Cramer takes down SoCal Poker Championships



After a three-way chop, Tim Cramer was declared the winner of the SoCal Poker Championships, a unique tournament collaboration between four SoCal casinos. Cramer earned $351,240 and a Mercedes-Benz C Class, which served as the tournament trophy.

He qualified for the finals at the Gardens Casino. Daniel Illingworth of Carlsbad took second ($316,405) and Mike Eskandari of Mission Viejo was third ($293,345).

Each casino hosted eight Day 1s with two flights each at noon and 5:30 p.m. for a total of 64 starting flights. The Gardens hosted Day 1 flights Sept. 18-25. The Bike was Oct. 1-8, followed by Hustler Casino on Oct. 21-28 and the final round was at the Commerce on Nov. 5-12.

The $3M guarantee, which featured a minimum of $500K and the car for first, drew plenty of interest as the $350 buy-in attracted 9,621 players, who were eligible to enter as many flights as they wanted. If players bagged chips in one flight, they could enter another session.

The top 10 percent of Day 1 received at least $600, while the top 8 percent got a minimum of $700, and $800 or more was awarded to those in the top 6 percent. That 6 percent also moved on to Day 2. Rounding out the top 10 were El Harrak Said (Santa Clarita, $138,600), Jay Chavkin (Capistrano Beach, $103,660), Sorel Mizzi (Toronto, $81K), Chris Moorman (England, $64,200), Jesse Sylvia (West Tisbury, Mass., $51,235), Luan Phan (Los Angeles, $40,120) and Upeshka De Silva (Katy, Texas, $29,250).

WSOPC AT BIKE: Local grinder Nikhil Gera came out on top of the 842-player field in the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event in mid-December to win his first ring and $246,295, edging Los Angeles’ Paul Nguyen, who won $152,190.
“It feels great,” Gera said. “I’ve been playing a lot recently and have a lot of good friends here who give me advice on hands, and on life and stuff. This one is for them, too.”

PALA CASINO: Brian Comestro of San Marcos won $4,999 at the Pala River Card tournament on Dec. 18. Comestro’s pair of kings bested Alan Ho’s J-2 after Ho went all-in. Ho of San Diego won $3,126 for second. Comestro had placed second in six River Card tournaments at Pala. A total of 164 players vied for the $19, 540 prize pool and 16 finalists cashed. Rounding out the top 10 were Robert Tornetto (Indio, $2,432), Steve Alkema (Fallbrook, $1,563), Roberto Rosales (Fontana, $1,367), Rich Lanes (El Cajon, $1,123), Dan Gonzales (Carlsbad, $1,025), Joe Gonzales (Mira Loma, $830), Andrew Cook (San Diego, $635) and Tony Galante (Ramona, $488).

The schedule for this month’s $130 River Card is Feb. 9 (Day 1A, 6 p.m.), Feb. 10 (Day 1B, 6 p.m.) and Feb. 11 (Day 1C, noon). Day 2 is Feb. 12. Re-entry will be until Level 6 and blinds will be 25 minutes.Ten percent of each day’s players will advance to Day 2 and receive $100. If a player qualifies twice, they receive $500 from the prize pool and must surrender their smallest stack.

Another upcoming tournament is the LIPS Battle of the Sexes on Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. It costs $95 and will have 20-minute blinds with re-entry allowed for the first three levels.

Northern California

Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Up the Ante Poker Room and the World Poker Tour held their California Swing Kickoff in Lincoln, Calif. It included a $100K guarantee Action 8, a $20K guarantee, the OneDay $100K guarantee and a 20-seat-guarantee super mega-satellite with entry into this year’s WPT Rolling Thunder main event in March.

The Action 8 event cost $250 as 494 entries made the prize pool $105K. Five players chopped the remaining prize pool with David Valdez and Mike Postle taking home the largest scores of $14.5K each. The $20K guarantee ended up with 184 entries, which exceeded the guarantee. K.B. Liu won the title and pocketed $4.7K.

The OneDay $100K had a $400 buy-in and demolished its guarantee, reaching $168K-plus from 482 entries. Since this was a one-day event, the final table went well into the early morning with Darrel Dier of Las Vegas winning the crown and taking home $34K.

He outlasted Frederic Soria, who scored $23K as runner-up. The other players at the final table were Derek Johannson (third, $15K), Philip Phongsaiphonh (fourth, $11K), Brian Olson (fifth, $8K), David Rosenbloom (sixth, $7K), Colomba Duffy (seventh, $6K), Srinivas Jagarlamudi (eighth, $5K) and Kelly Douglas (ninth, $3K).

BAY 101: The San Jose property hosts numerous mega-satellites this month for the WPT Shooting Star main event, which will be March 6-10. There are $275 satellites Feb. 13-17 and Feb. 19-24. There will be $550 satellites on Feb. 18, Feb. 25-28 and March 1.

The $1,100 satellites will be March 2-4. All satellites start at 9:30 a.m. and players will be competing for their chance at a $7,500 Shooting Star seat. The event always has been a fan and player favorite because of the fun atmosphere, huge prize pool and $2,500 bounties on 50 superstars.

STONES GAMBLING HALL: The Spring Classic runs Feb. 24-March 5, including a $125K guarantee on March 2 for $450. Call the poker room for details.

Pacific Northwest

HOLIDAY CHAMPIONSHIP: Portland Meadows and the Final Table Poker Club, both in Portland, hosted the four-event series Dec. 1-4 with $90-$160 buy-ins and guarantees of $10K-$30K. Two of the tournaments went to Max Young (Seaside) and James Porter (Portland), who placed second and first, respectively in overall points for all four tournaments. Tony Strayer (Portland) was third overall.

Portland Meadows (22 tables) and the Final Table Poker Club (15 tables) are operated as poker clubs, so there are no fees for their tournaments, no rake for their cash games, no salaries for their dealers. They only require a $10 membership fee, which gets you all the play you want for one day.

Portland Meadows is following up its December event with the 11th annual Northwest Deaf Poker tournament series Feb. 24-25, with three events that have buy-ins of $50, $75 and $100.

CHINOOK WINDS CASINO: Once a year, the property closes its seven-table poker room and fills a meeting room next door with 20-plus tables for its PacWest Poker Classic, this year running Feb. 18-26.

Things start off with a $330 six-max, which sports a $50K guarantee and has two Day 1s on Feb. 18-19 and Day 2 on Feb. 20. Single-day events during the week will be a $140 NLHE, $120 seniors, $150 Omaha/8, $150 PLO/8, $170 NLHE. The classic culminates in a two-day $550 main event with a $100K guarantee Feb. 25-26.

Chinook Winds in Lincoln, Ore., is the 13th-largest poker room in the region and routinely spreads $1-$3 NLHE and features Omaha on Tuesdays and stud on Fridays.The room is closed Wednesdays and Thursdays, just not during the PacWest event.

MUCKLESHOOT CASINO: The Spring Classic runs March 15-20 with five tournaments, a $250 shootout and four NLHE events with lots of house-added money.More details will be reported in our March issue.

Muckleshoot is 31 miles southeast of Seattle in Auburn, Wash., and is the largest room in the region with 32 tables. It routinely spreads $4-$8 limit and Omaha/8 games and $3-$5 NLHE (subject to the state-mandated $500 limit per bet, of course). Also, a $15-$30 Omaha/8 slugfest occasionally spreads.Promotions include $55K paid weekly in high hands for both hold’em and Omaha games.


ATLANTIS: Players will earn $4 an hour in comps until March 31. Also, the $40 tournament runs daily at 11 a.m. with 6K in starting chips.

PEPPERMILL: There’s an updated feature on the poker room’s website that allows players to look at the waiting list and the games spread in the poker room. Players also enjoy the convenience of receiving a text message as soon as seats are available. During the second Saturday of every month at noon, there’s a $235 tournament with 15K in starting chips.

ELDORADO: A new promotion for $3-$6 limit has been implemented from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during weekdays. The poker room manager will draw a seat twice per hour and the winner will receive $20.

The Beat the Boss freeroll draws nearly 100 players on the first Friday of every month at 6 p.m. Players can qualify by logging 25 hours of live games in the previous month or by placing “in the money” in any tournament during the past month.

GRAND SIERRA: The poker room pays a high hand every two hours on Mondays and Tuesdays between 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Each winner can choose in $100 free slot play or $50 in cash.

GOLDEN NUGGET: Daily tournaments are at 10 a.m. for $23 and 700 in chips.

CLUB CAL NEVA: The poker room is giving away $768 for 10-high straight flushes or better during any of its daily tournaments.

HARVEY’S LAKE TAHOE: The $40 tournament still runs daily at 10 a.m. There’s also a popular tournament every Friday at 6 p.m. The buy-in is $95 and draws around 50 entries.

Las Vegas

The Bellagio poker room has added a 30-second shot clock to its daily tournament. It’s the first regularly scheduled tournament in Las Vegas to feature the shot clock.

It works like this: As soon as it’s a player’s turn to act, the dealer will start the clock, which will be visible to the player.The player has 30 seconds to act.If the player hasn’t acted at the end of the 30-second period, the player’s hand will be dead, unless the player uses a Time Extension card, which gives the player 60 more seconds to consider the action.Each player is issued two of these cards at the beginning of the tournament.

Bellagio used this format for one of its Five Diamond events in December and it proved popular.That was a $1,900 event that attracted 200-plus entrants, so the Bellagio feels players in their dailies will appreciate the quick pace.

The Shot Clock tournament runs daily at 2 and has a $200 buy-in.The starting chip stack is 12,500 and the event has 30-minute levels.

Speaking of the WPT Five Diamond Classic, James Romero of Oregon took home nearly $2M for first place in the championship event in December. Chicago’s Ryan Tosoc grabbed $1.1M for second and Jack Schindler of Pennsylvania locked up $736K for third.The $10,400 tournament had 792 entries and a $7.6M prize pool.

RIO: The World Series of Poker Circuit comes through Feb. 17-28. The series starts with a $365 event with six starting flights and a $250K guarantee. A two-day mixed PLO-NLHE event starts Feb. 20. The $250 seniors event is Feb. 21. PLO fans have their opportunity on Feb. 22 with a $365 event. A $365 HORSE event runs Feb. 23. The $365 Monster Stack, with 20K in chips, is Feb. 24.

The $1,675 main event has two starting flights beginning Feb. 25 and features a $750K guarantee. The series ends with a $2,200 high roller Feb. 27, finishing the next day.

WYNN: The Wynn Classic returns Feb. 23-March 12. The first of the three starting flights for the championship event is March 2.That event has a $750K guarantee and a $1,600 buy-in.

There’s a $400, two-starting-flight event Feb. 27 that has a $100K guarantee.A $600 tourney with three starting flights begins March 9 and offers a $250K guarantee.

The $600 seniors event with a $50K guarantee runs Feb. 24. The PLO tournament is Feb. 26 and has a $400 buy-in and a $25K guarantee. Two $400 Survivor tournaments with $40K guarantees each are offered on Feb. 23 and March 8.

The Wynn is adding 25 tables to the Encore Players Lounge for the event.

PLANET HOLLYWOOD: The Phamous Poker Series Goliath Warmup event runs March 24-April 3. There are 13 events offering a combined $1M in guarantees. The five-day main event starts the first of its three starting flights March 30. This $1,650 buy-in event starts players with a 30K stack and features 60-minute levels. The guarantee is $529,850.

A smaller version of the main event kicks off things March 24.It has two starting flights and 40-minute levels, with the same 30K starting stack.The buy-in is $600 and the guarantee is $150K. There’s also a $4K high roller April 2.

BALLY’S: The mid-Strip room is offering progressive high hands. The royal flush of each suit will reset at $500 each. Straight flushes of each suit reset at $100.Each rank of quads resets at $50. The payoff of each hand increases daily until each is hit.

Hourly high hands run daily from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m.The payout is $100.There’s a $20K monthly freeroll with 60 hours of live play during the period needed to qualify.The top-50 finishers in the freeroll each get $400.

The main cash game is a lively $1-$2 NLHE with a $100-$300 min-max buy-in.A $3-$6 limit game with a $30 minimum also gets spread.

Tournaments run daily at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., 5 p.m., and 8 p.m.They are all $50 buy-ins with a 5K starting stack, 20-minute levels and a $500 guarantee.

FLAMINGO: One of the busiest mid-sized rooms, the Flamingo is one of the few rooms on the Strip offering a $2-$4 limit game and it’s almost always running. The minimum buy-in is $20.

In addition, Flamingo spreads $4-$8 limit with a half-kill.It has a $40 minimum buy-in.There’s a free buffet to players for every six hours they play in this game.There’s also a monthly freeroll just for players in this game, with 35 hours of play in the period needed to qualify.The first 20 finishers in the freeroll get $250, the rest of the qualifiers get $100 each.

Of course, the room spreads $1-$2 NLHE, which has a $100-$300 min-max buy-in.

Other promos include high hands ($50 for quads, $100 for straight flushes and $300 for royals). The payouts are doubled for that $4-$8 limit game.There are also two weekly freerolls (Monday and Friday).Eight hours in the half-week before each qualify.The top-10 finishers get $250 each.

There are six tournaments a day, all starting with a 20K stack.At 10 a.m., it’s a $60 buy-in with a $500 guarantee.At 1 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and midnight it’s $60 with a $600 guarantee.All of these have 15-minute levels. The 4 p.m. is a turbo with 10-minute levels, a $50 buy-in and a $500 guarantee.

— Check out Rob Solomon’s blog at

Meet Loren Watson

Loren Watson has been a poker dealer at the Eldorado Casino in Reno for the past two years and has been enjoying pushing pot after pot to his customers.

How did you get a job in the poker industry? I didn’t have any casino experience, but luckily I was given a chance by Margie (Heintz), the poker room manager at Eldorado. I went in every morning before 6 a.m. to show my determination and practiced pitching cards for five hours. I also focused on providing quality customer service to our players during training sessions. Two weeks later, I was given an audition and was hired.

What do you like most about working at Eldorado Casino? I enjoy the human interactions. I’ve always wanted to work at a place that was basically Cheers and now I do.

Why should people play at Eldorado Casino? During the weekends and holidays, our poker room attracts all of the downtown tourists. Poker players that drive up 10 times a year, the local out-of-towners, as I call them, are welcomed in and treated like locals from the players as well as the staff.

What is your most memorable poker experience? Recently in a no-limit cash game, I had pocket queens vs. pocket jacks. We both had a set and all the money went in by the turn card. However, my opponent hit the case jack on the river and sent me home. I drove home steaming and all I could think about was that jack on the river. Well, as I arrived home, guess what I saw when I opened my front door? Directly in front of me I saw about 20 Matchbox cars arranged on the floor in the shape of a big old J. My son had read my mind.
— Philip Chow

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine