The World Series of Poker's new Circuit series stop at Horseshoe Hammond (Indiana), has provided a prominent new stage for poker events in a region where players have previously suffered comparatively small access to nearby major events. Attendance through the first ten preliminary Circuit tourneys has been solid, with another strong field expected to be on hand for the stop's main event. That $5,150 event begins on Friday and will feature live coverage here on PokerNews.
The expanded poker facilities at the redesigned Horseshoe opened the way for the World Series of Poker's first stop in the Great Lakes region. Previously, the closest stops used for a WSOP Circuit series were in southern Indiana, near Louisville, or at the Council Bluffs facility in western Iowa. The new locale opens up the populous Chicago metro market to convenient WSOP-branded poker.
Of special note is the attendance in the Hammond stop's first preliminary event, a $345 NLHE tourney which drew 1,187 runners. That figure is the second-largest attendance in Circuit history, trailing only a 1,345-player turnout for a $555-buyin prelim at Tunica, MS, in 2006.
Only with expansion of the poker facilities at Horseshoe Hammond was the new Circuit stop even feasible. Almost all play has taken place in the spacious "The Venue" facility on the casino's upper floor, a concert and entertainment hall converted for the purpose of the WSOP-C stop. The hall holds 78 tables with ease, including three designated final tables on the performance stage on one wall of the hall. Three rows of bleacher seating were built onto the stage for the event, and poker fans wanting a bird's eye view of the play can venture into the hall's mezzanine seating, which sits some 30 feet above the floor of "The Venue" and provides a global sense of the series' play. Overflow for the busiest events, such as the record-setting opening-day prelim, has moved into the Horseshoe's upscale and stylish poker room on the casino's main floor. That room features not only a step-up second level for the Midwest's high-rolling players, but also has an adjacent, two-table private lounge for the deepest cash-game bankrolls in the region. (It is rumored that games as high as $25/50 no-limit have already been spread.) The room is nicknamed "Benny's Room" and features a giant-screen TV, private waitress service, and an enlarged photo of the original Binion's Horseshoe patriarch overlooking the players.
Veteran WSOP tournament directors Charlie Ciresi and Steve Frezer have led the WSOP Circuit series into the Chicago region, helping design tournament structures offering ample play, in most cases offering slowly climbing blinds and roomy 40-minute levels. Said Ciresi, about the stop's debut success, "I feel as though everything the property has done in preparation prior to the event and has executed during the event has been everything we envisioned." Ciresi expressed a satisfaction in the attendance numbers, especially in what he described as a "sloo-owww economy," which has seen downturns in other gambling and entertainment sectors.
As for the structures offered in the Circuit events, Ciresi noted, "We want to make sure everyone gets enough value for their money. Especially," he added, noting the Circuit series' value as a promotional companion for the WSOP itself, "in their own backyard." So far, Chicago-area players have liked what they've seen.