GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA – Since the early 19th century, poker has widely been regarded as an American affair.

In his memoir, “Life on the Mississippi, American writer Mark Twain recounts the game, which was also popular among Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War. Tales from the American Old West describe poker games being played in saloons, resulting in the occasional gun fight, while the popularity of the modern-day game is attributed to American pioneers such as Nick the Greek, Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim.

Today, poker belongs to the world. Even before Joe Hachem’s 2005 WSOP Main Event win, poker was hugely popular in Australia. Televised poker elevated the game’s profile in the UK in the late 1990’s while players such as Thor Hansen and Gus Hansen helped spur a boom across Scandinavia in the early 2000’s. Poker became huge in Brazil in the mid 2000’s and is currently gaining popularity in other Latin American countries.

When Raymond Rahme made it to the final table of the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event, many regarded a South African making it to poker’s biggest stage as a mere novelty. Little did they know that Rahme was a product of a well-running, albeit small machine known as the All-African Poker tour.

Since 2007, the tour, based in Swaziland, (a small country nearly encompassed by South Africa) has been the catalyst behind the growth of poker in South Africa. And as with other sectors of the country’s economy, poker there is heading in the right direction.

South African players such as Rahme, Warren Zackey, Jarred Solomon and Darren Kramer have each well represented the skill and dedication of the South African poker community while other well-known South African pros, such as Eric Hershler and Mark Vos, who are more closely associated with their current home countries, provide further testament that South Africa has a rightful place on the international poker scene.

The 2nd annual World Series of Poker Africa has not only provided a venue for players in South Africa and its fellow African countries to compete in a world-class tournament, it has served as a vehicle for them to show the world that poker here is as legitimate as it is in Copenhagen, Melbourne, or even Las Vegas.  

Just days after hosting the largest live poker tournament in Africa’s history, the Emerald opened its doors for the start of its WSOP Africa Main Event

The winner of the 2012 WSOPA Main Event was Joe-Boy Rahme, a former restaurateur turned poker pro from Sandton, ZA. For his win, he was awarded a hefty first-place prize, worth $158,595 (R1,197,100)

Rahme is a local poker celebrity in Johannesburg, and is well liked by many among the tight knit group of players here. When the final card was dealt in the Main Event, nearly the entire tournament area in the Emerald Resort and Casino erupted in cheer with a number of players walking over to their Joe-Boy to extend handshakes, hugs and even kisses.

Yes, South Africans are very passionate about their poker.

“This feels great; I’ve been working toward a WSOP championship for 25 years. This is fabulous,” said Rahme after the win.

The final table featured winners in two earlier events this series, Event#1 winner, Gregory Ronaldson and Event #2 winner, Jason Straus, further testament to the fact that players are truly developing their game in South Africa and not just leaving fate to the cards.

“Poker has really grown over the last five years, we’re sending more and more players to Vegas for the annual WSOP each year and they are having great results. We play mostly in home games, but casinos are starting to recognize us and more games are becoming available.”

The $3,300 buy-in event drew 218 entries, generating a total prize pool of $634,380 of which 24 players would take home their share. 134 players would remain after day one of the three day event, with Zackey the end of day chip leader. Also ending the day with a health stack of chips was five-time WSOP Champion, Scotty Nguyen.

Unfortunately for either player, they would not see the light of day three as both suffered eliminations on day two short of the money. The remainder of the day two eliminations came steadily, leaving 14 players tor return for the third and final day.  

After about two hours of play on day two, it was down to the final table. James Parker, a sales and marketing director and amateur player from Johannesburg had the dominating chip lead to start the final table, however the odds on favorite to win it all  was Event #1 winner and 2012 Aussie Millions Heads up champion, Gregory Ronalds

 

Name

Hometown

Seat

Chip Count

James Parker

Johannesburg, ZA

1

1,756,000

Marc Joseph

Krugersdorp, ZA

2

525,000

Brian Bouwer

Jeffrey’s Bay, ZA

3

189,000

Jason Straus

Johannesburg, ZA

4

400,000

Ivan Pakkiri

Polokwane, ZA

5

949,000

Joe-Boy Rahme

Sandton, ZA

6

737,000

Gregory Ronaldson

Johannesburg, ZA

7

1,223,000

Matt Mulhall

Cape Town, ZA

8

300,000

Brad Flynn

Cape Town, ZA

9

450,00

9th Place

With nearly half of the chips in play in the possession of Parker and Ronaldson, early eliminations came down fast and hard, with Brian Bouwer the first casualty of the afternoon.  The short stack, he got his chips in the middle in the best position that he could find, but it was not good enough. Bouwer is a 29-year-old entrepreneur and married father of three from Jeffrey’s Bay, ZA. Bouwer is a well-respected local pro with numerous local tournament wins. For his performance in this year’s WSOP Africa Main Event, he earned $14,654.

8th Place

Matt Mullhall, a 22-year-old college student and recreational poker player from Cape Town, South Africa, was the eighth place finisher in this event. Hopefully, he will apply most of his $18,397 eighth place prize money toward his educational endeavors… and perhaps set a bit aside to play more poker.

7th Place

24-year-old student and poker pro Brad Flynn of Cape Town, South Africa was eliminated in seventh place. Flynn, who states that his poker ambition is to be as good as fellow South African pro, Darren Kramer is definitely making progress toward that goal after his three-day effort in the WSOP Africa Main Event. He pocketed $23,409 for seventh.

6th Place

Marc Joseph made his final table exit in sixth place. The 29-year-old from Krugersdorp, ZA proved himself well in the three day WSOP Africa Main Event, taking home $30,196 for his efforts.

5th Place

2012 has been a phenomenal year for Gregory Ronaldson. The 28-year-old pro made waves in the 2012 Aussie Millions after taking down the heads up championship. A few days ago, he overcame the largest live poker tournament field in history here at the Emerald with a win in WSOP Africa Event #1. With both a hefty stack and the most experience among his final tablemates, he was by far the odds on favorite to win the Main Event, but fell short of that expectation, finishing in fifth place.

Ronaldson was forced to settle for a $39,649 payday, but is almost certain to make poker headlines again in the near future.

4th Place

Fourth place went to James Parker. The final table chip leader, Parker saw his chips distributed around the felt before he was ultimately eliminated. Parker is from Johannesburg and works as a sales and marketing director for a company that distributes pacemakers and defibrillators.  The amateur once cashed in the 2012 WSOP and plays both tournaments and cash games. His fourth place finish tonight in the Main Event earned him $52,780.

3rd Place

Jason Straus took a disappointing beat from Rahme after a pre-flop all-in where his A-J failed to stay ahead of Rahme’s A-6. Straus, the winner of Event #2 at this year’s WSOP Africa was unable to regain any traction and was forced to settle for 3rd place, worth $71,368.

Heads up was between Rahme and Ivan Pakkiri. Play between the final two did not last very long as Pakkiri was soon all-in with Q-T vs. Rahme’s pocket jacks. Rahme’s jacks held through the river to give him the win.

For his runner-up finish, Pakkiri, a self-employed married father of two from Polokwane, ZA collected $98,012. Pakkari’s ambition is to one day play in the WSOP in Vegas, but with work, he says he would be happy with just having more time to play at all.

Rahme, the 2012 WSOP Africa Main Event champion was awarded $158,595, the coveted WSOP Circuit Gold ring. In addition, Emerald Resort and Casino CEO Martin Rice presented Rahme with the WSOP Africa Main Event cup, a stunning crystal trophy to commemorate his victory.

Rahme is wildly optimistic about the future of poker in South Africa and of his countrymen’s potential on the world stage.

He himself is not sure whether or not he will be able to compete in this year’s annual World Series of Poker, which will take place May 27th – July 9th at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, but says that his win tonight in the WSOP Africa Main Event is definitely one step toward that goal.

Still to come are 2 events. See the complete WSOP Africa schedule and previous results here. WSOP Africa runs through February 27th. You can find the complete 2010/2011 WSOP CIRCUIT SCHEDULE here.

Media Contacts:

Marli Wolmarans

Emerald Casino and Resort

+27 16 982 8063

marliw@emeraldcasino.co.za

 

Alan Fowler

WSOP/Caesars Interactive Entertainment

afowler@caesars.com

 

About the WSOP

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the largest, richest and most prestigious gaming event in the world awarding millions of dollars in prize money and the prestigious gold bracelet, globally recognized as the sport's top prize. Featuring a comprehensive slate of tournaments in every major poker variation, the WSOP is poker's longest running tournament in the world, dating back to 1970. In 2010, the event attracted 72,966 entrants from 117 different countries to the Rio in Las Vegas and awarded over $187 million in prize money. In addition, the WSOP has formed groundbreaking alliances in broadcasting, digital media and corporate sponsorships, while successfully expanding the brand internationally with the advent in 2007 of the World Series of Poker Europe.  The WSOP Circuit Tour is entering its seventh season in 2010-11, and will feature 12 stops throughout the U.S., plus for the first ever, a stop in South Africa. For more information on the World Series of Poker, please visit www.WSOP.com.