Esfandiari wins Bike’s WSOPC



Antonio Esfandiari added another accolade to his impressive list of accomplishments by taking down the $1,675 main event for $226,785 at the Bicycle Casino’s World Series of Poker Circuit event in Los Angeles.

Former WSOP champ Jamie Gold came in second for $139,820.The main event drew 756 players across two starting flights as 140 players made it to Day 2 and the top 81 cashed. Three WSOP bracelet-winners were eliminated in the money on Day 2: Tuan Le (71st, $3,075), Mel Wiener (61st, $3,345) and David “ODB” Baker (19th, $9,605).

Esfandiari almost didn’t play this event. “My father-in-law is in town and we came to see him while he was playing and I decided to play.” His father-in-law is Bob Bounahra, who won a ring in Event 6 ($1,125 NLHE). He earned $26,555 for beating a field of 83 players.Bounahra rose to prominence in the poker world in 2011 when he made the November Nine.

Bounahra and Esfandiari’s wife cheered him on throughout the final day. After the win, Esfandiari spoke about the role of family in his life. “I’m a dad now. I love being a dad and obviously my son is the most important thing in my life.”

All of the undercard winners at the Bike except for Valentin Vornicu won their first WSOPC ring.

Truong Nguyen toppled a field of 995 players to take home $55,200 for Event1 ($365 NLHE). Jose Ramirez won the first WSOP event he entered. The 21-year-old college student bested 158 players in Event 2 ($365 NLHE) to earn $12,795.

Susan Genard took home $10,490 after besting a field of 125 players in Event 4 ($365 Omaha/8). “It’s very exciting,” she said after her win. “I’ve never played a WSOP Circuit event before.”

Zahi Bahar and Eshed Hadaya have begun what they refer to as a “Waaland Wonder Poker Tour,” traveling together on the circuit after befriending seven-time ring-winner Cory Waaland. They were inspired by his success and wanted some of their own, which they experienced here.Bahar outlasted nearly 120 players in Event 5 ($365 NLHE) to take home $10,520. Hadaya won Event 3 ($365 NLHE), beating 130 players for $10,915.

Robert Gil won Event 7 ($365 turbo), edging 145 players for $12,255.Bert Beavers captured Event 8 ($365 monster stack) and was awarded $27,275 after beating 413 players. David Malka won $70,355 for Event 10 ($3,250 high roller), which attracted 67 players for a prize pool of $198K. Benjamin Bover won $8,155 for Event 11 ($365 bounty).Vornicu earned his eighth ring for Event 12 ($580 Turbo) and earned $17,255.


ATLANTIS CASINO AND SPA RESORT: The WPT DeepStacks tour returned in March as Sean Drake came out on top of 251 entrants to win $56,581.Mike Harvey had a 2-to-1 lead in heads-up play.Hank “the Tank” Czarnecki was chipleader when the final table started and finished fifth. Babe Prescott, the lone woman at the final table, finished seventh. Ante Up’s Cary Marshall won the Series Championship trophy by winning Events 1 and 3. For his accomplishment, he gets a $1,100 main-event seat when the WPT DeepStacks returns in August.

Here is a list of the final-table payouts: Drake ($56,581), Harvey ($39,702), Wesley Hickey ($25,538), Kenny Mills ($18,901), Czarnecki ($14,188), Jose Rodriquez ($11,350), Prescott ($9,426), Bill Watchman ($7,551) and Billy Wilson ($5,651).

Las Vegas
It’s that time of year again when Las Vegas rooms announce plans for big summer events that run concurrently with the World Series of Poker. Let’s take a look at the ones that have been released:

VENETIAN: In addition to Deep Stack Extravaganza III, which runs May 26-July 24, there will be a DSE III Warm-up series to get the season off to an early start, May 16-26.

Two $250 buy-in, three-starting-day tournaments bookend the series on May 16-19 and May 23-26. They each feature $100K guarantees while the total prize pool guarantee for this early series is more than $420K.

The big summer series is highlighted by a five-day, $3,500 buy-in that starts June 20 and has a $3M guarantee. Another big event is the $1,100 Mid-States Poker Tour with a $2M guarantee.It has three starting days beginning June 6.

On July 17, the first of three starting flights for the $5K event begins with a $2M guarantee.

Omaha players will be interested in the $1,100 PLO/8 event, which has two starting flights beginning June 27 at 5 p.m. with a $150K guarantee. A $1,100 PLO-PLO/8-Big O tournament with a $100K guarantee runs July 1-2. A $600 Big O tourney runs July 5-6 and has a $50K guarantee.A $400 PLO bounty tournament is July 10 with $100 bounties and a $30K guarantee.

There are bounty tournaments galore, ranging from $200 ($25 bounties) to $1,600 ($500 bounties). The $600 seniors event starts June 14 and has two starting flights with a $250K guarantee.The $400 one-day ladies event runs July 7 with a $30K guarantee.

More than $15M in prize money is guaranteed for the entire series.

Meanwhile, the main event at Deep Stack Extravaganza II ended with a six-way chop in March. The $600 event had more than 500 players and a prize pool of $300K.Ryan Swanberg took home $45K and the trophy for first place, while Ben Palmer settled for $44K. The other four players in the deal went home with between $20K and $26K.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The summer series is called Goliath and features more than $8M in guarantees.It runs May 26-July 10.

The series starts out with a Quantum tournament on May 26.The format, popularized at the Bicycle Casino in Southern California, allows players to buy in to the tournament at various amounts offering varying starting stacks as the tournament progresses.

The first two Day 1 flights cost $130 and players start with 10K chips.The second two Day 1 flights cost $240 for 12K chips and the final two Day 1 flights are $350 for 15K chips. Players also have the option of buying in directly to Day 2 for $1K and start with 100K chips.

Players can enter multiple flights and take the biggest stack to Day 2.

If they qualify more than once, they will receive a $2K bonus for cashing twice. The guaranteed prize pool is $150K.Another Quantum tournament begins June 16 with buy-ins of $240, $350, $450, and $1,800.That one has a $300K guarantee.

There are numerous other multiday events, including a $600 buy-in, $1M guarantee, six-starting flight event beginning June 4 that plays to Day 3 on June 7. The Ultimate Goliath Stack tournament starts players with 30K chips for $600 with four starting flights beginning June 21 and has a $700K guarantee.Goliath’s main event offers a $2M guarantee.It has six starting flights beginning July 7 with a $1,650 buy-in.

Various versions of Omaha, including Big O, appear throughout the schedule, as well as HORSE and a Dealer’s Choice event June 9.The LIPS National Championship, a $250 event, runs July 9-10. The Deaf Poker Tour is part of the series, with multiple events starting July 6 and the $250 main event running July 9.

GOLDEN NUGGET: The Grand Poker Series runs May 31- July 3. The $1,675 Poker Night in America event has three starting flights starting June 3. The final table will be live-streamed on Twitch and later broadcast on CBS Sports.Several high-stakes cash games will be recorded for PNIA.

The $570 main event has three starting flights beginning June 29 and has a $500K guarantee.

Players looking for a smaller buy-ins with a big potential payday should check out the $150, six-starting-flight (three a day) tournament June 10.It has a $100K guarantee.A $10K buy-in, seniors super high roller event will be June 26.

Most days have three tournaments starting at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.The 1 p.m. is usually a $150 tournament with a $20K guarantee.Omaha, PLO and Big O events run throughout the GPS series, which has more than $1M in guarantees.

BINION’S: The 10th annual Binion’s Poker Classic will run June 3-July 5. Fans of disciplines other than hold’em will find many great options in this series.

Most of these events have $240 buy-ins and include stud (June 6), PLO (June 7), HORSE (June 8), Omaha/8 (June 9), deuce-to-seven triple draw (June 10), razz (June 10), PLO/8 (June 13), Omaha 8-stud/8 (June 14), triple stud (June 15), PLO/NLHE mix (June 16), badugi (June 16) and stud/8 (June 21).

Championship events for HORSE and PLO run June 20 and June 23, respectively, with $360 buy-ins and $25K guarantees for each.

NLHE events run most days at noon with $180 buy-ins and $10K guarantees.There are three $565 WSOP qualifiers, with one seat to the WSOP main event guaranteed for each event.

The Classic’s championship event has two starting flights, beginning June 26, and has a $565 buy-in and a $50K guarantee.

WYNN: Ludovic Geilich won the $1,600 championship of the Wynn Classic in March.He outlasted nearly 500 players to take home $150K. Edward O’Connell earned $106K for finishing second and James Petzing took third for $75K. The total prize pool was $726K.

BALLY’S: The first WSOPC at Bally’s saw Jason Wheeler win the $1,675 main event.He took home $323K and a WSOPC ring.Second place went to Lisa Hamilton for $200K and Jamie Rosen took third ($147K) as more than 1,200 entrants competed for $1.8M-plus.

— Check out Rob Solomon’s blog at

Northern California

WPT: The World Poker Tour invaded the NorCal area in March with two stops, leading off with the Shooting Star at Bay 101 in San Jose. The series ran March 7-11 with three events, the first being a $2,100 tourney that drew 300 entrants for a $585K prize pool.

Michael Harvey of San Francisco won the title for $121K. Samuel Panzica was second ($83K) and 2010 WSOP main-event runner-up John Racener was third ($50K). The $25K high roller had 17 players and the winner was 2015 WSOP main-event champion Joe McKeehen, who added $156K to his massive bankroll.

The $7,500 Bay 101 Shooting Star main event had $2,500 bounties on the heads of the selected players. The tourney had 753 entries for a $5.1M prize pool. This event is one of the most popular and unique on tour so it’s understandable why so many players from all over the world travel to play here.

Germany’s Stefan Schillhabel took the title for a cool $1.298M. The rest of the final table was Adam Geyer from Austin, Texas (second, $752K), Bryan Piccioli from Allegany, N.Y. (third, $493K), Andjelko Andrejevic from Miami (fourth, $334K), Griffin Paul from Northridge, Calif. (fifth, $231K), Maria Ho from Arcadia, Calif. (sixth, $179K), Anthony Gregg from Columbia, Md. (seventh, $138K), Connor Drinan from Arlington Heights, Ill. (eighth, $102K) and James Collopy from Washington, D.C. (ninth, $72K).

Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln hosted the other WPT stop with its Rolling Thunder series March 9-16, capped off with a $3,500 main event, which had 409 entries for a $1.3M prize pool. Harrison Gimbel from Jupiter, Fla., came out on top to earn another major title. Some of his accolades include victories at the 2010 PCA main event ($2.2M) and the 2010 Fall Poker Open ($330K). Mohsin Charania from Chicago was fighting to take home his third WPT title but was runner-up, taking home a whopping $192K, followed by Russell Garrett from Redding (third, $123K), Markus Gonsalves from San Diego (fourth, $91K), Hafiz Khan from Stockton (fifth, $68K), Derek Wolters from Tempe, Ariz. (sixth, $54K), Matthew McEwan from Newport Beach (seventh, $45K), Ankush Mandivia from Richmond, Texas (eighth, $36K) and Moon Kim from Sunnyvale (ninth, $27K).

Pacific Northwest

MUCKLESHOOT CASINO: The Auburn, Wash., property’s Spring Classic, which has $55K added to its prize pool, recently completed with Flex Saechao winning the Event 1 Shootout for $7K.

Manuel Labistida, Chris Rudd, Terry McCranie, Travis Cogil, Vic Vasa and Lloyd Fletcher chopped Event 2 for $6K each. Clarke Strauss (Event 3, $20K), William Cruz (Event 4, $20K) and Michael Newman (Event 5, $54K) round out the remaining winners.

Two of them made a second final table, but Cruz edged out Saechao for the overall championship by taking sixth in a second event to win another $6K.

Meet John Rochfort

John Rochfort is lead shift manager at Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Up the Ante Poker Room in Lincoln, Calif.

What got you into the poker industry? After college, I was debating whether to continue my education and go to law school. I was going to take a year off and then go back to school when I got into gaming. I was instantly interested and knew this was a field I would like to pursue. I worked at two properties in Southern California before heading to Northern California and finding a home here at Thunder Valley.

What are your favorite games to play? These days I have a daughter and two boys that keep me busy. When I do find time to play, I prefer cash games, mostly no limit.

How did the poker room become what it is today? Our growth is a result of listening and learning. Our director of poker operations, Ben Erwin, has instilled a commitment of listening to the players and learning from the best in the industry. One person that has really made an investment in our operation is Matt Savage. It’s been a privilege to work with him during the WPT and other events we host. I can’t thank our leadership team, Ben, and Matt enough for their contributions in making us what we have become today.” — Garrett Roth

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine