When WPT Venice Grand Prix kicks off on February 6, 2012, it will do so with the historic Carnival of Venice as a backdrop. While the Carnival draws people from all over the world to celebrate the heritage of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, poker players from all over the world will be gathering to play against each other in the oldest casino in the world, Casino di Venezia, for this unique World Poker Tour stop.
Dating back to as early as the 1100s, the Carnival of Venice starts 40 days before Easter and ends on Shrove (Fat) Tuesday. In 1296, the Carnival and its masquerade balls had become so popular that the City of Venice declared the day before Lent a public holiday. However, several hundred years later, the wearing of masks was banned and Carnival cancelled due to religious concerns over the level of debauchery seen during Carnival times in the 17th century. In 1979, to aid with tourism, city officials brought back the Carnival of Venice and it has taken place every year since. The masks, masquerades and old traditions have been reinstated and flourish with 30,000 visitors per day coming through Venice.
Much like the poker table is the great equalizer for all poker players, the history of the Venetian masks has a similarly egalitarian ideal. When class divisions were rampant and glaring in the Middle Ages, the masks were designed to hide the faces of rich and poor alike, giving everybody the chance to interact as equals during Carnival time. Nowadays, the masks have become a decorative centerpiece for the Carnival and awards are given out for the best mask – “La Maschera piu bella” – by a committee of internationally-renowned fashion and costume designers.
Along with the beauty of the city, the history of the oldest casino in the world and the cultural display of the Carnival of Venice, WPT Venice Grand Prix is likely to be an unforgettable experience for the poker players who make the journey. The €4,950 buy-in tournament starts on February 6 and the WPT televised final table will take place on February 10. The whole WPT team will be on hand, including WPT Commentators Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, new WPT Anchor Marianela Pereyra, the Royal Flush Girls.
All photos from Flickr user Domen Jakus