With four events now in the books over two World Series of Poker Circuit (WSOP-C) seasons, it is very clear that the Deerfoot Inn & Casino in Calgary is quickly becoming one of the premier stops on the Circuit. With two local records for prizes over the four events, there is no question the WSOP-C is the biggest thing the Alberta poker scene has seen in its history.
The WSOP-C first came to Calgary in January 2022, as the world was emerging from COVID-19 lockdowns. Aside from a few bumps in the road associated with a huge event in a new venue, the inaugural running of WSOP-C Calgary was a resounding success, generating the biggest prize pool in Alberta’s history to that point with the Main Event.
That first running of the series in Calgary saw over 6500 entries and total prizes that capped at $3.3 million. The record-setting Main Event in Jan 2022 got 1179 runners for a total prize pool of more than $1.75 million, the biggest prize pool to date in the provincial market.
That huge opening event set the stage for the return of the WSOP-C to the southern Alberta city, and the tour has been back three more times since that first go-round. With two seasons and four stops in Calgary in the books, it is clear that January and May now mean big prizes and gold rings in Calgary.
Year-Over-Year Growth for Series
WSOP initially planned the return to take place in January 2023, but as the end of the 2021/22 season approached, venue changes elsewhere gave Deerfoot Inn & Casino the opportunity to host a second edition of the series last season. The second edition of WSOP-C Calgary happened in May 2022, just before the main World Series of Poker in Vegas got underway.
While that event was smaller than the opening event in January, it still saw very strong numbers for the market, generating more than $2.5 million in prizes across 13 tournaments. The Main Event did not crack 1000 entries, coming short at 905 entries and $1,371,163 in total prizes, but it was still a phenomenal result for the market historically.
With almost 4500 entries in the second edition for prizes of $2,562,408, Calgary’s place on the Circuit was cemented. When the 2022/23 season of WSOP-C was announced, the familiar January and May dates were back on the calendar for Canada’s capital of Western culture.
The fourth event in Cowtown has just concluded, and the year-over-year growth patterns are quite clear, albeit in a limited sample size. While January’s prizes have grown the most year-over-year, May’s field size grew more than January’s.
WSOP-C Calgary Historic Results
|Year||ME Prizes||ME Field||Total Prizes||Total Field||YoY Prizes||YoY Field Size|
Calgary in January?
The pattern that has established itself in Calgary for WSOP-C is odd, with players flocking to the January event in droves. The May events are still well-attended but have been significantly smaller than the January Circuit stop.
While there are logical reasons for that difference, January also is one of the most brutally cold months of the Canadian year, with temperatures sometimes dipping below -30C for days or weeks at a time and “wind chill” that can freeze exposed flesh in minutes, or seconds. That said, the temperature on the tournament floor is climate-controlled, and wind chill is not a factor.
The success of the initial running was fairly predictable despite the January conditions — the world was starved for live poker coming out of the pandemic.
This was also the first time the WSOP-C had ever been in Alberta and the first time in over five years in western Canada. The live poker market in Alberta has been on fire since before the pandemic shutdowns. It was a perfect storm for a huge inaugural Circuit series.
Even before the WSOP-C arrived in 2022, the Alberta live poker market was huge, with multiple poker rooms in both big cities in the province and other venues scattered across the smaller communities like Red Deer, Grande Prairie, and Lethbridge.
Prior to the pandemic, WPTDeepstacks was a regular visitor to the Alberta market with multiple events per year in Edmonton and Calgary, while Calgary rooms like Deerfoot and Ace Casino (formerly known as Cash Casino) hosted big local series multiple times per year.
After the pandemic, the arrival of WSOP-C in the market, combined with the newly created Pure Poker Tour that runs up to six series in Calgary and Edmonton every year, has created a thriving poker market in Alberta. With the new Ace Casino Airport now open and running three Grande Poker series per year, the Alberta live poker market is hotter than it ever has been.
Main Money Stays Local
Perhaps the most interesting trend to emerge from the four Calgary series so far is that the big prizes in the Main Events have all stayed in Alberta. Cody McKay from Daysland, AB, set the standard in the opening event in January 2022, and since then, there have been three more Main Event winners from Alberta communities.
WSOP-C Calgary Local ME Winners
|Year||ME Winner||Hometown||1st Place|
|January 2022||Cody McKay||Daysland, AB||$294,389|
|May 2022||Rob Limpert||Grande Prairie, AB||$241,737|
|January 2023||John French||Canmore, AB||$340,242|
|May 2023||Krystian Hady||Lethbridge, AB||$241,665|
The first-place prizes for the Main Event winners totaled $1,118,033, and every penny of that has stayed in the province of Alberta. Interestingly, none of that money has gone into either of the two major cities in the province, Calgary and Edmonton.
With almost 60% of the population of the province between them, it is interesting to note that all the winners have been from smaller communities around the province. While Lethbridge and Grande Prairie qualify as secondary cities in Alberta, Canmore and Daysland are both smaller rural communities.
That looks indicative of the strength of the Alberta poker market in general. In a market with about 4.2 million people and two centers making up almost 60% of that, it is easy to imagine the big cities dominating the market with little activity or market strength outside of them.
The Main Event results and other results from the local series show that the poker talent and bankroll are spread pretty evenly across the province, with rural areas easily able to hold their own against the larger urban centers.
Among the Biggest Mains in North America
Overall, the Calgary stop has been one of the most successful for the Circuit in the past two years. The year-over-year growth has been astounding, and the January 2023 Main Event qualifies as one of North America’s biggest of the season.
While Cherokee and Choctaw in the United States have had bigger Main Events, it looks like WSOP-C Calgary this past January hit the top-five list of Main Events. The Calgary series is still looking to crack that elusive 1500 number for Main Event entries, but 1432 entries this year put the Calgary Main fifth on the list of the biggest events on the Circuit in North America this season.
Biggest Main Events from 2022/23 WSOP-C Season
It looks certain that WSOP-C will be back in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in January and May 2024, and based on past increases, the Main Event prize pool could approach $2.5 million in January with not just 1500 entries but over 1,600.
Time will tell if the early growth can be sustained, especially given the challenges of running a growing event in a venue with finite space and resources, but so far, the go-to Western spirit of Cowtown has risen to the challenge.
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