Masek so close to being elite star

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This month I’d like to shine the spotlight on some of Southern California’s best relatively unknown poker players.

First up is Alexandru (Alex) Masek, who was kind enough to speak with me minutes after busting out in 10th place, one spot shy of the official final table, thanks to a bad beat in the second event of the World Series of Poker Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon. Masek, a 27-year-old law school graduate at University of San Diego, hasn’t taken the bar exam because this pesky poker thing keeps getting in the way.
He, like many of today’s players, said he became interested in the game while still attending college and “watching the 2003 WSOP.”

He’s a semi-professional player with an impressive tournament record, playing predominantly in Los Angeles.

He has played in 50-60 WSOPC events, capturing four rings with wins in Lake Tahoe, Atlantic City and San Diego. He came incredibly close to his fifth ring in January at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, when he finished second to Freddy Deeb in the main event.

Masek cashed two more times in the Rincon stop, including 19th in the main. As Ante Up goes to press he will be heading to the WSOPC in his hometown St. Louis. And how would it feel to get that fifth ring in front of family and friends? “That would be great,” he said.

WSOPC RINCON HIGHLIGHTS: While Paul Wasicka may be on a temporary self-imposed poker hiatus (he’ll return for the WSOP in Las Vegas), it’s obvious the love of poker runs in his family. His sister, Leah Wasicka, and aunt, Margaret (Margie) Johnson, played in the ladies event. Leah made it halfway through the field and Margaret went out 19th.

Speaking of the women, I could use the moniker “Last Woman Standing” to describe Suzie Matzura, but that would be too easy and too cliché. Instead I’ll say she was one of the final players in the main event and, considering the field, that was no easy task. There were 332 entrants in the three-day tournament looking to claim the top prize of $111,104.

Notable players included Freddy Deeb, Eric Baldwin, Sam Barnhart, Brandon Cantu, Bryan Devonshire, Gavin Smith and WPT champion Allen Carter, who had the misfortune of bubbling in 37th place. Matzura, with her father sweating her on the rail (he was more nervous than she was), finished 13th, good for $6,932 in her only event of the series.

• On March 31, there was the WSOP Wounded Warrior charity tournament, which featured a $100 buy-in. The relatively small field gave everyone an excellent chance of winning the $1,500 WSOP seat (plus spending money), which John Stevens of San Diego happily claimed. He started the final table as chipleader and never relinquished the lead. He ran so well that he held pocket aces when he knocked out runner-up Gilbert Marquez of Temecula, Calif.

— LoriAnn Persinger is Ante Up’s Southern California Ambassador. Email her atanteuploriann@gmail.com.

WSOP Circuit, Harrah’s Rincon, March 15-27

Event 1 • $345 NLHE
Entries: 331 • Pool: $96,321
Randy Paguio, $21,844
Event 2 $555 NLHE
Entries: 155 • Pool: $75,175
Dean Buchanan, $19,934
Event 3 • $345 H.O.R.S.E.
Entries: 100 • Pool: $29,100
Patrick Schulze, $8,324
Event 4 $345 Re-entry
Entries: 487 • Pool: $141,717
Dan Natarelli, $30,182
Event 5 • $345 NLHE
Entries: 159 • Pool: $46,269
Delbert Ramos, $12,130
Event 6 • $345 NLHE
Entries: 197 • Pool: $57,327
Jonas Mackoff, $14,555
Event 7 $345 6-Max
Entries: 164 • Pool: $47,724
Joshua Evans, $12,519
Event 8 $555 NLHE
Entries: 139 • Pool: $67,415
Corey Cutrell, $18,500
Event 9 $345 NLHE
Entries: 220 • Pool: $64,020
John Harris, $16,004
Event 10 • $1,080 NLHE
Entries: 87 • Pool: $84,730
Brandon Cantu, $27,004
$1,600 Main Event
Entries: 332 • Pool: $483,060
Joseph Kuether, $111,104
Event 12 • $345 NLHE
Entries: 138 • Pool: $40,158
James Manning, $11,243