Broken Records and Regionals at the WSOPC in Hammond

After tournament numbers suffered in 2009, the WSOP promised big changes for their 2010-2011 circuit events. While many of the brand’s more traditional followers were dubious, the numbers don’t lie, and the numbers at the Horseshoe Hammond stop in Hammond, IN have been nothing short of awesome. In fact, the numbers have been so good that they’ve set some new records, starting with Hammond’s very first event. Event #1 opened the Hammond tournament on October 15 and attracted a deep field of 1611 players, making it the largest WSOP Circuit tournament to date.

One of the biggest changes the WSOP made this year was reducing the buy-in for the Circuit’s Main Event from $5000 to $1600. That gamble paid off in an obvious way when Hammond’s Main Event kicked off Friday with another record-setting field. The 872 Main Event entries blew the previous record of 538 entries out of the water and more than doubled most of the 2009 Circuit Main Event entries.

When the dust cleared on Sunday, homegrown Midwestern player Kurt Jewell had turned his $1600¬†buy-in into a $242,909 payday and also earned a free entry to the $10,000 Regional Championship. Jewell came to the final table with a formidable chip lead and managed to maintain his advantage to the very end, making for a quick and decisive finish to the WSOP Circuit’s largest championship event to date. Prior to his first place finish at Hammond this weekend, Jewell had only finished first in one other major tournament for a career-high cash of $40,136.

These numbers make it clear that while Las Vegas continues to get the lion’s share of the American poker press, the Midwest is quickly proving to be fertile grounds for big live poker action. It’s a fact that the WSOP Circuit has acknowledged by making Hammond the site of the first WSOP Circuit Regional Championship. The $10,000 buy-in tournament started today and will close out the Hammond Horseshoe on October 28. The final nine in Hammond will earn an automatic place at the $1 million WSOPC National Championship next year.

The Regional Championship will be televised on the VERSUS network. Only a few hours into the event, Jason Mercier and James Carroll have been the obvious standouts in the first round. It’s a large and competitive field, but so far the action has been pretty light and tight, so time-strapped fans can probably safely skip the first day’s coverage.

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