After a lengthy break for the World Series of Poker and a new stop for the tour in California, the World Poker Tour will head back to familiar ground beginning today. Friday marks the start of the WPT Choctaw, which has quickly become one of the more popular stops on the tournament despite only being on the schedule for the last couple of years.
$1 Million Guaranteed Prize Pool
The $3500 buy in tournament will feature two Day Ones to bring in the most players possible for the tournament, meaning they will have to break 285 players to reach the $1 million guaranteed prize pool. The tournament itself has some of the benchmarks of 21st century tournament poker, including unlimited re-entry for players and, if a player plays Day 1A and isn’t happy with their stack, they can sacrifice that stack and play Day 1B of the tournament (they cannot, however, hold back that Day 1A stack as a safeguard should they bust on Day 1B). Late registration will be closed at the start of Level 11 (or the start of Day 2).
The latest innovation that is sweeping the tournament poker world will also be implemented in the WPT Choctaw Main Event. The “big blind ante” will be in effect, meaning that the big blind will pay the entirety of the table’s ante instead of each player at the table paying a piece of the ante. For example, when the blinds are 100/200 and there’s a 200 ante (Level 3 of the tournament), the big blind will put out 400 chips instead of just 200 and a smaller ante. The big blind ante innovation has been credited with taking some of the issues out of players putting up the ante each hand (only having one player put it up) and speeding up the game process.
Finally, the WPT will be bringing along their “Action Clock” to move the pace of play. The “Action Clock” will be implemented when the tournament is one table from the money and give each player 30 seconds to make their decisions. If a player wants more time to decide what to do, there will be “time extension” chips given out that will give a player another 30 seconds to decide. Once again, this innovation has been hailed for picking up the pace of play and eliminate unnecessary tanking, especially on the money bubble.
Choctaw Event Wildly Popular
The WPT Choctaw and its host casino, the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, OK, has been wildly popular since the first tournament the WPT held on its grounds. The WPT Choctaw was first a part of the Season XIV schedule with the same $3500 buy in. An astounding 1175 entries were received for that event, making for a nearly $4 million prize pool. The final table feature Jake Schindler and Darren Elias, but they would come up short to Andy Hwang and Jason Brin, with Brin eventually winning the inaugural WPT Choctaw championship and the $682,975 first place prize.
In 2016, the WPT returned to Choctaw for one of their Season XV stops. The numbers were down slightly for the tournament – “only” 1066 entries were received – but the prize pool was still over $3.6 million. Benjamin Zamani would use this event as a catapult to win the Season XV WPT Player of the Year award, but it would only be through a runner-up finish; Zamani would fall to James Mackey, who collected the WPT Choctaw trophy and the $666,758 payday.
Last year’s tournament was the smallest yet for the WPT and the Choctaw Casino Resort, but it still had some drawing power. 924 entries were received for the tournament, building a $3.1 million prize pool. Jay Lee took down the WPT Champions’ Cup for this event in 2017, defeating Jeb Hutton in heads up play to take home $593,173.
What to Expect in 2018?
Lee should be back to defend his title, but the numbers issues for the WPT Choctaw could be a bit tricky. The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, CA, is kicking off its 2018 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open, which is one of the biggest tournaments that falls outside of a major tournament circuits’ jurisdiction. While the Main Event for the Hard Rock tournament doesn’t begin until a week after the end of the WPT Choctaw (August 10), players may want to get to Florida and get warmed up with some of the preliminary events on that schedule. Thus, there may be some effect on the WPT Choctaw.
Cards will hit the air at noon (Central Daylight Time) at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Oklahoma and, by the end of the night, we should get a bit of an indication as to the potential of the field from its Day 1A drawing.