The third of 11 scheduled events at the World Series of Poker Circuit concluded today at Caesars Atlantic City with a first tournament victory by “Big Al” Harary, from Long Island, NY. He is a 56-year-old owner of a highly-successful interior design firm that operates in the New York City area. Harary absolutely dominated play throughout the later stages of this tournament. He was never in serious jeopardy of losing the chip lead at any point. His official payout amounted to $73,725. Harary was also presented with the coveted gold ring, which is awarded to all WSOP Circuit champions at this year’s Caesars series.
The $300 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 983 entries, generating $294,900 in total prize money. The top 90 players collected payouts. All of the action took place over a two-day period inside the grand ballroom, at Caesars Atlantic City.
The tournament’s ceremonial host was radio personality and reality TV star Danny Bonaduce, who traveled to the Jersey shore from his home in Philadelphia. Bonaduce, perhaps best-known as the wisecracking red-headed kid on 1970s series “The Partridge Family,” has pretty much been a human train wreck since his earliest days as a childhood star. Bonaduce, now muscled up and pushing 50, warmed up the crowd with a few inspiring remarks and then took his seat at the poker table. More than 900 players were eliminated on the first day.
When final table play began on day two, “Big Al” Harary started with about a 2 to 1 chip lead over his closest rival, South Carolinian Brandon Croft who would ultimately finish as the runner up in this tournament. Other players were eliminated in the following order:
10th Place – A few hands into play, Chad Wiedenhoeft appeared to be in a great position to double up. He was dealt Q=Q and moved all-in pre-flop. Chip leader Al Harary (with K-=Q) had a big enough stack with which to take a shot and called the 170,000 raise. A king flopped, which held up to drag the pot and catapulted Harary up over the million-chip mark for the first time. Meanwhile, Wiedenhoeft went bust and had to settle for tenth place, which paid $3,243.
9th Place – An hour passed before the next elimination. That came when Aaron Goldberg moved all-in with A=7 and was called by Larry Vance holding A=10. Neither player made a pair, but the ten played, putting Goldberg out in ninth place. The Middletown, NJ-based salesman earned $5,898.
8th Place – Pralhad Deshpande, a PhD student from India, decided to play in this tournament only because a college friend insisted he travel to Atlantic City and encouraged him to enter. Late on the first day, Deshpande was on the verge of elimination down to just 1,700 in chips, with blinds at 300-600. He staged a dramatic comeback and made it all the way to the final table in his first poker tournament ever. Deshpande finally went out with A=8 versus Al Harary’s A=10. Both players caught an ace on the flop, but Harary made two pair and busted Deshpande. The 24-year-old student picked up a nice prize totaling $8,847 for eighth place.
7th Place – New York attorney Barry Wenger was desperately low on chips and tried to steal a round of blinds and antes with 9=4. He moved his last 100,000 into the pot, but his raise was called by Brandon Croft, holding A=Q. An ace flopped, which meant the lawyer’s appeal to stay at the final table was denied. Wenger, who has previously won a number of online tournaments, received $11,796 for seventh place.
6th Place – Joe Palma, a poker pro from suburban Philadelphia survived over three hours at the final table. But he finally busted out with Q=J when he flopped top pair as the board showed J=9=9. Unfortunately, Larry Vance held a nine in his hand – good for trip nines – and feasted on Palma’s chips like a starving wolf. Palma, who was making his fourth final table appearance at a major poker tournament, settled for sixth place. He received $14,745.
5th Place – While sparring back and forth for several hands, the five survivors agreed to a deal after some spirited discussion. Terms of the financial arrangement were not disclosed. The tournament continued with the WSOP Circuit gold ring still at stake. Harary knocked out his last four opponents and the competition ended with Dan “the Phantom” Yanofsky taking fifth place. Yanofsky, a real estate broker with many in-the-money finishes previously at tournament held at Foxwoods and Las Vegas, collected a commission totaling $17,694.
4th Place – Fourth place went to Larry Vance, from Lakewood, CA. Vance had been short-stacked during much of the day two finale and survived long enough to cash for $20,643 in prize money.
3rd Place – Zhe Yu, a 26-year-old poker player from Queens, NY arrived at the final table ranked third in chips. Appropriately, he finished in third place. Yu received a payout totaling $23,592.
2nd Place – The runner-up was Brandon Croft, a manager from Sumter, SC. He too finished according to his starting chip count. Croft arrived second in chips, and was paid second-place prize money which amounted to $40,062.
1st Place – “Big Al” Harary earned an impressive victory in what amounted to a wire-to-wire finish. No player at the final table ever came close to his chip advantage at any point. Harary said that is a proud family man who has a wife, two daughters, and a grandson. He said he intends to take his share of the prize money and pay for his daughter’s wedding.
Harary owns Martin Albert Interiors, which among other things designs sets for movies and television shows. He also operates an annual “Toys for Tots” charity, which benefits underprivileged children. Indeed, “Big Al” Harary is a “winner” by any definition.
The WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City continues through March 14th.