For the past year, the 2011-2012 World Series of Poker Circuit has hosted 17 stops across the United States. The PokerNews Live Reporting Team was at all but one of the stops, and will even be at Harrah’s New Orleans this weekend, the last tournament on the schedule before this year’s $1 Million National Championship in July.
In recognition of the another successful year, we asked members of our team to offer their opinion on their favorite WSOP Circuit’s stops. Here’s what they had to say:
Donnie Peters (Global Live Reporting Manager): Everyone knows that there is no better place for a poker event than the mecca of the poker world, Las Vegas. Each and every year, the World Series of Poker Circuit makes a stop in Sin City at Caesars Palace and it never disappoints. This year was another great year for the WSOP Circuit event in Las Vegas and one I love attending, always.
The number one reason I believe the Caesars Palace stop in Las Vegas is the best is simply because it's always the event with the most big names in the field. With so many players residing in Las Vegas and not often traveling to the other events, the stop in Vegas tends to be the one they play every year. When you walk through the tournament room, each table is packed with four, five or maybe six known faces and the field is one of the biggest in the tour. It's also great to see the amateurs in the field and local Vegas grinders get the opportunity to play with some of the most famous players out there. This makes for a great, fun event that is never short of exciting and packs plenty of entertainment.
Speaking of entertainment, there's no better place for a stop on a poker tour than Las Vegas given all of the nightlife options out there. Poker players love the nightlife in Vegas and when the WSOP Circuit comes to Vegas, a great poker event is witnessed during the day followed by some epic nights out on the town after the chips are bagged up. It's just the best of the best, but I'm also a bit partial because I do reside in Las Vegas.
Eric Ramsey (Senior Tournament Reporter): If you've never been there, you'd likely put Council Bluffs, Iowa, right at the very bottom of your list of places to visit on the WSOP Circuit. But since we're talking about the nation's breadbasket and the land of college football, we'll borrow a line from ESPN's Coach Lee Corso: "Not so fast, my friend!"
From the moment you step off the plane at Omaha's Eppley Airfield, the residents of the region start to make a favorable first impression. The friendly eye contact and smiles from strangers begin to pull you into a sunny mood as you head for the exit doors. It's sunny and warm outside, too. The man managing the taxi queue doesn't have much work to do, and that gives him plenty of time to be just about the nicest man in the world. Your cab driver will be even nicer, and he'll wow you with his knowledge of local watering holes and recent real estate trends as he cruises along about 15 MPH slower than the rest of the world. The speed of life in the Midwest requires some getting used to for big-city folks, but it's that refreshing change of pace that allows you to take just a few minutes to enjoy your surroundings.
Wandering through the city was a lesson in underestimation for me, as Omaha turned out to be one of the cleanest and most charming little cities I've seen. And easily the most friendly. There is a world-class zoo, some fine food and drink, and a plethora of sports and entertainment to enjoy in your down time. During my most recent visit there, the city was abuzz with anticipation of the upcoming Olympic swimming qualifying trials, and the cabbie pointed out the pools hidden inside the walls of their beautiful new arena.
Council Bluffs is just a 15-minute drive across the Nebraska-Iowa border, and the Iowa side of the drive is full of small-town charm. There's a golf course, — more of a cow pasture with 18 holes punched into it — a Hooters' that does some brisk business, and a fantastic go-kart center just across the street. The Horseshoe Casino is the host venue for the tournament, and it looks more or less similar to the other Harrah's properties outside of Las Vegas. The events are played inside a vacated music bar called the Whiskey Roadhouse, but the best meal in the building is at the Binion's Steakhouse just across the corridor. If you're looking for nightlife, you'll have to head back into Omaha where I promise you a better time than you expected.
Every time I've been to Council Bluffs, I've had a secret little dread in the back of my mind. And every time, I'm instantly won over.
Paul Oresteen (Tournament Reporter/Blogger): The biggest has to be best right? In this case, I believe so. After hearing some horror stories about the city of Hammond, Indiana, I was prepared for the worst. Coupled by the fact I’m prone to getting seasick and the Horseshoe was located on water, I arrived in Chicago’s Midway airport expecting the worst.
Upon arriving at the location I was relieved to find the tournament taking place in “The Venue,” the Horseshoe’s top notch convert venue. Running the event were Tournament Directors Steve Frezer and Charlie Ciresi — two of the best in the business. My reservations were starting to dwindle.
When it was all said and done, we had covered the largest WSOPC Main Event in WSOP history with 1,615 players. A few times I had flashbacks of covering a $1,500 event in the Pavilion Room at the Rio. Although unknown Bob Chow won the event, the top 20 was full of WSOPC notables: Luther Lewis, Mark “P0kerH0” Kroon, Everett Carlton, Eric Crain, Joe Hebda and Drazen Ilich. It was an action-packed tournament and I wear 1,600 player fields like a badge of honor.
Another unlikely bright spot on the tournament calendar was the stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It’s pretty hard to get excited for a trip to Iowa when our staff routinely covers events in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Cannes, Melbourne and Monte Carlo, but when the plane lifted off to deliver me back home I was strangely satisfied.
The first curveball thrown at us was a scheduled off day on Easter Sunday. I’m not the most religious person in the world, but I found myself missing my family while I was holed up in hotel in a virtually deserted casino. My partner Eric Ramsey and myself were determined to make the best of it. Our (not so) traditional Easter dinner took place at Hooters with Bernard Lee, Matt Chang and a few other poker players that made their way over.
The communal nature of the poker community trumped all the reasons to be upset about the situation. We ended up sharing drinks and swapping stories with some newly made friends late into the night. It wasn’t the biggest tournament, wasn’t the richest tournament or boasted the deepest field but I would spend Easter in Iowa next year.
Kevin Taylor (Tournament Reporter/Blogger): The old adage goes: there's no place like home. In poker terms, this is the Bicycle Casino for me, a resident of Los Angeles. I was very excited when I found out that I would be covering the inaugural WSOP Circuit event in Los Angeles, and it didn't disappoint.
The tournament was well run as expected, with the top of the line tournament directors, staff, and tables you will find outside of Las Vegas. It also helped that Freddy Deeb, a living legend in the poker game, took the tournament down. Deeb was one of the few players who opted to skip Day 1 all together, starting off with 20 big blinds on Day 2. Every time we walked by, his stack was growing, all the way till the end, where he played the best final table I've ever seen. All in all, it was a fantastic experience.
Oh yeah, and there are also the chicken kabobs. Chad Holloway knows what I'm talking about.
Chad Holloway (Senior News Editor): I will admit that I’m a fan of chicken kabobs at the Bicycle Casino, and while that would get my vote for best food, my vote for best stop would be Harrah’s New Orleans. Interestingly, this week will be my first time working the stop for PokerNews, though I have played it in the past.
In fact, back when I called New Orleans home for a year (2007-2008), I cut my chops on the purple felt of Harrah’s. The action was always juicy and the staff friendly, but the real appeal was the location. Anyone who has been to New Orleans knows it’s a city with a unique personality, so when you can walk out the casino doors and are within a few short blocks of the mighty Mississippi River and Bourbon Street, well I can’t think of anywhere else I'd rather be. What’s more, the iconic street cars can take you around the city and give you a historic perspective of the surroundings. A truly remarkable experience.
Throw in some of the best food and music anywhere in the United States, famous drinking establishments like Bruno’s, Pat O’Brien’s, F&M’s and Snake & Jake’s, and there is no place I’d rather be for a world-class poker tournament.
What’s you favorite stop on the WSOP Circuit? Which venues would you like to see added to the new schedule? Use the comments section below to tell us your opinions.