New Format: WSOP Circuit Now Sending All Ring Winners to $1 Million Tournament of Champions

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The WSOP Circuit is back at the Bicycle Casino after a 20-month hiatus and, along with the highly anticipated return of big tournaments, there are changes to the Tournament of Champions that will start to play out in LA. Over the next two weeks, 13 WSOP Circuit rings will be handed out, but this year, those rings will hold even more value, thanks to some changes announced in October.

Circuit ring
WSOP Circuit rings are carrying some extra weight now, thanks to recent changes in the TOC qualification process. (Image: WSOP)

The WSOP Circuit has always ended with the Tournament of Champions — a $1 million, No-Limit Hold’em freeroll for top performers on the WSOPC.

In years past, only two guaranteed seats were given at each circuit stop — to the Player of the Series and to the winner of the main event. They joined the top 100 finishers in a season-long points race. 

But this year, there is no leaderboard points race. Instead, the TOC will be for WSOP-C gold ring winners and current-year WSOP bracelet winners only.

Field of ring-winners

Now, each time a player wins a WSOP Circuit Ring, they will automatically qualify for the $1 Million freeroll that will take place at the end of the WSOP-C season in Las Vegas, during the WSOP. Any gold ring winners, from either live or online circuit events through July 2022, will qualify. All 2022 online or live bracelet winners will also be eligible to compete in the new TOC.

The competition for seats began last month with the first Circuit stop at Cherokee, North Carolina. The Bike is the second stop of the WSOP Circuit season, which runs through July 2022. At the Bike, there are 13 rings to be given out, which means that Bike winners will also fill 13 seats in the Tournament of Champions.  

Vice President of the World Series of Poker Jack Effel said that the change was made in hopes of providing more incentive for recreational players to have more opportunities for bigger prize pools. 

We wanted to be inclusive to everyone who wins a WSOP ring or bracelet, and give all winners an opportunity to come together for one big event, and that will be the Tournament of Champions,” Effel told CardsChat. “This season is about creating new opportunities for regional players to experience [the] WSOP in a big way while continuing to provide grinders with a platform to earn a living,” 

Sean Yu, winner of eight WSOP Circuit rings, is currently in Los Angeles for the WSOP series at the Bike. He applauds the shift in qualification standards.

“For every ring winner to be going, it’s good. More people, more players; it’s a better marketing tool overall,” Yu said. “If you win a ring, you have a shot at winning a million-dollar tournament and a bracelet. It’s great. I’ll travel to a bunch of stops anyways, but overall it’s great.”

WSOP Circuit expanding its reach

The 2021-2022 WSOP Circuit season kicked off on Nov. 25 in Cherokee, North Carolina, and will come to its conclusion on May 16 at Harrah’s in New Orleans. New stops along the way include a series at the Isle of Pompano in Florida, the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in New York, and Deerfoot Inn in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The circuit is also returning to the Hilton in Aruba after a two-year hiatus. 

The WSOP is encouraging tournament organizers at each stop to add ladies and seniors events — both of which would award winners ring seats to the TOC. So far, no such specialized events are on the WSOP Circuit schedule for any stop, but not all schedules have been finalized, and additional stops may still be added.) 

Ring winners in all events will get a seat in the million-dollar freeroll, including winners of six-handed, bounty, deepstack, Omaha, and mixed game events. In an attempt to standardize tournament structures and payouts, WSOP-C events will play using a Big Blind Ante format, with every stop offering at least a dozen gold ring events starting at a $250 buy-in, and including a $1,700 Main Event. 

“The WSOP-C is one of our most important initiatives, allowing regional players to experience big-time poker and providing grinders a platform to earn a living,” Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the World Series of Poker Ty Stewart said in a press release. We’re pumped up about the new Tournament of Champions format where all our winners will come together for one event. Just win and you’re in!”

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