Several years ago, poker superstar Barry Greenstein was asked his secret, right after winning a million dollars in a poker tournament.  “Win all the races,” he answered.  Greenstein stated that he faced 21 races (or “coin flips”) at various point during the tournament.  “I won every single one,” he said.

Indeed, getting a little lucky at critical times really helps to win a poker tournament.  In the latest World Series of Poker Circuit event held at Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, one player won all the races here needed to win, while other players lost those same critical hands which pretty much cost them the tournament.  The beneficiary of all the good fortune was Fred “Rocky” Karimi, who won his first tournament victory the hard way, by winning several key nail-biting hands which propelled him to his victory.    

The $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament (Event #9 on this year’s schedule) attracted 165 entries, generating $80,025 in prize money.  The top 18 players collected payouts.  All the action took place over a two-day period inside Rincon Pavilion Showroom.

When players reached the final table, Shandor Molnar held the chip lead.  However, the chips were widely distributed, which meant each of the nine finalists were in serious contention.  As previously stated, this tournament would come down to the “coin flips.”  The top nine finishers listed in order of their elimination were as follows:

9th Place – The action was fast and furious from the very start.  The final table’s first hand saw Fred “Rocky” Karimi dealt A-10 versus McClain “CashRulez” Bell’s 10-10.  The flop came A-J-10.  Karimi flopped two pair while Bell flopped a set of tens.  All the chips were destined to build a big pot, which is exactly what happened.  Amazingly, Karimi caught an ace on the river, to make a bigger full house (aces over tens) which left Bell desperately low on chips.  He went out a few hands later.  McClain “CashRulez” Bell, a former U.S. Marine and now the owner of an entertainment company busted out in ninth place, good for $2,401 in prize money.

8th Place – Karimi’s good fortune continued.  Only a few minutes later, he was dealt pocket aces.  Karimi was delighted to see Kenny Bedoya shove all-in with K-Q suited.  Karimi practically beat his adversary into the pot with his chips.  The board failed to help Bedoya, who ended up as the eighth-place finisher.  Kenny Bedoya, a tile setter from San Diego, cemented $3,201 in prize money.  Bedoya is a familiar face at Rincon.  He finished fourth in the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Rincon last year.

7th Place – Play went seven-handed for nearly an hour before the next bust out.  That came when David “Dro” Rowan took a few beats and was left low on chips.  He went in from the blind and ended up losing his last pot to James Brown’s two pair.  The 21-year-old poker player and part-time ski instructor from South Lake Tahoe, CA slid away with $4,001 for seventh place.

6th Place – Barry Wenger took a horrible beat when he got all his chips in with the best hand – A-Q against James Brown’s A-J – but lost.  It certainly appeared he would double up, but a jack on the turn gave Brown the only pair and what remained of Wenger’s stack.  The New York City-based attorney’s motion to stay at the final table was denied.  However, he managed to plea bargain a settlement worth $4,802 for sixth place.  Wenger has previously cashed in WSOP Circuit events at Rincon and Caesars Atlantic City.

5th Place – A few hands later, former WSOP Circuit gold ring winner Mike Souza tried to make a move with K-10, which was called by Karimi holding pocket aces.  It marked another huge hand for Karimi, who managed to repeatedly catch great cards and the perfect moments.  Once again, the big hand held up, which busted Souza out in fifth place.  Souza, who lives in San Diego, has won four majors and cashed numerous times for nearly $400,000 in career earnings.  This time, he collected $5,602 in prize money.

4th Place – Early chip leader Shandor Molnar eventually ran out of momentum and busted out in fourth place.  The San Diego contractor tried to bluff holding Q-10, which ended up losing to James Brown’s two pair.  Molnar, who now has 24 lifetime cashes at various tournaments throughout California in recent years, added to his impressive resume with $6,722 in winnings for fourth place.

3rd Place – James Brown’s monster roll came to a grinding halt when he doubled up two players in short order.  That spread the chips out somewhat, which meant victory was within the grasp of all three finalists.  Brown’s misery continued when he lost three more big pots, which meant elimination in third place.  It was a brutal final hour for the finance manager who works for a Toyota dealership.  Brown appeared to be in great position to win his first major.  But the cards did not fall right, and he drove away with $8,003 in prize money.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Richard Aronow held a slight chip advantage over Fred “Rocky” Karimi.  The chips went back and forth for about a dozen hands during which Karimi took a 2 to 1 chip lead.  The key hand of the duel was Karimi’s pocket eights topping Aronow’s A-9 in a quintessential “coin flip.”  The middle pair (beating two overcards) gave Karimi the lead lead.  A few hands later, he was dealt A-10 and had Aronow all-in holding pocket deuces.  This time, Karimi caught a much-needed pair when an ace fell on the river – crushing Aronow’s hopes, and making the dream of Karimi come true.  Karimi won the final pot with a pair of aces.

Meanwhile, Richard Aronow was forced to accept a disappointing runner-up finish.  To his credit, he was within a card of victory at one point.  But losing two late coin flips devastated his chances.  Aronow, a 38-year-old business owner from La Jolla, CA received a consolation prize amounting to $12,804.

1st Place – The winner of Event #9 at this year’s Rincon series is Fred “Rocky” Karimi, from San Diego.  He is a 32-year-old former used car dealer, who now plays poker professionally.  Karimi won for the first time ever, earning $20,006 in prize money for first place.  He was also presented with a WSOP Circuit gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement on the tournament circuit.

With nine events now completed at Harrah’s Rincon, the tournament has now attracted nearly 4,000 total entries and has awarded close to $1 million in total prize money.  Still to come are three more tournaments, including the $5,000 buy-in championship event, which begins March 30th.  The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon continues through April 1st.