The ESPN/World Series of Poker Circuit's first stop, being held now at Harrah's in Atlantic City, NJ, has been beset by a lack of players and smaller prizes than expected.
The new poker tour, the first of five stops on the way to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in June and July, has been primarily concentrating on middle to upper level buy-ins, mostly in the $500-$2000 range. What has resulted is reduced fields and a lack of big name professional players adding their drawing power to the event.
Scheduling has to be a part of this phenomenon. Not one but two high profile, and possibly more inviting, tournaments, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas and the Jack Binion World Poker Open in Tunica, MS, have either completed their play or are currently playing at the same time. They seem to be drawing the bigger fields and the bigger names away from Atlantic City. This is resulting in some pitifully sized tournaments for something as prestigious as this first stop of the WSOP Circuit.
Only the first event of the tournament, the $500 plus $50 No-Limit Hold 'Em Event, has drawn over six hundred competitors. Other events, especially those during the week, have only drawn a little more than 100 to 200 players, with a player field of only fifty seven for the $1000 buy in Limit Hold 'Em Event, held on January 10th (a Monday). Such fields are good for the up and comers to make their mark, but with the lack of the professionals in the games, it may not be a true test of the abilities of the players.
The two large dollar buy-in tournaments, the $2000 Limit and No-Limit events and the Championship Event ($10000 buy-in) are to be conducted over the next few days (January 13th through the 18th) and it will remain to be seen what will be the fields for those events. What also remains to be seen is how the Tournament of Champions race will be affected. While the points are weighted to the higher dollar tournaments, if the newcomers take most of the qualifying spots because they have built up a great deal of points from the lower level tourneys and then do well in the freeroll, would people be interested in a tournament that is devoid of the big names?
The jury may still be out if the ESPN/WSOP Circuit will be a viable tournament trail for the big names of the game. If the previous days course holds true, it may be a newcomer who draws the first blood on the WSOP Circuit's chase for the Tournament of Champions.