First-Ever WSOP Circuit Stop in Los Angeles Draws Strong Turnout – 748 Entrants
Los Angeles, CA (January 4, 20112) – If ever there was a poker player that should be followed around by a television camera crew, it’s Huy Quach. The man with the unusual name has an oddball personality to match. Trouble is, an R-rated reality show starring Quach could never be broadcast on regular TV.
Consider when Quach first came to the United States and was trying to decide if he should “Americanize” his foreign-sounding name. Quach described the initial scene where he was sitting in a neighborhood bar with some friends. They ordered a shot of Jim Beam bourbon for him to enjoy. Quach thought the name was catchy and very easy to pronounce, so he agreed to be called Jim Quach.
“I’m glad they didn’t order me a pina colada,” Quach said, remembering the story now many years later.
The name stuck. Over the years since then, Quach has cashed in numerous poker tournaments around the country. On tournament websites and poker magazines, he’s been identified as Jim Quach, James Quach, J.J. Quach, A. J. Quach, and is now finally to be decorated with his real name, Huy Quach, following his first-ever WSOP Circuit victory.
Quach won the $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament and thus becomes the first WSOP Circuit champion ever to be crowned in Los Angeles.
Perhaps not surprisingly, his entry in the tournament almost didn’t happen. Quach would be the first to admit that he enjoyed a fortuitous string of good fortune – what some might call a bizarre course of events -- which led to the victory.
The tournament won by Quach actually began on New Year’s Day. However, the 28-year-old was in Las Vegas the night before, celebrating the coming new year with thousands of fellow partiers on the most famous Strip in the world. Quach admits he may have celebrated just a little too much a few nights ago, a conclusion he reached somehow due to finding himself decked out inside a casino restroom for a full 90 minutes while the rest of the city was blowing noisemakers and sipping champagne at the strike of midnight.
“I remember having a few drinks that night,” Quach said matter-of-factly. “Yeah, I had a few drinks – a few too many.”
As things turned out, Quach escaped the bathroom, recovered, and somehow made it back to his home in Los Angeles for the start of the first major tournament of the New Year.
Anyone handicapping Quach’s chances of surviving for any length of time in a lengthy tournament, let alone winning an event with hundreds of tough players, would have made him the proverbial 7-2 of the field, in a sea of high-pocket pairs.
But poker tournaments can be funny things. The most apt word to describe the unpredictable series of events that unfolded over the following four days would be “crazy.” Insane crazy.
By dinner break of the first day, Quach was down to just a few blinds. He was close to the felt with about 45,000 in chips, when each orbit was costing about 20,000 in chips to play.
Then lightening struck. Over and over. Again and again.
He survived the first all-in with 8-8 against Q-Q when he miraculously rivered an eight. A short time later, he took A-8 up against A-K and rivered an eight for a second time.
By night’s end, Quach was up to more than $1.3 million in chips. He was the chip leader.
And the rest, they say his history.
When asked immediately following his victory if he planned to go out an celebrate by enjoying a few adult beverages, a few nights after suffering the ill-effects of a monster hangover, Quach snapped, “No way! I’ll never drink again!”
When propositioned whether or not he’d be interested in wagering on the future prospects, Quach declined the offer to be in action.
Quach collected $44,663 in prize money and his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.
The final table was marked by a highly-unusual development. The player who was initially ranked second in chips when play was nine-handed was not able to make it to the final day. The reason for his absence was not clear. Nevertheless, all Joe Saccone could do was imagine his stack slowly being ground down to the felt with each passing hand. Given that Saccone’s chips arrived with so much weight meant there was some added drama to see how long the “ghost” player might last. Some players and spectators even made side bets as to where Saccone would ultimately finish. He ended up in fifth place, thereby going down in history perhaps as the player who lasted the longest at a final table without actually playing a single hand.
No word on whether or not Saccone might have pulled a “Quach” the night before.
The World Series of Poker Circuit steamrolled into the Los Angeles area for the first time, with predictable results. The debut New Year’s Day opening event played at The Bicycle Casino, located in the Bell Gardens section of Los Angeles, attracted a big crowd -- totaling 748 players.
Many people think of Las Vegas as the center of the poker universe. After all, each and every year, Las Vegas hosts the game’s biggest attraction – which is the World Series of Poker.
But if poker truly has an epicenter, it’s more likely 267 miles to the southwest – in Los Angeles. The City of Angels has more licensed poker tables and more huge venues than any other city in the world (including Las Vegas). There are arguably more dedicated poker players living in the Los Angeles area than any other place.
This has a lot to do with history. The first poker boom was actually ignited long before anyone had ever heard of Chris Moneymaker or online poker; and the fuse was lit twenty-five years ago at a shiny new showcase for the game of poker, which was initially called The Bicycle Blub Casino. After California broadened its gaming laws to allow for flop games (draw poker was the only legal poker game permitted up until 1987), the era of mega-cardrooms began. The first giant casino built was The Bicycle Club, known affectionately today to most serious poker players simply as, “The Bike.”
While cardrooms and casinos located elsewhere were considered big if they housed a dozen poker tables, The Bicycle Casino rolled out more than a hundred tables in its poker palace. With so many new players, tables, and dealers, cash games and tournaments alike, grew in number and size. The Bicycle Casino was among the very first establishments outside of Las Vegas to regularly host major poker tournaments. In short, "The Bike" was the place to be for serious poker player. And, it still is.
The World Series of Poker Circuit has partnered with The Bicycle Casino to create one of the premier poker events of 2012. The first-ever WSOP-related tournament series is being played at “The Bike” during the first two week in January. A dozen gold ring events are taking place, running through January 12th.
Note: A current interview with Mo Fathipour, Bicycle Casino Poker Tournament Director, can be seen here.
Event #1 was a four-day $300 (+45) No-Limit Hold’em tournament. Play began on Sunday and concluded late on Wednesday night. The total prize pool amounted to $217,668. The top 72 players were paid. All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points – used to qualify for a seat in the season-finale, to be played in Las Vegas in May.
A full list of all players who cashed in Event #1 can be seen here.
The first of two playing sessions included the elimination of 739 players during the first two day. Nine survivors resumed action at the final table, which commenced play on an unseasonably warm Wednesday afternoon inside The Bicycle Casino’s tournament room. The nine finalists were as follows:
SEAT 1: Joseph Dickstein (Los Angeles, CA) – 500,000 in chips
SEAT 2: Kevin Olsta (Chicago, IL) – 904,000 in chips
SEAT 3: Ryan Buckholtz (Studio City, CA) – 938,000 in chips
SEAT 4: Travis Carson (Los Angeles, CA) – 636,000 in chips
SEAT 5: Joe Saccone (Los Angeles, CA) – 1,151,000 in chips
SEAT 6: Huy Quach (Los Angeles, CA) – 1,320,000 in chips
SEAT 7: Josh Evans (Las Vegas, NV) – 1,117,000 in chips
SEAT 8: Robert Ross (Stockton, CA) – 350,000 in chips
SEAT 9: Arthur Cole (Mission Viejo, CA) – 575,000 in chips
Huy Quach arrived as the chip leader. But four players were close and within striking distance.
Final table play began at 2 pm local time. Play finished at 7 pm making the total duration almost five hours.
9th Place – The first player eliminated was Joseph Dickstein, a film company executive who has produced a number of films and television programs. Dickstein has largely specialized in military-themed documentaries. He came to the final table relatively low and chips and survived only a short time before hitting the rail. This was Dickstein’s first time to play in a WSOP Circuit event. He can be proud of making the final able in his first attempt. Ninth place paid $4,175.
8th Place – Robert Ross, a plumber from Stockton, CA was flushed away in eighth place. He held the shortest stack when play began and lasted about 45 minutes, before going bust. This was Ross’ fourth time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament. He earned $5,260 in prize money.
7th Place – Art Cole, a mortgage broker from Mission Viejo, CA was the seventh-place finisher. He cashed 327th at the 2007 WSOP Main Event, good for about a $40,000 score. Cole, who is married and has two daughters, also enjoys coaching softball in his free time. This was his best finish in a WSOP Circuit event.
6th Place – Kevin Olsta, from the Chicago area, finished in sixth place. He previously cashed in the WSOP Circuit held in Hammond, IN. Olsta collected $8,670 in what is his best WSOP showing, to date.
5th Place – Joe Saccone was the “ghost” of the final table. The local poker pro with more than 50 career tournament cashes, was not able to make it to the final day. But he did have enough chips to be blinded all the way to fifth place. He earned $11,350 for not even showing up. Once can only speculate on whether or not Saccone would have finished higher or perhaps even won the event had he made an appearance. As things turned out, his mysterious absence was only one of the many chapters on a wild and wacky debut gold ring final table.
4th Place – Travis Carson, a self-described “Renaissance Man” from Los Angeles, came in fourth. He is a 28-year-old former engineering student, who is now playing poker full-time. Many of Carson’s achievements have taken place online. He earned $15,060 in prize money.
3rd Place – Ryan Buckholtz, a technology consultant from Studio City, CA finished in third place. He took second place at last year’s California State Poker Championship. The Baltimore-native received $20,250 in prize money.
2nd Place – Josh Evans, who lives in the Dallas suburbs, has enjoyed a stellar run on the WSOP Circuit over the past year. He’s done everything except win a WSOP gold ring. Evans finished third in last year’s Circuit National Championship. He’s also final tabled three events this season, including two runner up finishes (including this tournament). A lock to make the National Championship again this year, Evans also has six WSOP cashes, amounting to nearly $700,000 in earnings. But his long-awaited first WSOP-related victory will have to wait until another day.
The last hand of the tournament was dealt as follows:
This was a nightmare board for Evans. Quach had sucked his opponent into the pot, holding the higher straight to the six. Evans was put in an almost impossible position, holding a smaller straight – but certainly in a position where he was destined to lose his remaining stack. The higher straight scooped the last pot of the tournament, and Quach was declared the champion.
1st Place – Huy Quach, from Los Angeles, won his first career WSOP Circuit gold ring. He collected $44,663.
Quach’s win was sparked by a number of momentous hands. Not only did he manage to defeat Evans on a dream final hand, he also put a wicked beat on another opponent. Quach was all-in when play was three-handed holding pocket queens. His opponent had a king and flopped a king. It appeared that Quach would finish in third place. But a queen on the river saved the man who had a date with destiny.
With his victory, Quach moves into the top spot as the early leader in this WSOP Circuit’s “Best All-Around Player” standings. The player who accumulates the most overall points in The Bike’s twelve combined gold ring tournaments receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2011-2012 WSOP Circuit National Championship. At least two players from this tournament series will qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which is classified as a WSOP gold bracelet event. The other automatic qualifier will be the winner of The Bicycle Casino’s Main Event championship.
With the first tournament wrapped up, there are still 11 more gold ring events remaining in what is being billed as a “12 rings in 12 days” poker series. The WSOP Circuit at The Bicycle Casino continues through December 12th. This year’s schedule includes not only all the gold ring events, but multiple second-chance tournaments (at 5 pm and 7 pm most days), single table and mega satellites, plus cash games going around the clock inside the poker room.