Las Vegas, Nev. (August 3, 2016) – The 2016 WSOP Global Casino Championship begins in less than a week. So the WSOP media staff is taking a look back at some of the highlights of the 2015/2016 Circuit season. It was a jam-packed year, filled with history-making performances and memorable moments. Selecting just a handful was a difficult task. We started last week, looking back at Cody Pack's road to the top of the Circuit leaderboard. Today, we continue with other impressive performances from the season.
Josh Beckley Steals the Show at West Palm Beach
Josh Beckley had an incredible year on the poker felt in 2015. His biggest accomplishment was making the November Nine and finishing runner-up to Joe McKeehen in the WSOP Main Event. His second place finish earned him $4,470,896.
Beckley (pictured above right) garnered the attention of the poker world by doing something no other November Niner has ever done and that was win a WSOP Circuit event between the time the November Nine is reached in July and dates the final table was played out in November. In September he won a Circuit event at the Palm Beach Kennel Club for $22,349 and his first career WSOP gold ring. Beckley defeated a field of 317 players in the series’ opening event, a monster stack tournament and the third largest of the series. It was his only Circuit cash of the season and second of his career.
After reaching the Main Event final table in July, Beckley changed his diet and started a new workout regime to prepare his mind and body the high pressured final table in November. He played in the monster stack event to test out if his lifestyle changes made a difference in his game. He noticed the changes helped him keep a clearer mind. The entire experience of playing well and winning the tournament brought Beckley a little extra confidence and helped him ladder all the way from starting the final table 7th in chips to finishing it in 2nd place. The difference in prize money between 7th and 2nd was a whopping $3,267,603.
“It’s definitely an ego boost,” said Beckley about the ring victory. “It makes me more confident with my game. It might also show the other November Niners that I can win a tournament.”
Doug "Rico" Carli Makes History
On Friday, January 22nd, in the midst of an otherwise typical WSOP Circuit tournament, Doug “Rico” Carli very quiet made history. He finished in 43rd place in Event #3: $365 No-Limit Hold’em, earning a min-cash of $583. Yet this was a special result for Carli – it was his 100th cash on the WSOP Circuit, making him the first player ever to reach that milestone.
Carli has been playing the Circuit literally since the beginning. His first Circuit cash came in the January 2005 at Harrah’s Atlantic City – the first Circuit stop ever. (He made the final table, finishing in third.) He won his first ring less than a year later.
Doug "Rico" Carli plays the Circuit Event at Bally's
Since then, Carli has been a model of consistency and resilience amidst an ever-changing poker landscape. After breaking the century mark in January, he cashed another seven times before the end of the season. His 107 career cashes puts him at the top of the all-time list – by a lot. The second-place player, Charles “Woody” Moore, has 68. Carli also has 37 cashes at the WSOP. His 144 combined WSOP and Circuit in-the-money finishes is also first all-time, ahead of even Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth.
Antonio Esfandiari Works his Magic at the Bike
The Circuit stops at the Bicycle Casino are often star-studded affairs, reflecting the glitz and glamour of nearby Hollywood. This past March, the Main Event at the Bike was no exception. Actor James Woods and UFC Announcer Bruce Buffer both ran deep. And the final table included 2006 WSOP Main Event champion Jamie Gold, 4-time Circuit ring winner Ray Henson, and bracelet winners Bryn Kenney and Jack Duong. But the star who shined brightest the winner, Antonio Esfandiari.
Antonio Esfandiari after winning the Main Event at the Bike
Esfandiari actually almost didn’t play this event. “My father-in-law is in town, and we came to see him while he was playing, and I decided to play,” he said afterward. Esfandiari’s father-in-law is Bob Bounahra, who won a ring of his own a few days earlier. Bounahra rose to prominence in the poker world in 2011, when he made the November Nine.
Jumping in the event turned out to be a great decision for Esfandiari. He had a massive chip lead at the end of Day 1. And a few days later, he had bested the 756-player field, earning 226,785 for his victory.
Esfandiari is already one of the most successful players in poker history. He sits atop the WSOP all-time money list and has three bracelets to his name, including the first ever $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop event in 2012. He can now add Circuit ring winner to his list of accolades.