Is the WSOP-C National Championship Bracelet Legit

Posted by James Guill on May 31, 2011 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

On Sunday, Sam Barnhart won the WSOP Circuit National Championship freeroll event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, NV.  For his win, Barnhart took home $300,000 and a gold WSOP bracelet.  This was the first time that a bracelet was awarded for a WSOP-C branded event and the first ever “National Championship” event in WSOP history.  After the event, some have begun to question whether the bracelet for this event is legitimate and whether the winner is a true “National Champion.”

Point – The WSOP-C Bracelet is Legit and the Winner a National Champion

There are several reasons why the bracelet given at the WSOP-C National Championship freeroll is can be considered legitimate.  First, the players playing in this final had to qualify in order to play.  Players could directly qualify either by winning a WSOP Circuit Main Event, by making the final table of a $10k Regional Event, or by taking the title of casino champion at any of the WSOP-C stops.  37 of the 100 players received at large bids based on points.

Unlike the WSOP-C of years past, this year’s events drew record fields.  Almost every venue saw growth in their numbers and the new format prompted more people to play and play more often.    Some might argue that this bracelet is more of a legitimate championship bracelet than many of the open events.  Since these players are all either champions or qualifiers, the overall quality of the field is greater than your standard bracelet event.

The winner of this event can easily be considered a National Champion due to the fact that the WSOP-C had events available to every part of the country.  Unless you were in Hawaii or Alaska, you were within somewhat reasonable driving distance of at least one WSOP-C event.   Additional stops were added to give more players and areas a chance to play in the event.  The final ended up being the best of the best from around the country.

Counterpoint – The WSOP-C Bracelet is Not Legit and the Winner is not a National Champion

There are others that argue that the WSOP-C bracelet is not a legitimate bracelet based primarily on the fact that the bracelet is not an open field event.  Much like the Ladies, Seniors, and Employees Events, this event was limited to only qualifiers and set at a field of 100 players.  In addition, this event was a freeroll setup with money taken from prize pools from WSOP-C events.  This is the first ever bracelet tournament held without a buy-in.

It is also hard to call the winner of this event a true national champion due to the fact that a solid portion of the poker nation in the U.S. were not recognized.  I spoke with ESPN’s Gary Wise and he summed it up like this:  “I’ll recognize the WSOPC National Champion as the winner of that tournament or as the WSOPC National Champion, but not as a true national champion. To bestow a title like that on the winner of a tournament that a) didn’t offer open registration and b) only offered qualification through events that lay beneath the pay grade of the best players in the country strikes me as lacking criteria for that distinction.”

Gary makes a couple of great points here.  The championship freeroll was not an open event and the qualifying events had buy-ins that many pros would not bother to get out of bed for.  The $10,000 events did not bode as well as many had hoped.  Some blame it on scheduling, and some weren’t all that impressed with the potential television exposure on Versus.

Regardless of where you fall on this debate, one thing that is certain is that people are once again talking about the WSOP Circuit.  In the past, the only time you heard about the WSOP-C was when a big name won an event or possibly the Vegas stop due to the pro heavy fields.  Now, the Circuit has new life and is reasonable competition to other tournament circuits in the U.S.  While many still consider the WSOP-C the “minor leagues” of poker, at the current rate of growth the WSOP-C could soon become a major league player.

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