to industry tracker CoinMarketCap, with its value having increased three-fold in the past month to roughly $12.
“We’re excited to launch the next-generation NFT marketplace with WPT, a unique opportunity to bring digital collectibles synchronized to live TV and cable broadcast to an audience of millions worldwide,” said Mitch Liu, co-founder and CEO of Theta Labs.
Those interested in pre-registering for the WPT drops can head to ThetaDrop.com
Lead photo courtesy of WPT