Frank Stepuchin Leads WPT Gardens Final Table; On Hiatus Until March 12

The first World Poker Tour (WPT) event of 2019 – the $10,000 buy-in WPT Gardens Poker Championship – began with 253 players, but the field is now down to the final table of six. However, they will have to wait until Tuesday, March 12 to see who walks away with the $548,825 top prize.

That’s because the final six players, who are guaranteed $110,225 in prize money, will be on hiatus until March 12, which is when they’ll head to Las Vegas to play down to a winner at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. menangceme

Frank Stepuchin (pictured above) is way out in front with a more than 2:1 chip lead over his next closest competition. However, his path to victory won’t be easy as he’ll have to contend with the likes of Shannon Shorr, Steve Sung, Brent Roberts, and the short-stacked Ray Qartomy and Jonathan Abdellatif.

WPT Gardens Poker Championship Final Table
Seat Player Chip Counts
1 Shannon Shorr 1,710,000
2 Frank Stepuchin 4,065,000
3 Brent Roberts 1,385,000
4 Jonathan Abdellatif 555,000
5 Ray Qartomy 820,000
6 Steve Sung 1,580,000
Among those to cash the tournament but fall short of making Day 4 were Saya Ono (21st – $21,780), Mohsin Charania (25th – $19,120), Ankush Mandavia (27th – $19,120), Kitty Kuo (28th – $19,120), and Tuan Phan (32nd – $19,120).

Day 4 Action
According to live updates from the event, Day 4 saw 19 players return to action, which meant a baker’s dozen would hit the rail before the final table was set.

Dayron Huertas-Carballo, a Gardens Casno qualifier, was the first to fall after getting his short stack all in with ace-queen and failing to hold against Jonathan Abdellatif’s five-four suited after the latter flopped trip fives.

From there, the eliminations stacked up including Jerry Humphrey (18th – $25,225), Ubaid Habib (17th – $25,225), Cedric Darrett (16th – $29,705), Allen Pock (15th – $29,705), Mauricio Salazar (14th – $35,550), Team RIU’s Ricky Guan (13th – $35,550), Qing Liu (12th – $43,220), and the last WPT champ in the field Marvin Rettenmaier (11th – $43,220).

Rettenmaier fell in Level 21 (10,000/15,000/15,000) when he raised the button to 110,000, leaving himself just 15,000 behind. Abdellatif then moved all in holding the {a-Diamonds}{8-Diamonds} and Rettenmaier called off with the {10-Clubs}{8-Hearts}. The board ran out {K-Diamonds}{K-Hearts}{7-Diamonds}{J-Hearts}{8-Clubs} and Rettenmaier was sent packing.

From there Vince Salvatore (10th – $53,385), Peter Cross (9th – $53,385), and Garrett Greer (8th – $66,955) all fell to bring about the final table bubble.

Toby Lewis at the WPT Gardens Championship.
Toby Lewis at the WPT Gardens Championship.
In Level 24 (15,000/30,000/30,000), Shorr raised to 60,000 from the cutoff and Aussie Millions champ Toby Lewis and Stepuchin, who were on the button and in the small blind respectively, both called to see a {J-Clubs}{5-Hearts}{2-Hearts} flop.

Two checks saw Lewis bet 75,000 and Stepuchin check-raised to 190,000. Shorr got out of the way and Lewis called to see the {K-Diamonds} turn. Stepuchin bet 360,000, Lewis called, and the {3-Diamonds} completed the board on the river.

Stepuchin moved all in and Lewis called off his last 360,000 with the {K-Hearts}{J-Hearts} for two pair. Unfortunately for him, he had been set up as Stepuchin rolled over the {5-Clubs}{5-Diamonds}. Lewis bubbled the final table but took home $85,270 for his seventh-place finish.

The World Poker Tour now heads to Casino Sochi for the WPT Russia on January 21 followed by the $3,500 WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open on January 27. The latter will be the second televised final table of Season 17.

Photos courtesy of WPT.

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Coren Leads 262 Remaining in Opening Event; 171 Players Cash

Day 2 of the first event of the 2019 Aussie Millions the AUD$1,150 Opening Event gets underway at 12:15 pm today, with 262 players remaining.

All of the players will have one eye on the money bubble, with just 171 players guaranteed a min-cash of AUD$2,873 (USD$2,069), and the other on the AUD$350,464 (USD$252,334) for first prize.

Leading the way at the start of Day 2 is Artur Coren, followed by Sean Eichendorf and Vishal Maini. These three are the only players over 200,000 in chips. 99bandar

Coren has a strong pedigree here in Melbourne, finishing 14th in the Main Event in 2016, 18th in the Main Event in 2017 and then last year finished 15th for combined cashes of AUD$245,000.

Since his last visit to Australia, he has recorded a deep run in the WSOP Main Event where he finished 48th for USD$156,265.

Here is a list of the top three chip counts from each of the five starting flights

Flight Name Chip Count
1 Fedon Phaedonos 169,500
Pierce Mchellar 128,100
Manuel Rodrigues 127,200
2 Artur Coren 262,500
Vishal Maini 200,000
Wayne Clinch 193,000
3 Sean Eichendorf 218,300
Didrik Mantor 148,000
Guanchen Wang 126,600
4 Johan Schumacher 179,900
Mostafa Haidary 179,900
Thomas Scholze 152,100
5 Simon Chahine 184,800
Francis Artufel 178,400
Oribe Rivero 168,600
Other big names still in the Opening Event include 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event champion Toby Lewis as well as runner-up in that event Stefan Huber and final tablists Chul-Hyon Park and Johan Schumacher, who was the chip leader of flight 4.

Other notables still in the field include former WSOP APAC champion Scott Davies, Australian bracelet-winner Heidi May, 2018 WSOP final tablist Michael Dyer, Julien Sitbon, and Jesse Sylvia

PokerNews will bring you a recap of the day’s play later today. The plan is to play ten 60-minute levels or until a final table is reached. Stay tuned to for more interviews, highlights and more from the 2019 Aussie Millions

Seat Draw

(Table Seat Name Chip Count
7 1 VALLEE, ERIC J 27,400
7 2 LEKNES, TOBIAS 106,700
7 3 MICHAEL, ANDREW J 20,900
7 6 POPE, VESNA 4,700
7 7 WU, XUE Q 76,900
7 9 KARITA, SHOSHIRO 105,400
8 1 NGUYEN, KIM 16,600
8 3 SCHAAPS, BOHDEN J 112,800
8 4 PRASAD, JAYAN G 67,600
8 5 HUBER, STEFAN 111,200
8 7 FU, QIANG 31,800
8 8 TRUONG, DUY Q 15,800
8 9 WRIGHT, SHANE 13,300
10 1 AWERBUCH, CHAD R 4,300
10 2 MILINKOVIC, VERA 60,000
10 3 ARTUFEL, FRANCIS 178,400
10 4 LAYTON, MARK L 99,100
10 5 SIMON, SAM 109,000
10 6 PAVLOVICH, GORAN 125,300
10 8 BERNSTEIN, JUSTIN 103,500
10 9 WARD, PAUL A 24,000
14 1 VUJANIC, TANJA 19,300
14 2 MCCULLY, JOSHUA C 37,400
14 3 GAN, WAN Y 46,600
14 4 GARBERG, MARKUS 101,100
14 5 SLEETH, ASHLEY N 48,300
14 6 KHAW, YEW TONG 144,400
14 7 WANG, GUANCHEN 126,600
14 8 HUGO, MATHEW S 38,000
14 9 PLANTER, JORDAN 43,600
16 4 COX, DEAN J 66,000
16 5 KAGGERUD, ROBERT E 41,600
17 1 KELSALL, KEVIN J 47,700
17 2 WADIH, BARBARA 69,000
17 3 STONE, NERI 86,100
17 4 REYNOLDS, BRUCE W 21,400
17 5 MUNDADAN, S 46,500
17 6 VELLRATH, THORBEN 119,600
17 7 WILSON, SCOTT A 72,600
17 8 GARLAND, DYLAN T 132,800
17 9 KRMPOTIC, STEVAN 68,400
25 1 SIMONS, DANIEL 36,000
25 2 SCHOLZE, THOMAS 152,100
25 3 HARTMANN, PASCAL 40,700
25 4 DODDS, JOEL R 34,300
25 5 BOHAN, RODNEY P 19,700
25 6 MEREDITH, TOBY D 75,500
25 7 EICHENDORF, SEAN L 218,300
25 9 PHAEDONOS, FEDON 169,500
26 1 DAI, WU-WEI 43,500
26 4 EGAN, MICHAEL J 42,100
26 6 MATSUMURA, EIJI 61,500
26 7 SEYMOUR, MICHAEL G 151,600
26 8 ZHANG, NING 153,000
26 9 SCHWERDT, EDMUND J 72,800
26 23 HUTCHISON, DEAN J 118,000
27 1 RAGOZZINI, SEAN 71,900
27 2 DORIA, MARIO 84,000
27 3 MUSTAFA, ARIF 25,000
27 4 REEVES, LIAM S 17,700
27 5 KOUK, TIMOTHY M 100,800
27 6 ABADY, JOSHUA S 80,100
27 7 WANG, SHUCONG 133,800
27 8 LIU, YIN 130,400
27 9 DE LAAT, BAS W 25,600
28 1 WILLIAMS, JOEL M 14,300
28 2 STOKIE, LUKE J 119,300
28 3 CHONG, THOMAS C 46,300
28 5 RUHA, JOHN M 93,700
28 6 YOKOO, KAZUYOSHI 97,200
28 7 WANG, GUANGYU 16,300
28 9 HAWKINS, ROLAND W 55,900
29 1 WANG, DAVID Y 31,900
29 2 WU, HE-RU 21,800
29 3 ANGELATOS, PETER 101,700
29 5 LUKIE, CHICO 61,200
29 6 KANE, ADAM T 40,900
29 8 TRAN, MINHHAI H 137,900
30 1 MOSBOCK, MARIO 106,700
30 2 WEINERT, JAN M 22,500
30 3 DAVIES, SCOTT M 73,100
30 4 HTET, KYAW ZIN 56,200
30 6 AMEDI, NETANEL 49,400
30 7 AGRESTA, ROY 46,100
30 8 CRAIB, FABIAN K 66,600
30 9 PEARSON, JUSTIN 32,800
31 1 CHENG, JIANZHAO 109,000
31 2 DEBSIA, CAMIL A 44,500
31 4 OROURKE, GAVIN 128,000
31 5 BATOZ, RODOLJUB 23,700
31 6 SCHUBERT, ALAN C 11,200
31 7 WANG, WENLIN 29,700
31 8 AU, KIM B 60,900
31 9 BURNS, KAHLE J 17,300
32 1 CHAO, PERCY 65,600
32 3 RAYMOND, ROBERT K 57,200
32 4 ENDERSBY, TRAVIS G 31,300
32 5 CHIANG, JEN-YUE 38,400
32 6 BEATTIE, AARON J 37,100
32 7 SMITH, ADAM D 50,500
32 9 ST ELOI, DAVID R 62,000
33 1 WOODLAND, BRYCE R 18,700
33 2 FERRINI, MIRCO 77,600
33 5 MUSTCHIN, AMON 35,700
33 6 YE, SHENG 32,400
33 8 VIRGIN, SCOTT T 25,200
33 9 LI, YANG 37,100
34 1 KELLY, SCOTT J 58,700
34 2 GIANNOUKOS, JIM 69,600
34 3 RODRIGUES, MANUEL L 127,200
34 4 LIBERTO, JUSTIN R 26,100
34 5 SYLVIA, JESSE J 40,100
34 6 CHAPTINI, FOUAD 56,900
34 7 PASSET, ABRAHAM 33,800
34 8 FOSTER, JOSHUA M 114,100
34 9 SWANNACK, COLE J 28,100
35 1 LEI, YANG 79,000
35 2 SEPPING, RASMUS 54,600
35 3 GULLE, MICHAEL D 26,300
35 4 QUON, STEPHEN J 87,500
35 6 OVERMIRE, WILLIAM H 132,700
35 7 SMITH, STEPHEN 46,000
35 8 EFARAIMO, JACK 144,100
36 1 MOGHIMI, MIR N 21,500
36 2 LI, JIN 25,400
36 3 JOHNSTON, SAMUEL M 45,300
36 4 LIN, KAN 22,500
36 5 GRAHAM, CONNIE 69,000
36 6 LAYTON, ERIKA G 50,200
36 7 MOSCA, ENRICO 25,400
36 8 LAZENBY, KURTIS J 47,000
37 2 CHAMBERS, KERRY 26,500
37 3 CLINCH, WAYNE 193,000
37 3 ISMAIL, ISMAIL 22,200
37 4 MACNAUGHT, KYM 79,500
37 6 DURANTE, LUCAS B 79,700
37 7 STANTON, DAVID T 91,300
37 8 EDWARDS, MATTHEW R 142,500
38 1 COLMAN, JULIUS 42,000
38 2 ROPER, JUSTIN M 67,900
38 3 LIN, HUNG-SHENG 62,100
38 4 MCCONVILLE, SEAN A 60,800
38 5 KOREN, ARTUR 262,500
38 6 GORE, DAMIAN 10,800
38 8 LEE, JASON W 82,500
39 1 BURRIDGE, WILSON O 22,100
39 3 WANG, XUELAN 56,000
39 4 SEKIYA, YOSUKE 59,100
39 5 SHOER, KEITH 77,800
39 6 SIMUNIC, JOSIP 57,000
39 7 DHINGRA, GAUTAM 179,300
39 9 BOGNAR, ATTILA 76,100
40 2 BRKIC, UROS 76,800
40 3 WAKEMAN, MATTHEW J 45,300
40 4 BLATT, DEAN N 119,200
40 6 WORMALD, ALISHA M 62,200
40 7 CHAHINE, SIMON 184,800
40 8 BOOBEKOV, NURLAN 57,100
40 9 CONNELLY, BEDE W 22,000
41 1 ONIONS, AMANDA J 18,600
41 3 GROSSMAN, JOSEPH C 33,400
41 4 OLIVIERI, DANIEL 44,100
41 5 ASAD, MUHAMMAD 116,100
41 7 SIEGEL, ELIAHU B Y 85,600
41 8 MANTOR, DIDRIK A 148,000
41 9 MAINI, VISHAL S 200,000
42 1 BAYLISS, ANDREW M 36,700
42 2 WHITNEY, BRETT A 61,900
42 2 CARR, C 37,200
42 3 KIPNIS, MICHAEL 112,800
42 5 HONG, RYAN M 94,000
42 7 DYER, MICHAEL D 118,800
42 8 WHITE, SCOTT C 99,000
42 9 WALSH, DAMIEN J 40,500
43 1 SHEN, QI 121,900
43 2 MCGOVERN, NIALL M 98,100
43 3 BAIN, TRISTAN ROBB 34,500
43 4 CHIN, ANDRIAN Y 39,200
43 5 GIORGI, FILIPPO 62,400
43 7 MENESES, RODRIGO 40,500
43 8 SITBON, JULIEN A 88,700
44 1 WILLIAMS, GUY D 22,100
44 2 KHOUEIS, SUZY TG 47,600
44 4 CHEW, STEVAN L 36,300
44 5 MIZZI, SOREL JAY 80,300
44 6 RIVERO, ORIBE 168,600
44 7 TOU, TA WEI 137,500
45 1 HAIDARY, MOSTAFA 179,900
45 2 KIM, KYUNG HOON 51,900
45 3 AYOUB, DANNY 19,100
45 6 FOX, DALE R 29,600
45 7 SHIN, ARI KUNUK 56,600
45 8 TRAN, KHAC-TRUNG 47,900
45 9 LAI, BEN 98,000
46 1 PAVITT, SCOTT 30,400
46 2 BOOTH, CARL A 37,300
46 3 BECERRA, CARLOS A 51,700
46 5 HU, QI 86,700
46 6 BRENNAN, DAVID 26,300
46 7 MICHAEL, ANDREW 14,900
46 8 GUMZ, FABIAN 48,800
46 9 RYAN, DAVID P 34,400
47 1 JIA, JUN 121,500
47 3 ZUBKO, GRAEME 49,200
47 4 SENG, ANG B 42,800
47 6 MAY, HEIDI M 126,100
47 7 PAZIOS, PAUL 44,800
47 8 DALEY, JOSHUA B 15,000
48 1 VAKILI, REZA 50,100
48 2 PARK, CHUL-HYON 47,800
48 3 WOJCIK, DANIEL S 30,900
48 5 NGUYEN, KWANG H 33,500
48 7 HARA, YUTA 75,800
49 1 LITTLER, ANDREW 20,900
49 2 JANKOVIC, DENIS 98,200
49 4 EBERLE, BENEDIKT 40,100
49 5 RAEMAEKERS, JOEP 91,400
49 6 LEWIS, TOBY 119,300
49 9 ULMER, TIMOTHY J 121,000

Frenchman Julien Sitbon Enjoying His First Aussie Millions

Last year Julien Sitbon travelled all over the world to play poker on his way to eclipsing the USD$1,000,000 mark in lifetime cashes. One destination he has never visited is Australia and he’s here in Melbourne playing at the Aussie Millions for the first time. 99ceme

“It’s really my first time,” said Sitbon. “Last year I played a lot and I decided to have a little break. Just come here and visit and travel. I want to enjoy the country and travel with my girlfriend. I’ll play the Aussie Millions AM and then travel all around here.”

Sitbon flew into Australia ten days ago and spent time at the beach in Perth, before flying to Melbourne where he arrived four days ago.

“I played the H.O.R.S.E. and the Opening Event twice, and I’ve made Day 2. I’m feeling quite good, being here, of course, I hope I can make Day 3.

“The style of poker here is completely different. It’s a lot more like in the U.S. than in Europe. It’s not the same poker. It’s nice because it’s much more about exploitation than GTO. I really like that a lot.”

He told PokerNews that after the tournament he is hoping to see the sharks around Australia. Let’s hope that sharks are in the water and not in the poker tournaments.

“I’m ok with that,” Sitbon smiled. “I will fight with them at the poker tables – but not in the water!”

His and Hers Poker: A Small Price to Pay

Hello, Poker Friends! After a little holiday break, we’re back at it with a hand illustrating the consequences of small bet sizing.

The Table and Villain(s)
Hero (Matt) is at a $2/$5 table at the Borgata. The main Villain in the hand is a loose and aggressive player in his early 20s. He has been opening rather wide from all positions. Most notably, he will open overly wide from early position, but will vary his opening size based upon the strength of his holding.

Postflop, Villain tends to play his strong hands fast. He has been caught bluffing on at least two occasions in as many hours, including one attempted river bluff.

Effective Stacks: ~$1,000 (Villain).

Villain opens to $15 from under the gun. It folds around to Hero in the small blind who three-bets to $55 with {A-Diamonds}{K-Spades}. The big blind folds and Villain calls.

Normally, my bare minimum three-bet sizing when out of position is four times the opening. When the opening sizing is particularly small (as here), I will often increase my three-bet sizing even further to ensure that there is not an ambitious cold call from the big blind. So my default sizing in this spot would normally be around $75.

In this hand, I decided to override that default because of the sizing tell I had picked up from the Villain. His $15 opening size is indicative of a weaker hand which my {A-Diamonds}{K-Spades} is very likely crushing. The last thing I want to do is bet huge and generate a fold from his worse holdings. It’s okay to have default preflop bet sizings, but always be prepared to call an audible if the situation dictates.

It’s heads-up to the flop with a pot of $115. The flop comes {Q-Spades}{5-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}. Hero bets $45. Villain calls.

As the three-bettor, the first thing to do when the flop comes down is to analyze the interaction of the flop with the ranges of the remaining players. We are looking for two elements: (1) who has more / better one-pair hands, and (2) who has more premium hands.

Here, both players can have A-Q in their ranges, but only Hero has A-A and K-K. Only Hero should have Q-Q also, but only Villain should have 5-5 and 4-4. It’s possible that Villain has 5-4-suited, but that’s pretty loose, even for him.

I would summarize by saying that Hero has a slight overall range advantage, mostly due to having the overpairs. In such a spot in a three-bet pot, it is often a good play to make a small bet with one’s entire three-bet range. That’s particularly true on a dry board like this, where a lack of natural bluffs would make it difficult properly split Hero’s range properly.

With $205 in the pot, the turn brings the {K-Clubs}, for a turn board of {Q-Spades}{5-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{K-Clubs}. Hero bets $65. Villain calls.

An ace or king is always a game changing turn card in a three-bet pot. The three-bettor suddenly gains a massive range advantage boost due to the 12 combos of A-K and 3 combos of sets in the three-bettors range that are likely absent from the other player’s range.

In what is already a condensed three-bet range, suddenly picking up 15 top-pair-plus combos is a huge swing. When Hero’s range is this far into the value end of the spectrum, he should be betting small if he wishes to be balanced. There are times when an exploitative deviation might be advisable, but this is not one of them. The simple fact is that Villain’s range is full of queens that we don’t want to scare off with a large bet.

The pot is now $335. The river is the {6-Hearts}, for a final board of {Q-Spades}{5-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{K-Clubs}{6-Hearts}. Hero bets $125. Villain raises to $425. Hero tanks for a while and then finally makes the call. Villain tables {6-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds} for the winner.

The {6-Hearts} on the river should change very little. Hero’s range is still well ahead of Villain’s on a board with very few bricked draws. So a small bet sizing is still warranted to attempt to generate a curious call from Villain’s queens.

Once Villain raises, we now have to decide if he has sufficient bluffs to warrant a call. Against a passive opponent, we could make a highly exploitative fold. Here, we don’t get off that easy. We know from past hands that Villain is capable of bluffing on the river. We also need to realize that we may have induced Villain to bluff by making three straight streets of small bets. dominoqiu

We begin by noting that Villain didn’t raise on flop or turn. In the past, we’ve seen Villain play his strong value hands fast. That means that he is mostly representing a holding which was massively helped by the {6-Hearts} on the river. What hands fall into that category? Very few.

By contrast, we should consider that our small sizing on the flop may have caused Villain to float with backdoor club draws which then also called on the turn. If we had used a larger sizing, that might not be the case. But when we went small, there’s probably far more missed club backdoor draws in this loose Villain’s range than holdings which interact with the {6-Hearts}. In real time, this thought process, along with the lack of a club in my hand (to block the missed draw) generated the call.

Let’s look at some off-the-table equity calculator work to see how this call stacks up. For Villain’s raise size, we need to be correct $300 / ($300 + $335 + $125 + $425) = 25.3 percent of the time to be break even. If we give Villain a range comprised of…

{6-}{6-}, {A-Clubs}{5-Clubs}, {A-Clubs}{3-Clubs}, {A-Clubs}{2-Clubs}, {8-Clubs}{7-Clubs}, {7-}{6-}-suited, {6-}{5-}-suited, {3-}{2-}-suited
…then we have the winner 37.5 percent of the time.

If we also add in half of the combos of 5-5, 4-4, K-Q and 5-4-suited to simulate Villain slow playing these some portion of the time, we still win at 26.1 percent frequency. That is all assuming that this aggressive Villain doesn’t turn things like {Q-Clubs}{J-Clubs} into a bluff on the river. If he does, then our winning percentage only goes up.

In hindsight, while Hero lost, we can see that the above ranging is probably on the conservative side. Villain opened UTG and called a three-bet with {6-Diamonds}{4-Diamonds}. Hero’s small bet sizing then caused Villain to call two streets with nothing but a pair of fours. All of this likely means that he has even more junk in his river range than we even considered above, much of which he would likely turn into a bluff.

The Takeaway
Using a small bet sizing may generate some very speculative calls from loose opponents. If those opponents are also aggressive, you will need to be prepared to defend at a healthy rate against river bluff raises induced by your small bets.

If your opponent shows up with some oddball winning hand, don’t be discouraged. This is the price you have to pay sometimes for betting small. However, the line is overall very +EV if you can get someone to call all the way to the river with fourth pair in a three-bet pot.

Ladies of the WSOP Circuit: Ring Winners First Half of 2018-19 Season

The World Series of Poker Circuit is one of the most popular mid-major tours in the game, and gives mid-stakes grinders ample opportunity to pursue gold jewelry in the bracelet off-season. While poker players everywhere dream of winning a WSOP bracelet in the summer, Circuit grinders aim to collect rings to signify their accomplishments.

Drawing primarily mid-stakes grinders and recreational players, the Circuit has become a prime avenue for female poker players to showcase their skills and compete for hardware, cash and prestige. While year-over-year female participation stats can’t be tracked due to records being venue-dependent, ladies continue to make their mark on the Circuit with leaderboard runs, final tables and ring wins in open events.

Many women have excelled on the Circuit, most notably the female ring leader and two-time bracelet winner Loni Harwood, who has collected five Circuit rings. One of her bracelets came in the 2014/2015 season-ending National Championship, which was renamed the Global Casino Championship (GCC) the following season. She bested a field of 122 to win the $10,000 buy-in event for $341,599.

Harwood’s latest Circuit win came in the $2,200 High Roller at the Rio in February 2018 for $72,802. She also won a $365 No-Limit Hold’em Reentry event for $10,801 at the previous stop at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.

While we’re now past the halfway point of the 28-stop domestic Circuit schedule for the 2018/2019 season, we take a look at some ladies highlights from the first half of the season, through December’s IP Biloxi stop.

Ladies Highlights, First Half of 2018/2019 Circuit Season
Excluding winners of any ladies event on the schedule, the first half of the season saw 11 female ring winners, one of those coming in a Seniors Event and two in the Online Circuit stop. One of the 13 live main event winners from August-December 2018 was a woman, and four ladies landed among the top 50 players in the season-long Circuit leaderboard at the halfway point. Let’s have a look at some major highlights.

Manju Gera Wins Gold and Casino Champ
Back in the summer of 2018, Farhintaj Bonyadi won a bracelet in Event #36: $1,000 Super Seniors No-Limit Hold’em, joining her son Farzad “Freddy” Bonyadi in family bracelet winners and making them the first mother-son duo to accomplish the coveted poker feat.

Another mother-son duo now has now claimed Circuit rings as Manju Gera, mother of two-time ring winner Nikhil Gera, is now a ring winner. The mother in the duo won her ring in the $400 H.O.R.S.E. event held during the Thunder Valley Circuit event in September. She outlasted a field of 74 players to claim the $8,303 top prize.

She went into the final table with the chip lead and held on to it, beating out a tough cast of opponents whom she said she knew nothing about.

“I think, with me being a middle-aged woman, they thought that they could bluff a lot of hands against me… and I just happened to get cards,” she said.


She may have gotten the cards, but she clearly also has the skill. She has 40 cashes on her Hendon Mob, many of those coming in Omaha hi-lo or mixed game variants, and she went on to add two more cashes including a final table after her win. Gera finished 10th in the very next event, the $400 Omaha Hi-Lo, and followed that up with a seventh-place finish in the $400 Pot-Limit Omaha event.

Gera’s three cashes at Thunder Valley secured her Casino Champ, making her the first female to win that title since Wendy Freedman (lead image, right) did so at the Bicycle Casino in December 2015. It also appears that she is the first player to capture Casino Champion honors by racking up points solely in non-hold’em events.

Heather Alcorn Takes a Break from Pitching Cards to Win a Main
In October 2018, Heather Alcorn became the third-ever female WSOP Circuit Main Event by outlasting a field of 389 entries at Horseshoe Southern Indiana. A professional dealer and familiar face at the WSOP Circuit and summer WSOP, Alcorn couldn’t work the Southern Indiana stop, but popped in to say hi to friends and play one event while driving through town. It turned out to be a fortuitous decision, as she explained to WSOP Circuit reporters after the win.

“I thought I was going to stay one night and play one tournament, ended up final tabling, so I stayed the next day and final tabled that one. So I went ahead and played the main.”

She later told PokerNews contributor Bernard Lee for a strategy article that she gets to practice poker skills while dealing, skills that are useful when she finds herself on the other side of the deck.

“One advantage of getting to watch these players all the time is practicing my reading ability,” Alcorn said.

Having dealt in a variety of poker settings, including the WSOP Main Event final table in each of the last five years, Alcorn has had plenty of chances to practice reading poker players. The skills seem to be paying off, as she is now the proud owner of her own WSOP Circuit ring, which has also automatically qualified her into the $10,000 GCC for a shot at more.

Alcorn became the third woman to take down a Circuit main event, following in the footsteps of Yashuo “Michelle” Chin (Horseshoe Council Bluffs, April 2015) and Vanessa Truong (Harrah’s Cherokee, April 2017).

More Ring Winners
In addition to Gera and Alcorn, who both qualified for the GCC during the first half of the 2018/19 Circuit, nine more ladies captured gold. Loretta Sax won hers in the Seniors event of the Thunder Valley stop, and there were two online ring winners: Tara Cain (lead image, center) and Kathryn Stone Cappuccio (lead image, center right).

Wendy Freedman’s Omaha hi-lo victory at Horseshoe Hammond in October earned her ring No. 3, putting her tied for second in most rings for a female player. The other owners of three rings include La Sengphet, Nancy Birnbaum and Janet Fitzgerald.

The following is a complete list of female ring winners (excluding Ladies Event winners) for the first half of the 2018/19 WSOP Circuit Season, in chronological order. qilinpoker

Player Name Hometown Circuit Stop 2018/2019 Event Entries Prize Money
Lakisha Slaughter Fairburn, Georgia Harrah’s Cherokee – August Event #3: $400 No-Limit Hold’em 584 $40,471
Manju Gera Diamond Bar, California Thunder Valley – September Event #4: $400 H.O.R.S.E. 74 $8,303
Loretta Sax Citrus Heights, California Thunder Valley – September Event #9: $250 Seniors Event 158 $8,531
Tara Cain Willmar, Minnesota (Online Circuit) – September Event #2: $215 No-Limit Hold’em 531 $27,081
Kathryn Cappuccio Brigantine, New Jersey (Online Circuit) – September Event #3: $320 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed 389 $30,926
Heather Alcorn Ozark, Missouri Horseshoe Southern Indiana – October Event #10: $1,700 Main Event 389 $129,654
Wendy Freedman Las Vegas, Nevada Horseshoe Hammond – October Event #10: $400 Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better 132 $12,197
Ruth Hagen Troy, Illinois Harveys Lake Tahoe – October Event #4: $400 No-Limit Hold’em 145 $13,398
Nancy Matson Santa Monica, California Bicycle Casino – December Event #9: $1,125 No-Limit Hold’em 159 $42,940
Leslie Scearcy Lemoore, California Bicycle Casino – December Event #13: $250 No-Limit Hold’em (1 Day) 350 $16,090
Debra Irvine Baton Rouge, Louisiana IP Biloxi – December Event #2: $400 No-Limit Hold’em 729 $44,264
Top 100 on Season-Long Circuit Leaderboard
Besides gaining a freeroll $10,000 GCC entry by winning a Circuit main event or casino champion title at a domestic stop during the season, the 50 overall season leaderboard finishers also qualify. Just past the halfway point at the time of writing, four ladies occupy places in the top 50: Irene Carey (20th), Kinda Sakkal (29th), Lakisha Slaughter (34th) and Freedman (42nd).

The second half of the 2018/19 season is underway, now in the second domestic stop of the year at Thunder Valley. You can read the full recap from January’s Choctaw stop here. A full list of ladies WSOP Circuit ring winners and GCC qualifiers for the season will be posted after the final stop in New Orleans in May.

Before the Game: Roberto Romanello the Restaurant Worker

Welsh Wizard Roberto Romanello has enjoyed the kind of poker career that inspires players from all over the world. For a humble man with even humbler beginnings in South Wales, that was a long reach from where he started.

Romanello didn’t just have another career before poker came along, he had a quarter of a century living another life entirely. But the clues to his future poker stardom were there for the man who famously won an EPT and broke down in tears at the magnitude of his achievement. For Romanello, it’s all about family, and it was long Before the Game.

Romanello Restauranteurs
“I believe that the whole thing is to do with working in the shops around my Mum and Dad and how they’ve brought us up,” says Romanello. “That’s what got me this far. My Grandad brought his family over to Wales from Italy because they were very poor and there was no work. My Dad worked on an Ice Cream van for £3 a week, then he worked on a farm, then went back to Italy, married my Mum and brought her back over to this country. They both worked very hard and rented a café, and from having nothing, they worked their way up.”

The hard-working attitude saw the Romanello family thrive. They rented at first but then bought their first fish ‘n’ chip restaurant outright. It was 45 years ago.


“My three brothers and I all worked in the family business. We saw my Mum and Dad work so hard, so all four of us worked the same. My Dad expanded the businesses by buying another chippy and then another one. When me and my brothers came along, we helped expand the business.”

Soon, the Romanellos had another restaurant, then another. Frank Romanello, who’d turn out to be a pretty impressive poker player in his own right, was ambitious for the family business empire to grow, and they all contributed. Roberto Romanello credits these early years talking to customers in rapidly filling restaurants in developing his personality at the poker table.

“One of the most important things is having been in the restaurants every day, meeting new people. Those people skills have been priceless. I was a bit of a talker at the tables when I first started playing. I used to be a huge personality and I got a lot of information from the weaker players when I was playing on the UK circuit. Meeting new people at the circuit, making lots of friends – that made me really.”

Getting his Poker Chops
That ability to talk to anyone hadn’t been honed alone. Romanello’s brothers were always around, and it was through them that Romanello learned to play poker.

“Around once a week, when the chip shop closed, I’d invite a few of my mates over. Me and my brothers would all sit down, chuck in a fiver each and that’s how my home game started. There’d always be about six or seven of us in a sit ‘n’ go, and we’d have one or two games a night. I used to bash them all up. It went from there to the pool hall for a tenner and I was fearless in those games. When we went to the pool hall, I did the same thing there to 30 or 40 runners at a tenner a time. I was winning £150-200 each time. Then somebody said that they ran £100-entry tournaments in a casino in Swansea.”


Playing home games or in a local pool hall were one thing, but a professionally ran tournament? Dealers? Strangers? It was all a bit scary.

“I’d never been there, and I went that night to play my first tournament. I was shitting myself. There were older guys, and there seemed to be a loud guy who was the boss at each table. I had butterflies in my stomach. But the second time felt completely different and I started to win there, tournament after tournament. I was always going home with £500-£1,500 every time I was going there. I started to travel to Swansea and Cardiff from then on.”

How to Win at Poker in Red Dead Redemption II

Poker fans with an interest in video games have a new challenge to check out. The recently released Red Dead Redemption II from RockStar Games offers players a trip back to the Old West – complete with some poker action.

As players saddle up for the trip, RDR2 offers them a unique take on video games.

“With Red Dead Redemption II, RockStar Games aims to create a living world that’s not simply open, but deeper,” the trailer noted. “And more interactive and detailed than ever; combining action, storytelling, and gameplay in new ways.”

What is Red Dead Redemption II
Red Dead Redemption II is set in 1899 with cowboys and outlaws on horseback traveling across the range. Saloon fights, shootouts, gunfights, and unique locations ranging from forests to deserts are all part of the fun.

Gamers play the part of an outlaw Arthur Morgan, who is on the run and must devise more schemes to “earn” a living and stay free from a jail cell or a lawman’s bullet. In this sequel, players come to know the characters who drop in and out of its western world. Players constantly engage with this independent world around them, even being able to talk their way “out of trouble with the town sheriff,” as the trailer noted.

Players make enemies or friends, depending on their own choices. Arthur’s treatment of and choices of his horses even have consequences in his world. The law, bounty hunters and other outlaws aren’t the only enemies Arthur must worry about.

“A rich and varied ecosystem thrive in this world, full of predators, prey, and scavengers, all smart and sometimes deadly.”

The game’s graphics look impressive and Red Dead Redemption II aims to make you feel like you’ve taken a time machine back to the 1800s. The world is rich and detailed, with every possible angle and scenario that could be dreamed up for the Old West in the late-1800s – and that includes poker and gambling. While the outlaws and outcasts are in camp plotting their next move, players have the chance to play some Texas Hold’em against their fellow outlaws. 77bandar

The poker scenes make for a real throwback to Old West gambling. Grizzled outlaws in cowboy hats sit at a rugged wooden table playing for pots that may reach a few dollars at first but soon enough reach triple digits.

The gambling is a carryover from the original game, which also featured Texas Hold’em and blackjack. The first version even allowed players to go online and play poker with up to eight players. Those winnings allow for purchases within the game world. The company even released an expansion pack called “Liars and Cheats” that, along with adding more features, greatly expanded the game’s gambling options.

“One of the most fan-requested features comes to Red Dead Redemption multiplayer,” the RockStar website notes. “Anywhere from two to six players can compete in a variety of different locations, and all players begin with a $200 daily gambling allowance. Once you run out, you will have to wait until the next day before your funds are replenished.

“Red Dead Redemption 2 is an epic tale of life in America at the dawn of the modern age,” notes. The game will be released Oct. 26 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One systems. A version for the PC hasn’t been announced yet.

How to Win at Poker in Red Dead Redemption II
Like in any poker game, you can win by being the better player, or by cheating. One is more honorable, but in a video game against the AI, a little cheating doesn’t hurt anyone, right?

Win the Honest Way: Red Dead Redemption II Poker Strategy
The game is just out and we’re looking into all the details of the poker game as we speak.

The first hand you’ll play will most likely be one with {Q-Spades}{10-Clubs}. Winning this hand is easy, you’ll make two pair on a board of {8-Hearts}{Q-Diamonds}{7-Clubs} {A-Diamonds} {10-Hearts} and can just bet and raise as much as you feel like. But try not to scare your opponent into folding, so distribute your bets throughout the poker hand. One opponent has {8-Clubs}{6-Diamonds} while the other has {Q-Hearts}{J-Diamonds} meaning you sucked out on the latter.

After that hand, the cards are randomized so it’s very well possible you get a set over set situation like we did. While the cards are random, poker remains a game of skill so you have direct influence on the outcome of the game.

After playing the initial game close to the city of Valentine, you’ll unlock a poker game set back in camp at Horseshoe Overlook in Chapter 2 of the game. Anytime you’re back at camp, you might find opponents to play against. Later in the game, you’ll play for much higher stakes than you start out with.

Since the game follows traditional Texas Hold’em poker rules, we have an extensive library of poker tips available right now:

Learn the poker rules by visiting the Poker Rules page we have available.
Download the Hand Rankings (PDF) and print them out so you know what the combinations in the game are worth.
Look up the poker terms and jargon you don’t know, all readily available on our Poker Terms page. That way you know what ‘betting,’ ‘raising,’ and ‘calling’ actually mean.
Once you have the basics down, visit the poker strategy section and learn all the advanced poker theories out there.

John Cynn Wins the 2018 WSOP Main Event for $8,800,000!

It took over 10 hours of back-and-forth struggle, but John Cynn overcame Tony Miles in a heads-up match for the ages to win the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event for $8.8 million, topping a field of 7,874.

The win completes a redemption story for Cynn, who bubbled the unofficial final table in the 2016 Main Event, just missing a chance to participate in the last November Nine when Gordon Vayo busted him in 11th place. aduq


“Feels very different,” Cynn said, reflecting on the two results. “I mean really neither is supposed to happen. To make 11th is insane on its own, and to win, that’s literally something that you dream of but you just never expect to happen. Right now I do feel pretty overwhelmed.”

Now Cynn, who has about $300,000 in cashes outside of his two Main Event runs, has cemented a place in poker history and will have a banner adorning the walls of the Amazon Room for as long as the Main Event is still held here.

“I do like to think that I don’t need the money to be happy, but at the same time it’s practically going to make things a lot easier,” he said. “Things I want to do in life, things for my family, and my parents. To my parents, this is money that they could have never imagined. It’ll definitely be life-changing.”

2018 WSOP Main Event Final Table Results

Place Winner Country Prize (in USD)
1 John Cynn United States $8,800,000
2 Tony Miles United States $5,000,000
3 Michael Dyer United States $3,750,000
4 Nicolas Manion United States $2,825,000
5 Joe Cada United States $2,150,000
6 Aram Zobian United States $1,800,000
7 Alex Lynskey Australia $1,500,000
8 Artem Metalidi Ukraine $1,250,000
9 Antoine Labat France $1,000,000

A heads-up match between Miles and Cynn seemed all but certain since they both came into the final day with a ton of chips while Michael Dyer was short with under 20 big blinds. Dyer got shippy early but his opponents patiently waited, until Miles found the ace-jack and dominated ace-ten, holding up to get it heads-up less than 20 hands in.

What followed was a heads-up match that turned into a marathon — a test of endurance as much as it was skill. The players battled for over 10 hours across 199 hands, surpassing the highest recorded mark in a WSOP Main Event, set by Vayo and Qui Nguyen in 2016.

That match proved to be something of a snoozer, with Vayo stubbornly hanging onto a short stack and resisting almost any opportunity to play big-pot poker in hopes of small-balling his less-experienced opponent. Cynn and Miles turned in no such jab-fest. They threw haymakers throughout, trading the lead 11 times.

For all of the aggression, neither player had all that many chances to end the match. Early on, Miles overbet shoved the river on a bluff after missing a straight draw. But with three diamonds and a paired board sitting on the felt, Cynn couldn’t find a call with just third pair.

On the 409th hand of the final table, a bizarre all-in pot unfolded wherein both players stuck it in with draws — Miles on an open-ender and Cynn with a gutter plus flush draw. Miles had Cynn high-carded, but as each had seven high on a queen-eight-five flop, a chopped pot looked likely if neither player got there. That’s what happened as running jacks hit the board, keeping Miles in the event but denying him a possible double into nearly a 4-1 lead.

Finally, just shy of 5 a.m., nearly 12 hours after Day 10 kicked off, the 442nd hand proved to be the finale, and a strangely anticlimactic one. Cynn flopped trip kings and called a flop bet from Miles, who had three-bet preflop. Miles then shoved the turn after pairing his eight but was drawing stone dead when Cynn found a call after thinking briefly.

Cynn said the match was unlike any poker experience he’s ever had, a surreal experience wherein the stakes he was playing for never entered his mind until the pressure cooker moments.


“It was kind of weird because you’re playing heads up for the Main, but since we were playing for so long, at some point it just feels like poker,” he said. “But then obviously when you’re put in a pressure spot or when all the money goes in, you realize you know what it’s for. You can’t compare that to anything else in poker.”

Both players had loud rails. While Cynn’s fans, wearing white “Welcome to Cynn City” shirts, celebrated, Miles’ raucous, black-clad supporters, suddenly subdued, filtered to the outer edges of the stage. An emotional Miles joined them moments later after speaking to media, sharing hugs with each individual who stuck around to the finish.

Miles called the match a “war.”

“He’s gonna be a great champion and I’m really happy for him,” he said. “After the disappointment of losing — which is there is some, I’m gonna be honest — subsides, I’m sure I’ll be very happy that I’ll be able to help my family and do some traveling and stuff I wanted to do for a long time. It truly is a blessing to be here. I ran way above average just to get to this spot and I’m very grateful.”

Cynn and Miles shared a rapport throughout the match, and Cynn was complimentary as expected in the aftermath.

“Tony is an amazing guy,” Cynn said. “I truly belive that from my conversations that we’ve had at the tables. He plays really well. I think he adjusts well. He put me in a lot of tough spots.

“I probably had to adjust during that match three, four, five…I don’t even know how many times. And it seemed whenever I would adjust, he would adjust right back. I definitely ran amazing against him.”

As for where he goes next and what he’s going to do with $8.8 million, Cynn declined to commit to anything. Some Main Event champions go the ways of Pius Heinz and Peter Eastgate, all but disappearing into the ether, objects of trivia and idle musings for poker fans and industry observers. Some, like Joe McKeehen and Ryan Riess, stay entrenched as top competitors and graduate on to bigger buy-ins.


At least for the immediate future, Cynn’s comments indicate he’s closer to the former camp. His only goal, he said, is happiness. And while $8.8 million doesn’t guarantee that, it certainly opens up many options for the 33-year-old.

“I’m pretty exhausted,” he said. “I think every day somehow you get more exhausted, but also a little bit sharper just because your adrenaline keeps you going, and I think at this point my adrenaline is definitely going.

“I think I’m going to try and let my emotions die down before I decide to do anything crazy [with the money]. Probably just get away and disappear somewhere for a while I think sounds nice.”

Past 10 Main Event Champions

Year Entries Champion Country Prize
2018 7,874 John Cynn United States $8,800,000
2017 7,221 Scott Blumstein United States $8,150,000
2016 6,737 Qui Nguyen United States (born in Vietnam) $8,005,310
2015 6,420 Joe McKeehen United States $7,683,346
2014 6,683 Martin Jacobson Sweden $10,000,000
2013 6,352 Ryan Riess United States $8,361,570
2012 6,598 Greg Merson United States $8,531,853
2011 6,865 Pius Heinz Germany $8,715,638
2010 7,319 Jonathan Duhamel Canada $8,944,310
2009 6,494 Joe Cada United States $8,547,042

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition

This week, the #10yearchallenge got real on social media. Thousands of people were posting pictures on Twitter and Instagram from 2009 and 2019 to show the difference. Poker players joined in on the action and we gathered a few to look at how they have changed. We also used our own database of pictures to gather some players.

Here we have Phil Ivey on the final table of the WSOP Main Event in 2009 and then a picture of Ivey with Daniel Cates, who posted this image on Tuesday:

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition 101

And what to think about Antonio Esfandiari? First, we have a picture from the WSOP Main Event ten years ago and then a short video of his first NBA game on the 3rd of January:

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition 102

Jason Mercier has also changed a bit over the last ten years:

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition 103
And what about professional streamer Lex “RaSZi” Veldhuis? Do you see the difference?

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition 104
And last but not least, Phil Hellmuth:

10 Year Challenge: The Poker Edition 105
On Instagram, the following players posted the #10yearchallenge.

2017 Main Event winner Scott Blumstein went a different route, showing a major change from one year ago – and an inspirational message to go with it. bandarq online

Scott Blumstein
Forget the #10yearchallenge. Of course you’re different then you were a decade ago. The #1yearchallenge is more important. Control what you can control and try and make your next one special.

10:34 AM – Jan 19, 2019
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