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.

“I THINK, WITH ME BEING A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN, THEY THOUGHT THAT THEY COULD BLUFF A LOT OF HANDS AGAINST ME.”

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 WSOP.com (Online Circuit) – September Event #2: $215 No-Limit Hold’em 531 $27,081
Kathryn Cappuccio Brigantine, New Jersey WSOP.com (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.