5. World Series of Poker Circuit – Choctaw
For a casino in the middle of relatively nowhere, Choctaw has a way of drawing the masses for events. Always exceptionally run and with top name brands attached, the Oklahoma outpost just over the Texas border found themselves drawing huge numbers for January’s WSOP Circuit Main Event.
The largest field assembled at a Circuit Main Event 2017 brought in 1,451 runners. That number, amazingly enough, is a slight downswing from the 1,565 who entered in 2016.
Ending the tournament in the winner’s circle and earning a Choctaw Banner was bracelet winner Grant Hinkle, who walked away with $375,427. Finishing in the fourth position was DJ Alexander, who used this tournament to kickstart his breakout 2017.
The WSOP Circuit crushes in Choctaw and for the 2017/2018 season, a second series was added to the schedule. This series took place in November 2017 and brought out 908 entrants amid a packed surrounding schedule. The circuit returns to Choctaw next month and it will be interesting to see how many show up to open the 2018 calendar.
4. Borgata Spring Poker Open
The Borgata Spring Poker Open Main Event isn’t branded with a tour or affiliated with one in any way, yet it assembled one of the best East Coast final tables of the year. The $2,700 buy-in $1 million guaranteed tournament entered 670 players this April. The last event of its buy-in type in the U.S. prior to the World Series of Poker featured a live stream final table and gave fans everything they could hope for.
All nine players were talented in their own right but names like Joe McKeehen, John Racener, Kane Kalas, and Simon Lam don’t usually make concurrent deep runs such as this. The final table also included rising young players in Wade Meacham, Erick But, and Ricky Guan along with former WPT final tablist Eric Fields.
While not as heralded as his final table peers, Sam Taylor made a name for himself that day by defeating Lam heads up to win the $390,103 first place prize.
There is something in the water with this event. In 2016, the final table was even more star-powered with Paul Volpe defeating Aaron Mermelstein, Michael Gagliano, and Jack Duong to win the championship.
Borgata always draws well and lived up to its billing with this final table.
3. MSPT Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza III
The Mid-States Poker Tour and the Venetian hold a strong relationship and this year set record numbers for both parties. The $1,100 MSPT event during the Venetian DSE III summer series featured a lofty $2.5 million guarantee and high expectations. Those expectations were met in every way with 3,273 entrants making their way into the field over three starting flights.
MSPT usually sticks to America’s central states and heads to Las Vegas, Nevada only twice a year with Venetian playing host on both occasions.
A prize pool of $3.2 million was created as a result and $440,029 set aside for first place. The winner of the event came out of relative obscurity in Russian Nadar Kakhmazov. The win became the first of the summer for Kakhmazov, who went on to win the $5,000 Six Max bracelet at the World Series of Poker.
Next summer should be an even larger turnout at the Venetian with added space expected to be available for the duration of the DSE III schedule.
2. WPTDeepStacks Championship – Thunder Valley
Set a few miles outside of Sacramento, California, Thunder Valley is the home for nearly any and every poker tour. The WPT travels there and the WSOP Circuit added a stop for the current season. WPTDeepStacks frequently does well there and raised the bar to end their 2017 season.
The $2,500 WPTDS Championship put a $1 million guarantee on the board and brought in 501 players. The caliber of player who participated in this mid-major stop is almost as noteworthy as the figure itself. WPT Champions Club members JC Tran and Brian Altman took part in the event. The final table included Colossus winners Ben Keeline and Cord Garcia.
The WPTDS tour primarily features buy-ins from $1,100 up to $1,600 but with a turnout like this, relatively larger buy-in events may soon be on the schedule on a more frequent basis.
1. WPTDeepStacks Brazil
In a country crazed for poker, a high turnout was expected but nothing quite like this. In the first ever World Poker Tour-branded event in Brazil, 3,386 entrants registered. The R$2 million (~$630,000) guarantee was shattered and by the time all was said and done, over R$4.2 million was up for grabs. The WPT is placing an emphasis on traveling to foreign markets and this field will only encourage more expansion.
The event was dominated by local players but Americans made their presence known. Former WPT Player of the Year Faraz Jaka navigated his way to the final table, placing seventh.
The success of this tournament sets a high bar for the WPT to match the next time they travel to Brazil. They will be more than willing to live up to the challenge of topping this record turnout.