The World Series of Poker has announced a shortened 2021-22 WSOP Circuit schedule that combines domestic and international WSOP-C stops for the first time in several years. The shortened 2021-22 Circuit slate as released on Wednesday by the WSOP contains 13 Circuit stops, with others still in the works.
The shortened six-month Circuit slate is yet another pandemic-connected alteration to tradition. In normal years, the Circuit season runs from late July or August (immediately following the conclusion of the normal summertime WSOP) and runs well into the following May. With the pandemic forcing this year’s currently running WSOP to shift into October and November, the WSOP had only two options: Overlap the WSOP in 2022, or go with a shortened 2021-22 Circuit slate that will allow a return to Circuit normalcy in 2022-23.
Not to be overlooked is that the 2021-22 schedule, though shortened, brings back the WSOP’s Circuit tour after a nearly-two-year hiatus. The last live WSOP Circuit stop was held at Ameristar St. Charles (Missouri) in early March 2020. The surging COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancelation of all remaining WSOP-C stops, including the season-ending WSOP Circuit Tournament of Champions. The 2020-21 Circuit season was never even announced.
Cherokee to host first 2021-22 Circuit stop
When the Circuit tour returns from its hiatus, it’ll do so at a familiar venue: Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. The roomy venue has been one of the WSOP-C’s most popular spots for many years, as well being a frequent host of the Circuit’s season-ending championship.
The 13 stops announced today include three venues that have never before hosted a Circuit series:
- Deerfoot Inn and Casino, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (January 12 – 23, 2022)
- Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park, Pompano Beach, FL (February 3 – 14, 2022)
- Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, NY (March 17 – 28, 2022)
The Deerfoot stop in Calgary is one of only two international stops in the initial Circuit schedule. The other confirmed international Circuit stop is at Hilton Aruba, running December 9-19, 2021. With international travel restrictions still in flux, WSOP officials must wait longer to confirm most such stops.
‘$1 Million Freeroll’ returns
The season-ending Circuit Championship is returning, though it’s been refocused for the 2021-22 season as the “$1 Million Freeroll.” In past years, the championship’s attendees claimed their seats by winning either the Main Event or the Casino Championship title at any given Circuit stop. Players finishing in the top 50 in Casino Championship points over the entire season were also eligible to play, though they had to buy in instead of being awarded a free seat.
That format will change this year, likely due to the 2021-22 season’s reduced number of stops. The WSOP’s announcement states that the season-ending Championship will still be invitation-only, but it will include online Circuit winners as well through July 2022.
The WSOP also announced that all Circuit events will run using the increasingly popular big-blind-ante format. In that format, the big-blind player pays the antes for the entire table once antes come into play. The format slightly increases the pace of play. At the same time, it frees the dealer and table from accounting for each player’s ante at the start of every hand. Future Circuit stops will also feature standardized event buy-ins ranging from $250 to $1,700. The WSOP will also encourage Circuit-participating venues to offer Ladies and Seniors stops, though such events do not count toward the Casino Championship tallies.
“It’s been too long, so it’s great to see the Circuit hitting the road once again,” said Ty Stewart, the Senior Vice President and Executive Director of the WSOP. “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. 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!”
Featured image source: WSOP.com / Seminole Hard Rock