WPT Executive Tour Director Matt Savage Interview – Ahead of the 2023 WPT World Championship

wpt matt savage interview

5 minutes

Last Updated: January 25, 2024

The WPT World Championship is approaching quickly, and the excitement is building up with each passing day. The largest-guarantee in history of live poker is certainly something to get excited about if you’re a poker player, but these types of events don’t happen on their own.

There is an army of people working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure everything goes smoothly and those who decide to visit the Wynn in December enjoy their time.

One man carrying a large part of that burden is Matt Savage, the WPT Executive Tour Director. Despite his very busy schedule, he found some time to sit down with us and answer some burning question ahead of December’s big spectacle.

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Q: WPT just announced an unheard-of live event guarantee of $40 million, which is groundbreaking, to say the least. What do you expect from the WPT World Championship in 2023?

Matt: I fully expect the trajectory of success to continue in 2023. The $40,000,000 guarantee shows that the Wynn and WPT have faith in the product.

I believe that many players who didn’t attend in 2022 may have developed a severe case of FOMO, which will fuel an increase in field size.

Q: As the person running the show, you must be very excited about the event. I remember from an interview last year that you asked for a bigger “ballroom” to accommodate all the players.

Now that the event is expected to have at least 1,000 more entries, you’ll need more space. So, have you been able to address this issue and increase the capacity?

Matt: First off, I want to give full credit to Charlie Stone, Ryan Beauregard, Ray Pulford, and their amazing dealers and staff for “running the show” last year. I was certainly on the floor providing support, but the Wynn crew did a fantastic job as the lead.

We definitely did, and definitely will, need more space this December. Gratefully, Ryan addressed this issue, and we will have at total of 256 tables between the ballroom, additional tournament rooms, and poker room for the upcoming festival.

Q: You’re obviously no stranger to running big tournaments, but looking from the outside, setting up something like this and ensuring everything runs smoothly feels like such a big challenge.

From the experience last year and your decades of experience in the industry, what do you think will be the biggest obstacles, and how do you plan to overcome them?

Matt: The biggest challenge with these massive schedules and festivals is always moving forward and keeping the momentum.

The WPT has always kept this in mind and with a powerhouse poker room like the Wynn having similar goals I see this championship festival continuing to grow.

Q: One question I really want to ask, and I’m sure quite a few players would like to know about it, is regarding the Milestone Satellites. It’s my understanding that players only need to accumulate a certain number of chips to win a seat, which makes them an interesting hybrid between tournaments and cash games.

Could you elaborate more on the format, and would you say these are better/more popular than traditional satellites?

Matt: The “Milestone” satellites are better than traditional satellites because they reward aggression. In a standard satellite building a stack early and coasting, stalling, and not pushing the action needed to be changed.

Q: Looking back at 2022, what were some of your favorite moments and best memories from that event? Did you face any tougher than usual decisions, or was it smooth sailing for the most part?

Matt: My favorite moments were when the entire WPT family and the Wynn came together and basically did what many said could not be done.

When I walked into the Wynn ballroom every day I was amazed at the grandness and the beauty that hasn’t been matched before or since.

Q: Another question that I’m sure many are curious about is what your typical day looks like once things kick off?

How many hours will you spend at and around the tournament floor when the cards are in the air for the Championship Event, and how much work is happening behind the scenes?

Matt: I would usually get up at 8:00 a.m., answer social media, emails, and text requests and focus on keeping the conversation going about the event’s success and progression. I would then go to the ballroom and see if Ray or Ryan needed any assistance.

There was so much going on around the festival with off-the-felt activities that I had a hand in assisting our Tour Management team.

Over my career I have touched nearly every aspect of the poker world and it’s always my goal to make people and the event look better. My duo role as the WPT Executive Tour Director and “Talent” keep me plenty busy.

Q: What does it feel like when you see an event like the WPT World Championship from start to finish, and everything goes as planned, or even much better than planned, as was last year? What are some of the thoughts and emotions that go through your head once the dust settles?

Matt: There are always many thoughts and emotions, great question. I compile a list daily of things I believe we can do better and debrief with Ryan and his team.

Believe it or not, there was a list mainly with little things and the Wynn is very receptive to hearing new ideas and I believe this is what makes them the ideal partner. And I’m thankful for what was achieved yet know we can do so much more.

The emotion comes from having stress toward bold goals like the $5,000,000 and $40,000,000, and the relief that arrives when that one player registers at the cage to hit the mark.

Q: To wrap this up, can you share why you think players should come to this WPT World Championship and what they can expect from the entire experience in the poker room and outside of it?

Matt: Players should come to the WPT Wynn World Championship because they can experience so much more than just a poker tournament.

The Wynn is pure class and the WPT is working very hard to provide the best possible festival and continue to grow year over year, raising the bar once again for the industry.

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