Harrah’s Ak-Chin delays WSOPC debut

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Poker fans in Arizona collectively cheered when the World Series of Poker released its circuit schedule for the 2014-15 season last summer. For the first time, the yearlong slate of tournaments across the country featured a stop in the Grand Canyon State, set for February at Harrah’s Ak-Chin in Maricopa.

But those cheers turned to boos not long after, when the WSOP announced it had pulled Ak-Chin from the schedule without explanation.

It turned out to be a matter of logistics, said Mike Kintner, Ak-Chin’s director of marketing.

“We just didn’t have the space to do it, and do it well,” Kintner said. “We tried to do it in some ballroom space, which would have had room for 30 tables, but that wouldn’t have given us any room for the sit-n-go (satellites).”

Ak-Chin’s poker room has six tables while a part of the casino previously used for cards but now has video poker would only have provided room for 10 tables. That meant having to put tables in hallways to accommodate satellites and all of the ancillary action that comes with a circuit stop.

Much of this was known when the schedule was released in June, but Kintner said they put Ak-Chin on the list for mid February in hopes they could make it work. But they quickly saw it wasn’t going to and the decision was made in September to swap that event out and rearrange the schedule.

“Because our calendar was so full with other stops, there was no way for us to rearrange Ak-Chin on the schedule and instead we just had to move forward without them this year,” WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky said. “We will be at Harrah’s Ak-Chin for a WSOPC event, mark my words.”

Without the ability to hit a series of tournaments halfway between Tucson and Phoenix, Southern Arizona players looking for circuit action could hit the Harrah’s Resort Southern California (previously known as Harrah’s Rincon) outside San Diego from Dec. 4-15. After that, the remaining stops are in Oklahoma or further east, save for the Los Angeles stop in March.

Most will likely just wait until the WSOP returns to Las Vegas in the summer.

“We believe there is a strong poker market in Arizona, our WSOP Las Vegas numbers attest to that, so we’ll get there as soon as we can be sure we have the space and time to put on a first-class event,” Palansky said.

Kintner said he hopes to be on the 2015-16 schedule, but won’t make any promises. He said the late-winter time frame would be a good one, despite it being in the middle of Ak-Chin’s busiest season.

“They really want to be in Arizona and we really want them out here,” Kintner said.

— Email Brian at anteupsouthernaz@gmail.com.