Las Vegas, NV (May 27, 2011) – Cards flew into the air today for the inaugural World Series of Poker Circuit National Championship.

The three-day poker festival, scheduled just prior to the start of the WSOP coming up at the Rio, takes place at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  The tournament’s total prize pool amounts to a cool $1 million.  The No-Limit Hold’em competition – highlighted by the final table to be played on Sunday -- will be featured on national television.  The broadcast will air on The Versus Network this summer.

The first-ever “WSOP Circuit National Champion” will receive $300,000.  He or she will also be presented with the first WSOP gold bracelet of the year.  The top ten finishers will collect prize money. 

The “freeroll” tournament started Friday at noon with 100 qualifiers.  All competitors were required to earn their way into the event.  Players were not permitted to simply buy-in, as is the case with traditional gold bracelet events.  The field size was limited to an exclusive club of 100 qualifying finalists who had accumulated enough points or made Regional Championship final tables during the course of the WSOP Circuit season.  At press time, 97 of the 100 qualifiers appeared to play.  Three players were no shows, so far. 
The 2010-2011 season began last August in Council Bluffs, IA and ended one week ago in New Orleans, LA.  There were a total of 15 WSOP Circuit stops, which created a wide array of National Championship qualifiers – of all ages and from different parts of the country, and abroad.   Nearly 50,000 players competed in the 154 gold ring events played this season.  Hence, those who made it to the National Championship in Las Vegas were part of a very special group who have demonstrated excellence in previous Circuit events.

Indeed, the field was comprised of many amateur players as well as seasoned professionals and even a few former WSOP gold bracelet champions.  Among those who earned seats their this year were notable names from the tournament trail including – Steve Zolotow, Chris Klodnicki, Allen Kessler, Allie Prescott, Chris Bell, Blair Hinkle, “Captain” Tom Franklin, and others.  A few players who earned their tournament poker stripes on the WSOP Circuit also qualified – including Doug “Rico” Carli and Dwyte Pilgrim.

The tournament began today with WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel welcoming and congratulating the field of players, most of whom paid their dues by traveling around the country over the past nine months playing in multiple Circuit events.  The reward for their dedication was a seat, theoretically valued at $10,000 (one percent of the total prize pool).

Today, players will go eight (60-minute) levels.  Day Two will commence Saturday at noon.  Play is expected to last until the final nine players have been determined.  The nine finalists will return for the finale on Sunday.
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