The 2015-16 World Series of Poker Circuit kicked off Aug. 6 at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut. The tour features 19 stops, with four casinos hosting two events each – Harrah’s Cherokee, the Palm Beach Kennel Club, Horseshoe Baltimore and the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.
It is the second straight year that both the number of events and the number of casinos hosting events has dropped. After setting a record with 22 stops at 22 different casinos in 2013-14, the tour dropped to 20 stops at 17 different casinos last season. In 2015-16, there will be 19 stops at 15 different casinos. Bally’s Las Vegas becomes the newest stop to be added to the tour, with a scheduled 2016 stop occurring Feb. 25 to March 7, 2016. The IP Casino in Biloxi, Miss., Harrah’s California (San Diego) and Lumiere Place (St. Louis) do not return for the 2015-16 season.
“We know not everyone can make it out to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, and this is our way of bringing the flavor and feel of the WSOP to regional markets,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “The WSOP Circuit continues to be a great success, both at getting new players to the game and creating tomorrow’s stars.”
Fewer locations will make it more difficult for some players to participate. Hosting multiple events at some of the tour’s most popular spots will probably result in an increase in overall participation in 2015-16, but that may not necessarily mean more players.
Ways to Boost Attendance
One move the circuit should consider is to add at least one buy-in ring event with a cheaper entry fee. For the past few years, the minimum buy-in for any ring tournament was $365. For most of the online players who play lower stakes tourneys and cash games, making the leap to a $365 entry is daunting, to say the least. Most stops do offer cheaper satellite opportunities to get into the action, but it would be nice if they included at least one ring event at each stop with a buy-in of $250. This might encourage more recreational players to take the leap.
The wildly successful Colossus event at this year’s World Series of Poker drew an unheard of 22,374 players, the largest live tournament field ever, in part because of its smaller entry fee. The $565 entry fee was the lowest for a WSOP event in more than 30 years.
Circuit stops have also done well with lower entry fee tourneys for seniors. The Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Seniors Event (50 years and older) had 254 runners and outdrew 11 of the 12 official “ring” events at the Lake Tahoe stop. The Seniors Event at the fall stop at Harrah’s Cherokee drew 829 runners – more than any of the 12 ring events – and the Seniors Event at Harrah’s Southern California (San Diego) had 206 runners, or more than 10 of the 12 ring events.
Deepstack Bounty Tourneys Prove Popular
It looks like most stops will add a deep-stack event in 2015-16. The schedules for the first two stops in August – Foxwoods and Horseshoe Baltimore – show a deep stack event with a starting stack of 20,000 chips for a $365 buy-in. Most of the other ring events feature a starting stack of 10,000, with the exception of the Main Event, which also has a 20,000 starting stack.
The deep stack tourney at the WSOP this year ($1,500 buy-in) attracted 7,192 entries – the third-largest field in the entire 68-tournament series behind only the Colossus and the Millionaire Maker (7,275). The other five comparable NLHE tourneys at the WSOP with a $1,500 buy-in averaged only 1,844 players.
Another option would be to add a bounty tourney to the mix. The WSOP featured its first-ever bounty tourney this year, and the event with a $1,500 buy-in ($500 for a bounty and the rest to the prize pool) drew 2,178 entries. Only eight of the remaining 67 WSOP events had a larger field.