WSOP Circuit Tunica Recap
Aug 26, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

The WSOP Circuit's first stop of the year at Grand Casino Tunica is over after a successful two-week run. 4,421 players entered the 12 tournaments, each vying for their share of a total $4,445,520 prize pool. The first no-limit hold'em event set a record for the largest field since the inception of the WSOP Circuit last year - no small achievement considering it was the first time the Circuit had come to Tunica. Also claiming "first" status were the Pot-Limit Hold'em and Pot-Limit Omaha events at Grand Casino Tunica - no stop on the WSOP Circuit last year included these games. Here is an overview of the full tournament schedule in Tunica:

Event #1 No-Limit Hold'em 873 entries $254,425
Event #2 Limit Hold'em 394 entries $191,090
Event #3 No-Limit Hold'em 383 entries $371,510
Event #4 No-Limit Hold'em 544 entries $264,845
Event #5 Pot-Limit Omaha 134 entries $185,270
Event #6 No-Limit Hold'em 644 entries $187,405
Event #7 Pot-Limit Hold'em 264 entries $128,040
Event #8 No-Limit Hold'em 323 entries $313,310
Event #9 No-Limit Hold'em 255 entries $371, 025
Event #10 No-Limit Hold'em 205 entries $397,700
Event #11 Ladies No-Limit Hold'em 223 entries $44,600
Main Event No-Limit Hold'em 179 entries $1,736,300
Totals   4421 entries $4,445,520

By holding these tournaments in Tunica - the nearest gambling hub for most of the Southeast United States - Harrah's expanded the geographic area represented at the Circuit. It wasn't uncommon to see a significant fraction of entries in a given tournament come from Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Florida. Last year that wasn't always possible because of the travel costs associated with going from those locations to the Northeast, or to Las Vegas and other points west. Plenty of other areas were represented, especially as the buy-ins got larger over the course of the two-week stop, but the bulk of the players came from nearby areas. This is a trend worth cheering no matter where you're from because the more champions that come from areas where poker may not currently be legal, the greater the chance that people will begin to see it as a legitimate game of skill. The more mainstream acceptance poker gains, the better off all poker players are.

Outside of the $300+40 events, the tournament fields were on the small side. In truth, they could have been a good deal larger if a few factors had been changed. The amount of advance notice given about the Tunica stop was slim, with even the local population unaware the Circuit was coming until shortly before the start of the first day of satellites. With a little more advertising, there is little doubt that the prize pools would have been significantly larger. The timing of the event was less than ideal, too, as the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle coincided with the second half of the Tunica WSOP Circuit. That cut into the number of professional and semi-professional players willing to come out to Mississippi, due not only to the larger prize pools in Los Angeles but also to the prestige of the more established event. With those factors taken into consideration, the turnout for at Grand Casino Tunica was actually quite good. What the tournaments may have lacked in size, they more than made up for in pure competition.

The Circuit is due to return to Tunica in January, a much better time for poker in Mississippi. By then the heat has died down for the winter, the mosquitoes aren't out in force, and the World Poker Open at the Horseshoe and Gold Strike traditionally brings the poker world's focus to the third largest gambling resort in America. It's almost a sure bet that the fields and prize pools will be larger for the second go-round, but the recently completed Circuit stop was a good way to get everyone's poker juices flowing again after the gigantic WSOP at the Rio. Next stop: Harrah's Las Vegas in two weeks.

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