Souza’s Second
Valley Center, CA – When Michael Souza won his first World Series of Poker Circuit gold ring back in 2006, he must have thought it was the start of something really big. 
To his credit, the 36-year-old from San Diego had been a full-time poker pro for several years.  But winning any kind of WSOP-related victory often changes things.  If nothing else, a major tournament victory instills self-confidence and opens up a new frontier of opportunities as to what is humanly possible on the rough and tumble tournament poker circuit.   

Unfortunately, Souza did not catapult himself from his 2006 win to the stratosphere of riches and superstardom.  He won other tournaments, and made nearly another dozen or so WSOP Circuit final tables.  But Souza has run into the same glass ceiling which looms over all poker players who aspire to greatness.  In short, the ranks of the Brunsons, the Iveys, the Chans, and the Hellmuths is a very select club, indeed.  In poker, going from merely “very good” to “great” is the toughest step of all, akin of the final ascension of Mount Everest.

With his victory in today’s most recent World Series of Poker tournament -- which was held at the at Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, near San Diego – Souza’s poker career took another giant leap forward.  The victory gave him his second WSOP Circuit gold ring and re-emphasizes the natural progression of things in the poker world which is, “First the Ring, then the Bracelet.”  

Souza won $13,237 in prize money along with the victory.  But it was perhaps the satisfaction of overcoming enormous odds which was the most fulfilling aspect of the win.  Souza never had many chips during the tournament, and arrived at the Final Table ranked eighth out of nine players.  The chip leader had him dominated by an 8 to 1 margin.  But that didn’t seem to matter.  Souza did what he does best, playing extraordinary poker when it really counted en route to the victory.

The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during March 24-25, 2010.  Final Table play began on a Thursday afternoon.  There were two prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners among the final nine players – including Souza and Tony Lee, who won his title here at Rincon three years ago.  

But all eyes at the start were on the one seat, occupied by Dustin Fox.  He arrived with the biggest chip advantage of any player so far at this year’s Rincon series.  Fox had all of his opponents covered by nearly 3 to 1 or more.  In fact, he had about 40 percent of the chips in play, an astounding advantage going into the final nine. 
It appeared Fox would run over the final table when he amassed well over half the chips in play at one point.  But he went card dead at the worst possible time and ended up finishing in third place.  By the time Final Table play ended nearly six hours after it began, Souza had all the chips and the victory.

When Final Table play began at 2:15 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:




Chip Count


Dustin Fox

Porterville, CA



Dave Williams

San Marcos, CA



Rip Fritzer

San Diego, CA



Richard Aronow

San Diego, CA



Michael Souza

San Diego, CA



Matt Kursar

Long Beach, CA



Ashish Khanna

San Diego, CA



Paul Hopkins

La Jolla, CA



Tony Lee

Santa Ysabel, CA



Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Lee Surrenders
Tony Lee, a former WSOP Circuit gold ring winner (2007), suffered a disastrous run during his 40-minute stay in the finale.  He lost three big hands and was eliminated after moving all-in with   .  Dustin Fox called the raise with   .  Lee took a tough beat when the board ran out      .  Even though Fox did not hit one of his hole cards, the two pair on board played, with the jack kicker as the decisive card.  That meant Lee, a rancher who has made a whopping seven WSOP Circuit final tables at Harrah’s Rincon in the last three years, had to settle for $1,132.
Eighth Place:  Broken Kursar  
Matt Kursar, a teacher from Long Beach, CA was expelled from the Final Table after being short-stacked and moving in with pocket deuces, which lost.  Kursar’s    went up against Ashish Khanna’s   .  Things looked good for Kursar until the river, when a nine fell.  The final board showed      , giving Khanna a higher pair.  Therefore, Kursar ended up with an eighth-place finish and $1,336 in prize money. 
Seventh Place:  Fritzer on the Fritz  
Rip Fritzer, a real estate investor from San Diego, CA got involved with a bad deal when he moved all-in on what turned out to be his final hand of the tournament.  Fritzer was dealt   .  Unfortunately, chip leader Dustin Fox was dealt   .  The higher pocket pair held up after the board came        So, Fritzer, who has several WSOP-related cashes in the past, added $1,647 to his poker bankroll.

Sixth Place:  Richard VI  
Richard Aronow, a.k.a. “the Comeback Kid,” who is a business owner from San Diego, took a brutal beat on his final hand of the night when he made a club flush, which lost to a full house.  Aronow was dealt    in the blind.  He was pleased to see the final board show      .  But Michael Souza held   , which made kings-full-of-eights.  Aronow, who came in second in this event last year, collected $2,469 in prize money. 
Fifth Place:  Hopkins Takes the Fifth  
Paul Hopkins, a semi-retired part-time poker player from La Jolla, CA went out on a tough hand when he flopped two pair, which lost to a set.  Hopkins was dealt   .  The flop came    .  Hopkins bet and was raised all-in by Dave Williams, who showed    for the set.  Hopkins called and failed to improve.  He received a payout totaling $3,290.

Fourth Place:  Dave Williams Makes Second Final Table This Week
Dave Williams, who came in second in Event #2, took fourth place this time.  The contractor from San Diego nailed down $4,111 in prize money after losing a decisive pot late in the tournament to Michael Souza.  Williams was dealt    and moved all-in on the turn with a pair of tens.  But Souza slow-played    and ended up dragging a huge pot after the final board showed       .  Williams went out a few hands later, but could certainly be proud of taking second and fourth place in two events at this year’s Rincon series.

Third Place:  Crazy Like a Fox

Dustin Fox seemed on his way to victory, but a late run of bad cards and poor luck knocked him out with a relatively disappointing third-place finish.  Just as things had done so well for Fox most of the tournament, nothing went his way during the final hour.  He gradually lost his chips, many of which went to Michael Souza's stack.  
Finally, Fox moved all-in with    and was called by Ashish Khanna, holding    .  Fox looked like he would double up, but a killer king on the turned ruined his chances of victory.  Final board:         Fox’s final settlement amounted to $5,759 in prize money.  This marked his third time to cash in a WSOPC event.
Second Place:  Ashish Khanna Takes Second  
Ashish Khanna, a 34-year-old attorney from San Diego, CA was the runner up.  His comeback was nearly as impressive as the winner’s, since he overcame a huge chip disadvantage as well, when Final Table play began.  Khanna played outstanding poker, but was not able to overcome his final adversary’s chip advantage nor his depth of experience.  Khanna settled for $8,155 in prize money.

The last hand came when Khanna was dealt   .  After the flop came    , he moved all-in with a pair and a straight draw, and was called by Souza -- who showed   , good for top pair.  The remaining cards came   and  , giving Souza the last pot of the night, and the win.

First Place:  Two Gold Rings for Michael Souza  

San Diego poker pro Michael Souza won his second WSOP Circuit title.  First place paid $13,327.  In additon to enjoying success on the Circuit, Souza has also cashed in the WSOP Main Event three times.  In fact, he was one of only two players to cash each year in the Main Event, from 2006 through 2008.