Thursday, August 19, 2010

2010-2011 WSOP Circuit Kicks Off Today

Today marks the start of the 2010-2011 World Series of Poker Circuit, which at present comprises a dozen different tournament series played all over the United States. (There’s also an event in South Africa in October that is sorta-kinda part of the Circuit, too.) Things kick off today with the first event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs in Council Bluffs, Iowa. There will be more than 30 different tourneys played there over the next couple of weeks, with the $1,600 buy-in Main Event happening near month’s end.

There was a bit of buzz back in July when the new WSOP Circuit schedule was announced, although everyone was too occupied by the Main Event to pay it a lot of attention then. There was some talk about it then, though, mostly concerning the fact that this year the Circuit will culminate with a “WSOP Circuit National Championship” at Harrah’s New Orleans in May 2011, the winner of which will be earning an actual, bona fide, real deal WSOP gold bracelet.

That means that in addition to the 57 bracelets awarded in Las Vegas this summer (and in November), there will be six more awarded this year -- five at the WSOPE next month, and one for the WSOP Circuit National Champion -- making 63 total.

There will be a cumulative point system used throughout the tour according to which players who cash in Circuit events will earn points. Being among the top point-getters is one way to earn a spot in the National Championship, but there are other ways to get in, too.

Winning one of the Main Events on the Circuit will get you there. Players who accumulate the most points at each particular stop -- thereby becoming the “Casino Champion” -- will win seats. Additionally, those making the final tables at each of the four $10,000 buy-in “Regional Championships” (at Horseshoe Hammond in October, Harrah’s Atlantic City in December, Harrah’s Rincon in March, and Harrah’s New Orleans in May) win entries.

Ultimately, the idea is there will be a 100-player field for that WSOP Circuit National Championship, with all of the players earning their spots by performing well throughout the Series. In other words, unlike every other WSOP bracelet event, no one can buy into this one -- you have to play your way in. In addition to the bracelet, there will be a $1 million prize pool to play for, distributed among the top 10 finishers.

There’s going to be some television coverage, too, of these events which will bring it added attention (and players, probably). Looks like all four of the “Regional Championships” will get their final tables televised, as will the National Championship.

Reading through the press release containing the schedule and all of the information about the point system and qualifying is a bit complicated, actually. There’s a note in here about how there may be some duplicates among those qualifying for the National Championship -- e.g., the winner of a Main Event may get in a couple of different ways (via points and the win). If I am understanding it correctly, it sounds like the plan in such cases is to bump folks up on the points list in order to make it an even 100 players for the Championship.

If you want to sort through it all yourself, here’s the announcement of the 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit and schedule and here’s the point system chart.

It’ll be interesting to see how the WSOP Circuit goes this year with regard to turnouts and general awareness. I’m guessing that as it goes along and we get to the spring -- and people start realizing there’s this $1 million tourney with a bracelet at the end -- the buzz will start to get a lot louder.

Kind of a clever idea to recharge the WSOP Circuit, which over the last few years had lost a lot of its momentum. And while I continue to believe there are way too many bracelets being awarded each year, having a bracelet event in which players must earn their way in is an interesting twist, too.

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