POKER

WSOP Circuit reinvention boosts player fields, restores hope

TAGs: Circuit, world series of poker, WSOP

WSOP-Circuit-ReinventionThe World Series of Poker Circuit tour is back after some off-season tinkering that may have successfully performed CPR on a poker property that was fading fast. The WSOP-C positively charged out of the gates during the poker boom of 2004-05, but the average number of players taking the field had dropped by almost half at the end of the decade. Prize pools fell even faster, with last season’s average first-place money barely one quarter of its 2004-05 figure. Clearly, without some serious retooling, the WSOP-C seemed doomed to irrelevancy or extinction.

This season, the buy-in has been cut dramatically to $1,500, and while the lowered hurdle won’t do anything to increase purses, the Circuit’s first stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa boasted a field of 251 players (twice last year’s average). Winner Blair Hinkle took home $88,555, which, again, no one will confuse with WSOP millions, but it’s already over the expected $87K average for this year’s tour. At the Circuit’s current stop at Horseshoe Southern Indiana, 289 players showed up for the Main Event, with first place worth $99,878.

Other changes for 2010-11: in addition to the usual Main Event, four of the Circuit’s 12 stops will feature a special $10K buy-in Regional Championship. These Regionals will be televised, and hey, you’re nothing these days without TV coverage. There will also be a $1M National Championship staged just prior to the WSOP in Las Vegas, in which 100 players who qualified along the way will face off. It can’t have been easy, but the WSOP-C organizers deserve credit for doing what they needed to do to put some wind back in the Circuit’s sails.

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