Following the postponement of the 51st edition of the World Series of Poker (WSOP), the Global Casino Championship, originally slated for August at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina, has also been moved online as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. WSOP.com will now play host to the championship tournament on September 13, with a “Season Finale” Online Circuit event also scheduled to kick off this week.
Keeping The Spirit Of The GCC Model
The decision to move the event online did not sit well with everyone, as some players had hoped for the traditional live event to go ahead this year, despite the threat of COVID-19. Organizers had been put in a difficult situation in terms of deciding whether to postpone the event until it’s deemed safe to host mass gatherings, or just transition to virtual competition. They went for the latter, and they believe it’s the best option at the moment.
Explaining their decision, WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said they couldn’t afford to prolong the wait much further for players who have been gearing up for the season-ending tournament this year. As a tournament brand, the WSOP places heavy emphasis on keeping the spirit of the Championship model, while focusing on history and competition, Stewart said.
The GCC was launched in 2011, as an event to wrap up the WSOP Circuit season. Majority of the participants are automatic qualifiers who won the Circuit Main Events, or were declared as Casino Champions throughout the season.
Additionally, the players making it to the top 50 of the season leaderboard also earn free seats. The top 100 players on the WSOP Player of the Year rankings, as well as any ring winner who is not automatically qualified for the GCC is also eligible to take part in the event via a direct buy-in of $10,000. The championship tournament, which features a $1,000,000 guarantee, also awards a WSOP gold bracelet to the ultimate winner.
Among past winners are Jonathan Hilton, Dominik Nitsche, Loni Harwood, Said El Yousfi and Sean Yu. Sean Barnhart won the inaugural event in 2011, while Ryan Eriquezzo won the championship twice in 2012 and 2019.
For the past five years, the GCC live event has been held at Harrah’s Cherokee with a usual August schedule. But the global pandemic has forced organizers to introduce major changes to how tournaments are run.
Major Shift To Online Tournaments
The WSOP, like many other prominent poker brands, are now geared towards hosting online competitions to keep the action going for players and fans. Multiple live events have also been moved to the virtual felts, and the WSOP believes it is the best decision they can make at the moment, rather than announce another indefinite postponement.
Last month, the brand teamed up with GGPoker for the first-ever WSOP Super Circuit Online Series, featuring a record-breaking guarantee of $100 million – the biggest prize money to be awarded in a single tournament series.
Season Finale Online Circuit
This month as well, another Season Finale Circuit event will run on WSOP.com, from June 3-14, which is set to give away 13 free entries into the GCC. Many players are happy for this last-chance opportunity to qualify for the GCC, however some are also disappointed that extra seats will be awarded. The live event normally attracts just 132 free qualifiers, now that number will increase to 143.
The WSOP’s reason for this is understandable – since the lockdown, 12 live Circuit events have been cancelled, translating to revenue losses for the company. But instead of reducing the prize pool, the WSOP has put together online circuit events to cover the losses and to give players extra opportunities to take part. The Season Finale will also answer the clamor from US-based players who were not allowed to participate in the $100M GTD Online Series at GGPoker.
The Season Finale online event is open for the Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware markets, though players from Delaware cannot take part in the GCC, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the lottery-controlled platform.