WSOP CIRCUIT SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD

October 02, 2017 - 03:44:34 AM EST  | 

WSOP CIRCUIT SEMINOLE HARD ROCK HOLLYWOOD

As usual, closing day was the most dramatic of the 12-day WSOP Circuit run at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood.

The $1,675 Main Event restarted Monday with 14 players. The remaining field represented a cross-section of both the local poker community and world-class traveling pros.

Three-time bracelet winner Brian Hastings is one of the latter, and he was in and out of the chip lead for much of the final two days. Hastings dropped out in fourth place, though, narrowly missing out on his first ring.

Asher Conniff came even closer. The former WPT World Champion was the man with whom Hastings had been trading places, and Coniff carried a big lead into heads-up play against Joe Gotlieb.

Gotlieb, 52, is a local business owner and a part-time player with modest tournament results on his record. Until Monday, that is.

Gotlieb chunked away at his opponent's stack until he had a slight advantage, and the two finally ended up "racing for all of it," as Conniff put it. Conniff's ace-king fell to Gotlieb's pocket sevens, though, sealing a breakout victory for the underdog. Gotlieb earned $257,638 — a career-best by a wide margin — and the series' most coveted ring.

Read more about Gotlieb's surprising win.

Meanwhile. the $3,250 High Roller played out from its big starting field of 133 entries. The final 23 players battled for a six-figure top prize on Monday.

Anton Wigg is not as well known in Florida as he is in his native Sweden, but he's made his mark in the Sunshine State. The former EPT Champion added a WSOP Circuit title to his collection, defeating Ian O'Hara heads-up to snag the ring.

Wigg, 30, has been playing poker professionally for more than 10 years, but he's developing some philanthropic aspirations off the felt, too.

Read more about Wigg's unsurprising win.


The series concluded with the $365 Turbo, won by traveling grinder Mike Russ. The Texas native ran up a stack of four big blinds at the final table, ending the night with the ring and the top prize of $11,589.

More about Russ' win is below.



All Events

 

Event #1: $365 No-Limit Hold'em Re-Entry
Winner: Niovel Chirino Alvarez ($135,022)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #2: $365 No-Limit Hold'em Turbo
Winner: Ron Levy ($21,238)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #3: $365 Monster Stack
Winner: David Gunas ($28,379)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #4: $365 No-Limit Hold'em Six-Handed
Winner: Tony Ruberto ($20,804)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #5: 365 No-Limit Hold'em
Winner: Jeffrey Higgins ($12,877)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #6: $365 Pot-Limit Omaha
Winner: David Prociak ($14,118)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #7: $365 No-Limit Hold'em
Winner: Kyle Adams ($11,844)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #8: $1,125 No-Limit Hold'em
Winner: Ryan McAllister ($48,600)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #10: $1,675 Main Event
Winner: Joe Gotlieb ($48,600)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #11: $365 No-Limit Hold'em
Winner: Najeeb Reyes ($12,181)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #12: $3,250 High Roller
Winner: Anton Wigg ($111,719)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo


Event #13: $365 No-Limit Hold'em Turbo
Winner: Mike Russ ($11,589)
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo



About the Winners


Niovel Chirino Alvarez

Event #1: Niovel Chirino Alvarez ($135,022)

Alvarez, 41, was born in Cuba and immigrated to South Florida in 2002. He set up his own trucking company, and things frankly didn't get off to a very good start.

"It went bad for four or five years," Alvarez recalled. "I had a bad time.”

In 2013, a friend loaned Alvarez a single truck to try to reignite his business. It worked. The new champ got a bit emotional as he relayed that he now owns 26 trucks himself and oversees another 27 from owner/operators in his organization.

"This is just my hobby," he said of poker. "I'm not a pro at all. I'm shaking because I didn't even think I could win.” His previous tournament results include just one cash for about a thousand bucks.

Alvarez has been playing cards since his childhood days in Cuba, though, growing up around a local variant that resembles three-card poker. Nowadays, the Miami Lakes resident can mostly be found at the cash game tables at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood.


Ron Levy

Event #2: Ron Levy ($21,238)

Levy, 73, is a retired accountant from Lake Worth, just up the road in Palm Beach County. He gave up his career about 15 years ago, and that’s about the time he took to poker, too. This result is the second live tournament victory on his record and his largest score to date.

Levy was brief in his postgame comments, cutting his interview short to hustle home to his wife. "She's mad at me," he laughed it off. "She doesn't even care about the money."


David Gunas

Event #3: David Gunas ($28,379)

Gunas, 24, is a professional poker player from Boston, Mass. He doesn’t play tournaments, but you wouldn’t know that from looking at his recent results. He cashed twice in Foxwoods, including a runner-up finish, and this result is his second in-the-money finish of the week at Seminole, too.

“I wanted to start playing some tournaments,” Gunas finally admitted in his postgame interview. “A friend of mine and I always travel together, but this is the first full series I’ve played.”

It’s off to a good start, but Gunas doesn’t have any intentions of making the full switch. “Cash is a steady grind,” he said. “Tournaments? Not so much.”

Gunas has been playing poker since he was a teenager, having only briefly held a job in sales. Nowadays, it’s all poker, and his recent scores have provided a nice boost to his cash-game bankroll, if nothing else.


Tony Ruberto

Event #4: Tony Ruberto ($20,804)

Ruberto, 36, was born in Boston but relocated to the Sunshine State about 10 years ago. He now makes his home in nearby Davie, spending time with his six-year-old son when he’s not “flipping over tables,” as he calls it. Poker is his primary source of income.

“I’m… a professional entertainer,” Ruberto tried to find a clever way to describe his profession. “Jack of all trades and master of none.”

Master of one, maybe?

The champ entered the six-handed final table with the chip lead, but the field standing in his way was loaded. Ari Engel, an eight-time Circuit winner, was among the opposition until dropping out in third place, paving a path to victory for Ruberto. He took advantage, parlaying his lead into a win at the end of a protracted affair.

Although it’s his first victory on this tour, Ruberto is an accomplished live tournament player with more than $2 million in earnings. A big chunk of that came courtesy of a 2011 WPT victory in Jacksonville, and he has a couple near-misses at the World Series of Poker, too.


Jeffrey Higgins

Event #5: Jeffrey Higgins ($12,877)

Higgins, 37, is a real-estate broker originally from Staten Island. He now makes his home in Northborough, Mass. with his wife Rochele and children Owen (8) and Juliana (3).

Higgins quit his first job in 2006 to dedicate more time to online pot-limit Omaha cash games, but he’s since returned to the mainstream workforce. He operates a few businesses now, and he’s played poker only sporadically over the last decade.

Foxwoods is one of the closest casinos to Higgins’ hometown, and it was there that he got his first brush with Circuit success. In one of his few live tournament attempts, Higgins finished in seventh place in a $365 event up there earlier this month, narrowly missing out on a big score and a trophy.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and Higgins was suddenly atop the hill, posing for photos with the ring that eluded him the last time around.

“This means more than it should,” the champ fought back emotions in the moments of victory. “It’s just a silly poker tournament…”


David Prociak

Event #6: David Prociak ($14,118)

Prociak, 34, is a part-time poker player from Orlando, Florida. As the owner of a small online shoe/clothing business, he is, by definition, an amateur on the felt. He’s a pro in practice though, having won a WSOP bracelet among dozens of other live results. In total, has more than $750,000 in earnings in his part-time career.

Still, Prociak reaffirmed his primary profession once again. “I’m an amateur poker player,” he said proudly. “But I want to be one of the best amateurs.”

After picking up the game online “a really long time ago,” Prociak took an extended hiatus earlier this decade. “When I started my business, I took six years off,” he said. “Cold.”

He got back on the bike in 2015 and picked up right where he left off. Last summer, Prociak won his bracelet in a $1,500 Stud Hi-Lo event, and he has posted tournament results across most poker disciplines. He said pot-limit Omaha is his favorite game, though.

Prociak’s face is a familiar one around the halls of Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, too. He won its in-house Player of the Year race last year, and he proudly represents the poker community in his home state.


Kyle Adams

Event #7: Kyle Adams ($11,844)

Adams, 31, won the $365 no-limit hold’em event on Thursday, collecting his first ring and the event’s top prize.

The champ was born and raised in Chicago, and he still calls the Windy City home. He quit his job as a tile setter six or seven years ago, and he’s been a professional PLO player since. Adams’ face does pop up in a tournament field every now and then, though.

“I go to a lot of the stops, and I’ll play one or two tournaments,” he said. “But I’m mostly here for the cash games.”

This freeze-out was Adams’ second tournament of the trip, and he late registered immediately after finishing in 12th place in the PLO event. He lost two thirds of his stack on the very first hand — that’ll happen when you play pots against Ari Engel — but he clearly made the most of his remainder.

Adams has been playing poker since he was a kid, introduced to the game by his grandparents. Despite devoting limited time to tournaments, his results are starting to add up. This most recent score moves him across the $100,000 mark in career earnings.


Ryan McAllister

Event #8: Ryan McAllister ($48,600)

Ryan McAllister is doing what he can to become the WSOP Circuit’s newest success story. Fresh off a breakthrough win at Cherokee, McAllister took down the $1,125 event at Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood for a career-best payout.

McAllister, 28, is a professional poker player from Waymouth, Massachusetts. He now makes his home in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s starting to travel to tournaments more frequently of late.

“Cherokee has me following the Circuit now,” he said. “I have to.”

McAllister has already accumulated 120 points in the season-long race for seats in the Global Casino Championship. That puts him in second place right now and well within striking distance of the projected cutoff for qualification. He’s earned more than $100,000, too.

As was the case with McAllister’s previous win, the final table provided quite a test on the way to the title. Double bracelet winner Loni Harwood was among those standing in his way, as were ring winners Mark Fink (4) and Alex Rocha (2).

McAllister outlasted them all, though, conquering the deep-stacked affair that stagnated at points.

“A lot of it was just waiting it out,” he said. “There were some tough ICM spots where I was handcuffed. All the sudden, we’re five-handed. Then we’re heads-up.”

Then, we're posing for winner’s photos for the second time in as many months.

 

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Event #10: Joe Gotlieb ($257,638)

Gotlieb, 52, is a small business owner from Hollywood, Florida. By day, he deals in cell phone parts. By night, he’s a poker player. The business has been struggling a bit lately, and Gotlieb decided to explore his options as a full-time grinder.

“I wanted to give it a shot at going pro,” he said. “This was it. This was my shot at that.”

A Main Event win on the the WSOP Circuit is always something to brag about, but Gotlieb’s performance was particularly impressive. He plays a unique style, something that may have helped him outlast a final table that was stacked with danger.

 Competitive gaming has been in Gotlieb’s blood since childhood. He’s a former chess champion and math trophy winner, and he finds poker to be a comparable mental outlet. “Whenever I played games, I was always good at them,” he said. “And when I wasn’t, I found a way to win anyway.

 In the moments after claiming the title, Gotlieb struggled to find the words to capture his emotions. He spent a long while gazing silently at his payout ticket, which showed the details of his big score. It’s a career-best by a big margin, and Gotlieb finally found one quiet word to sum up his feelings.

 “Wow…”

 

Najeeb Reyes

Event #11: Najeeb Reyes ($12,181)

Reyes, 33, is a mechanical engineer originally from Austin, Texas. His day job keeps him busy, but he still finds time to splash around on the felt.

“I try to grind, but nothing too serious,” he said. “I play cash, but this is my first tournament of the year. I’m psyched.”

Reyes’ poker background is intriguing in itself. He’s only been playing the game since 2015, and he found it on a complete whim. “I walked into the Hard Rock one day looking for one of the restaurants,” he said, “and I saw a final table heads-up. I was fascinated.”

The man he was watching was local standout Ory Hen, who went on to win that title. The two have become poker friends in the time since.

Hen’s knowledge has rubbed off on Reyes to some extent, but he’s putting in plenty of work himself, too, as he explained:

“In the last four months, I’ve been studying nonstop. Playing and studying and playing and studying. Recording hands. Doing all my homework. I feel like today is a culmination of this process of working to improve my game.”

Despite his brush with success, Reyes has no intentions of giving up his day job. “Why do you have to be a pro to be good? You can be an aficionado and not be a professional player. The last thing I want to do tomorrow is play more poker.”


Anton Wigg

Event #12: Anton Wigg ($111,719)

Wigg, 30, is a professional poker player from Stockholm. Sweden. He’s been playing the game professionally for about 10 years, during which he’s amassed more than $2 million in live tournament earnings. The bulk of that came courtesy of a victory at EPT6 Copenhagen, and this result is now the second-largest on his stat sheet.

At the tail end of an extended poker tour on this side of the pond, Wigg found himself in South Florida with a few days to play. He and his fellow Swede Emil Ekvardt arrived together, and Ekvardt posed a small cash in the $1k event earlier in the week.

Wigg made a more significant mark with his win, though, collecting the third-biggest payout of the 12-event series. He has philanthropic aspirations away from the felt, too.

“I feel like poker has an expiration date,” he said. “It’s not been developing in the best way for the past few years. So I’ve been looking into what I want to do after.”

Right now, that involves significant efforts to reform education in his home country.

“I want to provide people with an opportunity, to find a way where it’s intriguing and fun for them,” he said. “Maybe ‘trick’ is the wrong word, but I want to trick people into learning for themselves. You have to have them make the decision themselves.”

Wigg credits his girlfriend, Alyssa, and his “poker wife” Ekvardt for helping to keep him focused both on the felt and away from it.


Mike Russ

Event #13: Mike Russ ($11,589)

Russ, 40, is a business owner from Kerrville, Texas. He’s earned nearly $100,000 in his career as a part-time player, including a handful of near misses on the WSOP Circuit. The most recent came just one day prior, when he finished in ninth place in Event #11.

He finally got one on Monday.

The Turbo structure presses the action from start to finish, but things were particularly thin for Russ. He entered the final table with the shortest stack, doing battle with just four big blinds. Just a couple hours later, he was posing for photos after outlasting his fellow finalists to claim the title.


 
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