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Tournament Season Resumes in Florida, Oklahoma

After a few weeks off with the conclusion of the 2016 World Series of Poker – that is, everything but the “November Nine” – the tournament poker world is swinging back into gear as the month of July comes to a close. One tournament in Florida has become the de facto kickoff to the second half of the tournament season while a second event in Oklahoma draws a strong contingent of players competing for a major tournament circuit title.

In Florida, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, FL, has opened up the doors on their 2016 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open. Now in its fourth year, the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open has hosted a series of events that bring the players back after a little break from the WSOP with what can only be called a “major” Main Event. Although preliminary events for the SHRPO have begun already, everyone’s eyes are on this year’s Main Event.

The path to becoming the “big event” to bring everyone back to the tables after the WSOP has been a tricky one for the SHRPO Main Event and the officials of the Seminole Tribe in Florida. In its first year in 2013, the buy in was $ 5000 and featured unlimited rebuys for the three Day Ones that constituted the opening action. That tournament would crush the $ 10 million guarantee, creating a prize pool of $ 11,920,000, and Blair Hinkle would go on to take the inaugural championship and the $ 1,745,245 first place payday.

In 2014, the Seminoles tried to catch lightning in a botte again and came up a bit short. Setting the same guaranteed prize pool as 2013, “only” 1499 entries were received by the close of registration, setting the Seminoles in the precarious situation of being slightly more than $ 2.5 million under the guarantee from simply player entries. To their credit, the Seminoles ate the $ 2.5 million shortfall and paid the $ 10 million guaranteed prize pool, with Dan Colman defeating Mike Leah to take the championship and its $ 1,466,710 windfall.

After coming up short, the Seminoles made some changes to the 2015 tournament. Officials reduced the guaranteed prize pool to $ 5 million and made the tournament a traditional freeze out event rather than a reentry free-for-all. Colman was back to defend his title but he would come up short in third place after falling at the hands of Brian Phillis. Phillis would enter heads up play against Omar Zazay as a massive chip leader but, after grinding it out for more than 100 hands, Zazay would emerge as the champion and the $ 1 million winner.

This year’s event will feature the same format as last year, with the $ 5 million guarantee, the buy in and the freeze out format all staying the same. What officials with the Seminole Tribe hope is that more than the 907 runners that came to the line last year will show up for 2016. After having to pay slightly less than $ 500,000 to cover the guarantee from 2015 (and the big shortfall from 2014), the SHRPO Main Event is hoping to revert to its inaugural success.

Almost 1500 miles away from Florida, the World Poker Tour has already kicked back into its Season XIV schedule with a stop in Oklahoma. The WPT Choctaw is into its Day 1B action in its $ 3500 Main Event and the players are definitely showing for the tournament. The $ 3 million guaranteed prize pool has already been dwarfed by the 989 entries that have currently been received (unlimited entries are allowed in the tournament and registration does not close until the start of Day 2 on Sunday) and, if the numbers from 2015 are achieved, a prize pool of more than $ 4.1 million will be created. Players such as Phil Hellmuth, Darren Elias, Tom Marchese, Cate Hall, Ari Engel and Faraz Jaka have been spotted in the tournament room for Day 1B of action in the tournament, with everyone looking to be the person to capture this latest championship on the WPT circuit.

This doesn’t even touch the other major tour and its upcoming season. The European Poker Tour is still more than two weeks away from the kickoff of their Season 13 schedule in Barcelona, Spain on August 16. With both a High Roller (€10,000) and Super High Roller (€50,000) on the schedule, the Main Event (a €5000 tournament) may seem to be an afterthought, but the players will certainly flock to the Mediterranean coast for all the festivities at the Casino Barcelona.

The players have gotten their rest and are now ready to make the charge to the end of 2016. Many Player of the Year races can be affected by the results in the second half of the calendar year, which makes these and other tournaments incredibly important. For now, however, we can welcome poker back into action as the world’s best players (and some amateurs making their name) leap into the fray once again.

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