Calgary is the New Poker Hotspot of the West

Alberta was already a thriving hub of poker in Canada before WSOP-C came to town, but the Circuit super-charged the Alberta scene post-pandemic with the biggest games ever seen, and the series returns in May for more Ring action.

The fifth edition of WSOP-C Calgary at Deerfoot Inn & Casino completed in late January and it confirmed the clearly established pattern to dat – that poker in Alberta is here to stay. The WSOP-C arrived in Calgary for the first time in Jan 2022 and, despite some growing pains, put on the biggest poker show the province had ever seen.

Since then, the series has returned to Cowtown four more times, with a second annual series added to the schedule in May. While there is a clear pattern of January’s games being bigger than May, even the May series crushes records that were long-standing prior to the arrival of the Word Series gang.

With more than 33,000 entries and $20+ million in prizes over the five Calgary Circuit series so far, it is pretty clear that WSOP-C Calgary is the biggest thing ever to hit the Alberta poker community. Series #6 is already confirmed for May 2024, and the expectation is that players will be playing for $3.5 million or more in total prizes this May.

Poker Action and Foothills Beauty in Calgary

When WSOP-C came to Calgary, the obvious choice of facility was Deerfoot Inn & Casino, a fully featured hotel and casino complex located in the southeast quarter of the city about 30 minutes from the airport and 15 from downtown. After some initial growing pains experienced in the inaugural outing in 2022, Deerfoot has stepped up to the plate with almost 9,500 entries processed across the series with virtually no lineups to speak of.

With a prime location in Calgary, the facility is well-suited for both the die-hard poker grinder and that casual player also looking for a vacation. While the grinders needn’t even brave the January cold to get from their rooms to the poker action, mountain or city views throughout the hotel hint at tantalizing day-trips off the tables.

As an international hub, Calgary is a modern city with all the shopping and entertainment options that might be expected in other destinations around the world. Additionally, Calgary is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains, located at the very meeting point of the Great Plains, stretching out 1000s of KM east, and the Rockies, rising imposingly in the west.

That makes Alberta home to a rich diversity of ecosystems and history with day-trips from Calgary, including natural wonders like Banff National Park, historical sites like Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, and paleontological expeditions at the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, one of the best dinosaur sites in the western world and home to the unusual geography of the Badlands.

Add in the rich Western culture that Cowtown is steeped in, a world-famous zoo, and some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world next door in the Rockies, and it becomes a poker destination where a player could easily spend a couple of weeks without ever playing a hand.

From top left to bottom right: The Northern Lights over Downtown Calgary, Moraine Lake in the Rocky Mountains, hoodoos and the Milky Way in the Badlands near Drumheller, and Stephen Avenue outdoor mall in downtown Calgary. All images from https://www.visitcalgary.com/

Big Games on the WSOP-C Felt

Of course, the main reason players go to Calgary in January is for the sizzling hot poker action at Deerfoot, and while the local sites may well appeal to family and friends along for the ride, players will be focused on the Circuit Rong grind. The 15-Ring series always promises to deliver the biggest fields and prize pools around with Canadians from coast to coast to coast making the trip through sometimes bone-chilling temperatures and treacherous driving conditions.

It’s not always pleasant weather-wise in January in Alberta, and the recent series is a great example. Despite temperatures that dipped below -40c at times, this year’s January games saw just shy of 9,500 total entries and more than $5.8 million in total prizes to be won.

Both of those figures were records for the local scene, but more than that, they were records that crushed the records set by previous editions of the Calgary Circuit series. This year, the Canadians continued to flood in from all corners of the country, but there was also an increased international contingent of players, with significantly more Americans and Brits as well as other players from as far away as India and Ukraine.

WSOP-C Calgary Series Summary

DateEventsEntriesTotal Prizes1st Place Prizes
Jan 2022126,510$3,324,335$593,172
May 2022134,490$2,562,408$546,234
Jan 2023157,480$5,322,735$934,950
May 2023135,495$3,451,103$893,057
Jan 2024159,464$5,808,951$983,232
Totals6833,439$20,469,532$3,950,645

The Big Winners

With more than $5.8 million to be won, there were a few players who walked away with fatter pockets after the series. The biggest winner of them all was Edmonton’s Zhun (Singh) Chen, who once again kept the Main Event Ring and the $CAD334,891 top prize in Alberta. All four previous Main Event winners in the Calgary Ring series have also hailed from Wildrose Country, though Chen is the first “big-city” winner in the bunch after the 2022 winner, Cody Mackay from Daysland, started the trend of small-town winners.

Chen was far from the only player to score big this past January, though. Winnipeg’s Dylan Ellis had a red-hot opening weekend when he followed up second place in the Mystery Bounty game with a win the next day in the 4-Flight.

Other players with solid results this past January included Paul Sokoloff, who added another ring to his collection in the Seniors event, and Craig Caldwell, who will be glad he made the trip from Whitehorse after he bagged three cashes in two days, including runner-up in the $400 PLO Bounty, and local up-and-comer Nicholas Lee, who bagged his second Calgary Ring after taking down this year’s Flip & Go game.

Spring Poker in Cowtown

The next chance for players to go for a Ring in Calgary comes in May this year, and for what it’s worth, the weather promises to be a lot nicer than January. While Calgary is still subject to spring snow and chilly weather, by May, spring is usually fully in place.

There will still be hot poker action in the Sundance and Chrome rooms at Deerfoot Inn & Casino, with prize pools that could easily top $4 million based on previous years. But the May series will also offer a completely different look at Calgary and the Foothills ecosystem it inhabits from show-bound January.

See the poster above for dates and room codes, and be warned, Deerfoot fills up pretty quickly for these events, so players looking to get into the game in May without leaving the comforts of the hotel complex should start thinking now about booking their rooms.

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