Almost halfway through the newly revamped World Series of Poker Circuit events, things are really starting to heat up. Thirty players have already locked up their seats to the National Championship to be held in May. Kevin Calenzo heads the tournament leaderboard with an impressive 165 points. However, with nine stops left on the tour, including two more regional championships, players are really starting to jockey for position to make their run at a $1,000,000 prize pool and a WSOP bracelet.
The next stop on the circuit is an exciting one. For the first time, the WSOP Circuit hits the great state of Oklahoma. Taking place at the incredible Choctaw Resort and Casino and just over an hour from the poker hungry town of Dallas, the Choctaw stop promised to one of the most thrilling and action packed of the year.
The first event did not disappoint. With players literally lined up out in the casino to try and get registered, T.J. Cloutier gave the “Shuffle Up and Deal” announcement and cards were in the air. When registration finally closed, a total of 935 entered the first ring event of the series. The $345 No-Limit Hold ‘em event would end up paying a total of 99 spots with first place taking home $50,921.
At the end of the first day, a total of 63 players moved on, including T.J. Cloutier himself. However, the short-stacked Cloutier could not put a run together and was eliminated in 62nd place.
After over eight hours of play on Day 2, the final table was finally set. The chip counts by seat assignment going into the final table were as follows:
1. Josh Evans 1,700,000
2. Chris Nash 1,020,000
3. Reynaldo Cantu Jr. 280,000
4. Howard “Tahoe” Andrew 74,000
5. Don Icawat 486,000
6. Ernest Bell 665,000
7. David Clark 1,100,000
8. A.J. Sporinsky 1,621,000
9. Shawn Halwes 2,062,000
10. Doug Gerda 430,000
10th Place - $3,952
Circuit veteran Howard “Tahoe” Andrew came into the final table extremely short stacked and finally made an all-in shove with . However, Ernest Bell woke up with and made the call. The board ran out and the Walnut Creek, California native was sent to the rail in tenth place.
9th Place - $4,908
With the elimination of Andrew, Renaldo Cantu Jr. became the resident short stack. After a raise by A.J. Sporinsky, Cantu pushed all in with . Sporinsky thought for a moment before making the call with . The race was on until the board came , giving Sporinsky a set and the pot. Cantu, a 29-year old from McAllen, Texas, finished in ninth place.
8th Place - $6,170
Despite knocking out Howard Andrew early at the final table, Ernest Bell took a few hits to his stack and found himself short on chips. He pushed all in with and was called by Shawn Halwes with pocket tens. The board ran out clean for Halwes and the welder from Magnolia, Texas was knocked out in eighth place.
7th Place - $7,848
Don Icawat was the next player to try and double up his stack. The geophysicist from Austin, Texas moved all in with and was ahead of A.J. Sporinsky’s . However, the flop came out , giving Sporinsky a commanding lead in the hand. Neither the on the turn or the on the river were enough to keep Icawat in the game, eliminating him in seventh place.
6th Place - $10,106
Josh Evans came into the final table in third chip position but was the unfortunate recipient of the final table’s first cooler hand. He got into a raising war with A.J. Sporinsky that ended up with all of their chips in the center. Evans tabled but Sporinsky turned up . Since it’s never easy, the flop came out . Both players were now rooting for their opponent’s card. But the on the turn and the on the river brought no help, sending the Plano, Texas native home in sixth place.
5th Place – $13,174
Having battled with few chips most of the final table, Doug Gerda finally made a stand with . He ran into David Clark’s though and would not be able to improve on a board of . The Colleyville, Texas resident was eliminated in fifth place for $13,174.
4th Place – $17,389
A.J. Sporinsky was again the beneficiary of the second cooler hand at the final table. After a raise, Chris Nash moved all in with his pocket sixes only to be called by Sporinsky and his pocket nines. Most of the drama was gone after a flop of gave Sporinsky a full house. Nash would need running sixes to win the pot or running fives to chop. The turn gave Nash the faintest glimmer of hope when the hit the board. However, the on the river sealed Nash’s fate and the Dallas, Texas native was sent home in fourth place.
3rd Place – $23,240
Sporinsky was second in chips when he tangled with chipleader David Clark. After seeing flop of , Sporinsky moved all in and was immediately called by Clark. Sporinsky turned up for top pair and an open-ended straight draw but Clark was in the lead with . The turn was the and the river was the . Sporinsky missed all of his outs and the massive pot was shipped to David Clark. The Chicago, Illinois native was sent to the rail in third place for $23,240.
2nd Place - $31,487
With just over 9.3 million chips on the table, David Clark held around 7 million of them when heads-up play between himself and Shawn Halwes began. It didn’t take long for the two to mix it up. On a flop of , Halwes moved all in and was snap called by Clark. Halwes turned up for top pair but Clark flipped over for two pair. The came on the turn, improving Clark to a full house and the river was the . Halwes, a software developer from Euless, Texas, was eliminated from the tournament in second place for $31,487.
1st Place - $50,921
David Clark, a 32-year-old poker player from Dallas, took down the $345 NLHE event after nearly 13 hours of play at the final table. For his victory, he took home the $50,921 in first place prize money as well as the first WSOP Circuit Ring of the Choctaw series. He also earned 50 points toward the National Championship and takes an early lead in the Choctaw series points race.
Nine more Ring events still await this eager crowd of poker players here at the Choctaw Resort and Casino!