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. Yesterday in Part I, we looked at Josh Beckley's ring victory leading up to the November Nine, Antonio Esfandiari's Main Event win at the Bike, and Doug Carli's historic milestone. Today, we start with the biggest change to the Circuit in years:
The Circuit Goes International
The 2016 WSOP Global Casino Championship begins August 9. In previous years, this tournament had been known as the National Championship, but the introduction of a new element to the Circuit prompted a name change. The 2015/2016 season was the inaugural international Circuit year, expanding the Circuit beyond North America for the first time.
The first international Circuit season consisted of six stops – Campione (Italy), Rozvadov (Czech Republic), Tbilisi (Georgia), Montreal, and two in Marrakech (Morocco). Each stop is sending its Main Event champion and Casino Champion to the Global Casino Championship.
While catering primarily to locals, the international events garnered quite a bit of star power. Sergio Castellucio won the Main Event in Campione, earning a payout of €114,100. Steve O’Dwyer won Casino Champ in Tbilisi after winning a ring and making another final table. And Mike Leah added another ring to his collection in Montreal.
After the success of its first year, the international Circuit is expected to more than double in size for 2016/2017.
Maurice Hawkins Dominates the Month of April
April of 2016 is a month Maurice Hawkins (pictured above) will never forget. In just that month alone he won three WSOP Circuit gold rings, two of them Main Events, and more than $430,000. The money he won in April alone was more than any other player was able to win the entire season.
Hawkins (36) is a professional poker player from West Palm Beach, Florida. He has been playing WSOP events for about a decade and has racked up more than $1.2 million in WSOP earnings. His historic month started with an impromptu trip to Horseshoe Council Bluff in Iowa. He had just come off a disappointing series at Horseshoe Baltimore where he felt he had played poorly. He was looking for redemption in Iowa. Hawkins only played in two events at the series – the monster stack event and the Main Event. He won both events to earn his fifth and sixth career WSOP Circuit gold rings.
Hawkins decided to hit the next stop on the Circuit which was Harrah’s Cherokee. In event #4 of the series, Hawkins went deep and made it to the final table with the chip lead. He ultimately finished second for $18,025. Hawkins admitted he was not satisfied with the runner-up finish and it only fueled his desire to win even more. A few days later Hawkins finished 17th in another Cherokee event and then a few days after that lightning struck again for poker pro. Hawkins defeated 1,008 players in the series’ Main Event to collect his biggest payday ever and his seventh career Circuit gold ring.
In just three weeks Hawkins jumped from four career gold rings to seven and now sits only two shy of tying all-time leader, Alex Masek. Hawkins also rocketed up the all-time Circuit earnings leaderboard. He began April just barley in the top 50 of all-time earners on the Circuit and finished April second on that list. Hawkins career earnings on the Circuit now sit at $910,923.
Hawkins indicated that he wanted to ramp up the amount of Circuits he plays in the 2016/17 season. He said he enjoys the Circuit and finds value in it. If Hawkins can duplicate what he did this year on the Circuit in the 2016/17 season, he will have a shot at becoming the Circuit’s all-time wins leader and all-time money earner.
Chasing History: Hawkins, Jiang, Pack and Waaland Win Three Gold Rings Each
Never in Circuit history has a player won four gold rings in a single season, but four different players came close this year by winning three each. Maurice Hawkins, Clayton Jiang, Cody Pack and Cory Waaland all won three gold rings and had chances to win a fourth to make history. Despite all of them falling short of breaking the record, they all had wildly successful seasons and earned a combined $873,007. Hawkins accounted for more than half of the earnings, mostly due to his two Circuit Main Event Victories.
Cody Pack after his first ring of the season
The first player of group to reach the three ring mark was Pack. Pack, who has four career gold rings, won his second, third and fourth career gold rings in the first half of the season. His big score came at Harrah’s Cherokee, where he won the 2,712 player re-entry event for $117,000. He had few close calls in the second half of the season to break the record. He recorded a 2nd, 3rd and 8th place finish in the latter half of the season and ultimately fell short of four gold rings. He finished the season as the Circuit’s top point earner.
Waaland finished the season with three gold rings and reached an incredible eight final tables. He had two runner-up finishes, a third place, a fourth place and a ninth place finish. He has seven career gold rings and is tied with Hawkins for fifth most all-time.
Cory Waaland wins his 7th career ring
Hawkins, just like Waaland, won his fifth, sixth and seventh gold rings this season. He ended up earning $448,599 in prize money. All three of Hawkins’ gold rings came in the month of April. His first was won in a monster stack event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. Then less than a week later he won the series’ Main Event for $113k. Hawkins rode the heater all the way to the next stop on the Circuit at Harrah’s Cherokee. He finished runner-up to Christopher Carey in a $365 NLHE event and then won the series’ Main Event for $279k. He became the first player in Circuit history win back-to-back Main Events.
Jiang won his first three career gold rings this season. Jiang is the youngest member of this group and is a recent graduate of Vanderbilt University. Incredibly, he won this first two gold rings in the first two WSOP events he had ever played in. He had two gold rings to his name before ever busting a WSOP event. His first ring came at Horseshoe S. Indiana and he collected his second at Harrah’s Cherokee. He finally busted a few tournaments and collected a few min cashes before winning his third gold ring at Bally’s Las Vegas. Jiang finished the season with eight Circuit cashes for a combined $77,546 in tournament earnings.
The upcoming 2016/17 Circuit season will offer more events than ever. Will anybody be able to take advantage of the extensive schedule and win four gold rings in a single season?