First Place Harvey

The World Series of Poker Circuit continued today at Harrah’s Rincon with the completion of Event #2 of the 14-tournament series.  The tournament winner was Harvey Doncev, from San Diego.  He is a 31-year-old civil attorney.  Doncev received a cash payout totaling $20,228.  He was also presented with a WSOP gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit tournament.

Watching Doncev’s utter domination of the tournament, especially during its late levels, left many players and spectators shaking their heads in stunned exasperation.  It was as though Doncev either was blessed with clairvoyant powers or crafted some kind of Faustian deal.  Whatever Doncev demanded – whatever card he needed to catch or whatever break he needed to be given – was granted during his rousing humiliation of anyone standing in his way to victory.  Indeed, Doncev busted out seven of the final nine players and destroyed the final table in a near-record time for the shortest WSOP Circuit final table ever in history, clocking in at a lightening-quick at one hour and 45 minutes.

Doncev was one of 278 entries who participated in the $300 buy-in two-day No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  With $80,898 in prize money at stake, the top 27 players collected payouts.  All the action took place inside the packed Rincon Showroom since two other big tournaments were played at the same time – including the “Daily Double” Six-Handed No-Limit event and a nightly “Second Chance” tournament. 

After 270 players were eliminated on the first day, the final table was played to completion on day two.  It began with eight players.  The night before, two players were eliminated on a critical hand which left the final table one player short of the standard nine-person configuration.  Harvey Doncev sat down with a decisive chip advantage, although Durwood Murray and Jose Marcal posed a serious threat based on their stack sizes.  The other five players were outchipped by 3 to 1 margins or greater by Doncev, meaning they had some serious catching up to do.  But, the reality was – they were all drawing dead from the start.  Doncev’s win was that convincing.  The top eight finishers were:

8th Place – Just five hands into play, longtime tournament veteran Larry Vance was eliminated when he was short-stacked and made a crying call in the blind with a weak hand.  His 10-7 offsuit was faded by Louie “the Wolverine” Corpolongo, who held pocket nines.  Vance desperately needed to catch a ten, but missed.  The Lakewood, CA-based poker player received a payout of $2,831 for eighth place.  This was Vance’s seventh time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  He has 60 cashes and nearly half-a-million dollars in prize money winnings since 2001.

7th Place – Ruben Vera went out next.  He bled away half his stack and then moved all-in with K-5 hoping to steal a round of blinds and antes.  But the chip leader Harvey Doncev made an obligatory call holding A-4 and scooped a modest-sized pot holding ace-high.  Meanwhile, Vera was forced to accept a fourth-place finish.  The 50-year-old poker dealer from Lake Elsinore, CA collected $3,236.  Vera wanted to note that a few friends and co-workers, namely Ted Kingston and Pat Willmes, have truly inspired him.  This marked Vera’s 21st career cash in a major poker tournament.

6th Place – The next player to be eliminated was B. Wilkes, from Poway, CA.  In a shove all-in situation, he moved 200,000 into the pot with A-10 and was called by Doncev, holding A-J.  A jack on the turn gave Doncev a pair which ended the tournament for the 54-year-old retiree and writer.  Wilkes scripted a role for himself as the sixth-place finisher, worth a $3,640 payout.

5th Place – Louie “the Wolverine” Corpolongo came dressed for the occasion wearing University of Michigan attire.  The Michigan native who is now living in nearby Temecula busted out when he moved in with a tiny pair after the flop, which lost to a bigger pair.  Durwood Murray feasted on the wolverine’s carcass and suddenly found himself ranked second in chips to Doncev.  Meanwhile, “the Wolverine” weaseled away with $4,045 as his share of the prize pool for fifth place.

4th Place – An interesting development took place next when Doncev made a mistake, but still managed to profit from his error.  Doncev failed to see that Jose Marcal had moved all-in (with about 300,000 in chips) from the button.  Holding Q-10 n the small blind, Doncev moved all-in, expecting to steal the big blind and the antes.  When Doncev saw that Marcal had actually moved in first, he hollered in despair.  Doncev was not in as bad a shape as he might have expected as he tabled his Q-10 versus Marcal’s A-4.  Doncev spiked a queen on the turn, which gave him more chips and eliminated Marcal who could not believe his bad luck on the hand.  Marcal, a chess master and a poker pro with several World Poker Tour cashes, received $4,449 for fourth place.

3rd Place – A few hands later, it appeared that Jim Bolender would double up against Durwood Murray.  Bolender had a pair on the turn while Murray was left drawing to an inside straight with an overcard.  Murray was about a 6 to 1 favorite with one card to come, but Bolender caught one of his outs and knocked out Bolender in third place.  The college professor who teaches chemistry at UC-San Diego was paid $6,472.  Bolender has previously cashed in online tournaments and at other casinos throughout southern California.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Harvey Doncev enjoyed a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Durwood Murray.  To his credit, Murray played tough but was no match for what almost seemed an inevitable victory by Doncev.  On what turned out to be the last hand of the tournament, Murray got all his chips in the pot holding the best hand, but (to no one’s surprise by that point) Doncev somehow managed to spike the card he needed and dragged the last chip from his final remaining adversary.  Doncev had K-5 and flopped a king versus Murray’s A-9 suited.  The attorney won the tournament.  Case closed.

As the runner up, Durwood Murray received $11,730.  The former engineer who is now retired has now cashed in four WSOP-related tournaments, including two events held at Harrah’s Rincon, Caesars Las Vegas, and the WSOP at the Rio in Las Vegas. 

1st Place – Harvey Doncev put on one of the most impressive displays of dominance ever seen at any major poker tournament.  In future events, he also understands it will not always be so easy.  But at least for now, a beaming Doncev could smile and say it was his day and his time to shine in the poker spotlight. 

With two events now completed at Harrah’s Rincon, the tournament has now attracted more than 1,334 total entries and has awarded in excess of $269,689 in total prize money.  Still to come are 12 more gold ring events in addition to 5 more Daily Double tournaments which begin at 4 pm.  The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon continues through April 1st.