Ali Can
Valley Center, CA – The most recent tournament played at Harrah’s Rincon was filled with remarkable poker hands, amazing comebacks, and a surprise victory by a first-time winner.

Ethan van Klaveren, a professional massage therapist from San Francisco, CA won the World Series of Poker Circuit event, along with his first championship gold ring. But it wasn’t just the victory that was memorable. It was the thrilling poker hands along the way, plus a couple of astounding comebacks by the final two players that should put this tournament in the history books.
At one point when play was down to the final eight players, Van Klaveren looked down and saw pocket kings. He moved all-in with the premium cards on what would become the most talked about hand of the tournament. One player was already all-in holding pocket Q’s. Incredibly, a third player called, and then a fourth player also called.

One of the callers tabled pocket aces.

In the astounding hand, pocket queens, versus pocket kings, versus pocket aces were turned up and all-in.

Then, the real drama started. Wham!

A queen on the flop completely disrupted the Pavilion Arena, the locale of the final table played at Rincon. Things went from crazy to absolute bedlam moments later.

Kaboom! A king fell on the turn, once again completely changing the outcome of the tournament and disrupting the expectations of the players. As if no one could take any more excitement, a harmless blank fell on the river, which meant van Klaveren’s pocket kings ended up making trips and he quadrupled up on a monster hand.

Indeed, it was the kind of night for Ethan van Klaveren.

Although the part-time poker player from San Francisco, CA ended up winning the tournament about four hours later, the trial and tribulation experienced by the second-place finisher was just as amazing.

Ali Yousri, a.k.a. "Chicago Ali" started at the final table as chip leader. But he took several early beats. At one point, he was down to a single 1,000-denomination chip, when the blinds were at 4,000-8,000. The true tale of poker legend Jack Straus in the 1982 World Series of Poker Main Event has been told many times, and Ali nearly pulled off an equally astounding feat.

Starting with just one chip, he went on to win five consecutive pots when he was basically all-in and managed to come all the back to the point where he regained the chip lead when play was three-handed. It was an unthinkable turn of events for Ali to go from chip leader, down to a single chip, and then back to the chip lead, but that’s exactly what happened. The colorful poker personality, born in Egypt and now living in Chicago ended up finishing in second place.
The No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which is the fourth event of this year’s World Series of Poker Circuit stop in Southern California, was played at the Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, near San Diego. The $340 buy in competition was played over two days during March 22-23, 2010.

Van Klaveren ended up scooping the biggest prize of his young career, collecting a payout totaling $15,079. Van Klaveren was also presented with his first gold ring, the coveted award which is presented to all champions of WSOP Circuit tournaments held around the country. This was his first time to cash in a WSOP Circuit tournament.

Final Table play began on a Monday afternoon. There were no prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners amongst the final nine players, thus guaranteeing a first-time champion. "Chicago Ali" arrived at the Final Table as the chip leader. But Ali lost his advantage early to Troy "Cowboy" Benjamin and later to Stephen Peterson, who were viable forces during most of the seven hour finale. Ethan van Klaveren also jumped into contention after he won the huge pot with pocket kings and acquired some chips.

When Final Table play began at 2:10 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:




Chip Count


Ethan van Klaveren

San Francisco, CA



Ray "Mac the Knife" McCabe

Anaheim Hills, CA



Keith Strebe

Palm Desert, CA



Vince Burgio

West Hills, CA



Stephen Peterson

Portland, OR



Ron "Skwitz" Moskowitz

San Diego, CA



Kelvin "CK the Great" Goode

Farmington, CT



Chicago Ali

Chicago, IL



Troy "Cowboy" Benjamin

San Diego, CA


Tenth Place: Chang Chunked
Matthew Chang, an employee of the federal government from Rockville, MD was terminated in tenth place. He was lowest in chips when play was ten-handed and moved all-in on his last hand with   . His raise was quickly called by an opponent with   . The board came      , which meant an early exit for Chang. He collected $1,129.
Ninth Place: "CK the Great" Tells a Great Bad Beat Story
Nine-handed play lasted for two hours. Then, Kelvin "CK the Great" Goode picked up a great hand on which to move all-in when he was dealt   . Goode made his move with pocket aces and got a call from Troy "Cowboy" Benjamin, who had plenty of chips and could fade the smallish raise. Goode appeared headed for a double up, but the table ran      , which ended up making two pair for Benjamin. Goode, who is a musician from Farmington, CT, collected $1,290 for ninth place.
Eighth Place: "Mack the Knife" Sliced and Diced
Ray "Mack the Knife" McCabe, who owns a successful health food company called "Egg Whites International" scrambled and beat 189 other players, but could not fry the final seven. McCabe arrived at the finale with a healthy stack size but he went out after he gradually became low on chips. He moved in with   , which lost to   . The final board made no pair for either player, so the   played as the highest card. McCabe, who has five WSOP cashes on his record and also chopped last year’s championship in the seniors event played at Rincon, received $1,519 for eighth place.
Seventh Place: Former WSOP Gold Bracelet Winner Ousted
Vince Burgio, a poker pro from West Hills, CA was the only former WSOP gold bracelet winner in the final nine. He doubled up early and appeared to be headed for a showdown with one of the bigger stacks. But Burgio ultimately went out when he took    up against two players, and lost. On the hand, Troy "Cowboy" Benjamin had   . Stephen Peterson had   . An ace on the turn killed off Burgio and the final board showed      . Burgio, who was one of the top tournament players of the 1990s, collected $1,875 in prize money.
Sixth Place: Moskowitz Blitzed
Ron "Skwitz" Moskowitz, from San Diego, lasted a good while nursing a short stack, but finally had to play a hand when he was desperately low on chips. He tried to steal a round of blinds and antes with    but got called by Stephen Peterson, who tabled    with a much bigger stack. The board came       which made two pair for Peterson. That put Moskowitz out of the tournament in sixth place with $2,809.
Fifth Place: Strebe Strung
Keith Strebe, from Palm Desert, CA lasted for five hours before finally exiting in fifth place. On his final hand, Strebe was dealt    . After the flop came    , Strebe moved all in holding a pair of tens. But "Chicago Ali" made a quick call and showed   , good for top pair. Strebe failed to improve from that point forward and settled for $3,743 in prize money. This was his second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.
Fourth Place:  “Cowboy” Bucked 
Troy “Cowboy” Benjamin, a heavy equipment operator from San Diego, started the Final Table ranked second in chips.  He took over the chip lead for a short time a few hours into play.  But Benjamin was unable to sustain his advantage and went out in the late hour with   , which ended up missing a club draw.  “Chicago Ali” had    and had to fade two clubs on the flop, which ended up making only a four-card flush for Benjamin.  The board ended up showing      , which gave Ali the big pot with pocket nines.  Benjamin, who finished in 12th place in an event at the 2005 WSOP in Las Vegas and has done well in other tournaments since then, added $4,678 to his poker bankroll.

Third Place:  Piano Player Hits a Sour Note
Stephen Peterson, a musician from Portland, OR had a reasonable shot at victory, but went card dead late.  He finally moved all-in with    after Ethan van Klaveren had put in a raise with   .  The bigger pocket pair (nines) held up, giving van Klaveren the pot. This marked Peterson’s third time to make the final table of a major poker tournament and was his highest finish ever in a WSOP-related event.  He collected $6,552 in prize money.

Second Place:  “Chicago Ali Goes All-In”
“Chicago Ali” experienced one of the most incredible days in tournament poker in quite some time.  It’s hard to imagine any player at a major tournament anywhere that went from being chip leader, then down to a single chip, and then back to chip leader, followed by second place finish.  That’s exactly what happened to the 53-year-old businessman who was born in Egypt.  “Chicago Ali” received $9,258 for his second place finish.

The last hand came when Ali was dealt   .  After the flop came    , Ali moved all-in.  Van Klaveren called and showed   .  He had the best kicker.  Ali needed help.  The last two cards came   followed by the   giving both players three-of-a-kind, with 10’s.  But Van Klaveren won with the better kicker.

First Place:  Ethan van Klaveren Wins 
Ethan van Klaveren was absolutely thrilled with his victory.  He received $15,079 in prize money.  But he said the victory was really amazing because he had always hoped to win a WSOP event.  Van Klaveren says he hopes to play in more events and win another WSOP tournament in the future. 

Tableside interview with Klaveren moments after his win