Randy Paguio Wins Opener at Harrah’s Rincon

Rex Clinkscales Takes Second Place – Now Has 12 Cashes This Season (National Leader)

Rincon Reservation, CA (March 16, 2012) – Ruby Paguio may no longer grace this earth.  But she was certainly present in spirit at the latest World Series of Poker Circuit event, held at the Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, located near San Diego.

The late Mrs. Paguio, who passed away last December, provided the inspiration for her son Randy to play his best.  He was ultimately rewarded with his first major tournament victory, which paid $21,844 in prize money.  He was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring, which is the crowning achievement for winning a tour event.

“I want to dedicate this victory to my mother,” Randy Pauio said solemnly, moments after his victory.  “She meant so much to me.  This is for her.”

Indeed, there was no fist pumping or wild celebration during, nor after, the opening WSOP Circuit tournament at Rincon.  Perhaps due to a final table that took nine hours to complete and a long two days that drained the finalists, the last few players seemed to have no energy remaining after such an intense double session of play.  A few of the final table players noted that this was as tough a finale as they had ever experienced.  At one point when play was five handed, it took four hours to eliminate a player.

In the end, Paguio was the only player standing – making that sitting – at the final table.  He defeated a bulldog-tough runner up, Rex Clinkscales, from Las Vegas.  Clinkscales had experienced a wild roller coaster on the final day, standing in 18th place (out of 18 players) at one point.  He had the chip lead at two late stages of the tournament, but was unable to overcome a fiercely focused and determined final adversary who proved that poker is far more than a game of cards.

Paguio’s story bears telling, as it’s an unusual path to a gold ring victory.  Now 33-years-old, Paguio was born in San Diego, where he still resides.  About 12 years ago, he began playing poker seriously.  In fact, he was a professional pool player for a number of years, competing in the billiards parlors around Southern California.  Paguio doesn’t’ care for the term hustler, but he pretty much made his living from late night confrontations on a different kind of green felt, aside from the poker table.  He recalls his biggest pool game, which he played for $4,000. 

When asked which of the two is tougher – poker or pool – Paguio stated pool was a tougher game to master since it requires not just mental prowess, but remarkable physical ability and skill, as well.  Then, there’s the psychological mastery of getting lesser-skilled players to play for money (remember, it’s not “hustling” if the sucker is willing to make the bet).  In a sense, overcoming the odds of a final table at a major poker tournament pales in comparison to the grueling daily life of a pool player.

When asked about how realistic the classic film “The Color of Money” is to the game of pool, Paguio revealed that it was right on.

Perhaps after winning a few more poker tournaments, he’ll be better qualified to discuss “Rounders.”


The first of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Thursday with Event #1 – a $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament attracted 331 entries.  The total prize pool came to $96,321.  The top 37 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

Among those who were Michael Souza, the bombastic San Diego poker pro, who currently owns three WSOP Circuit gold rings.  This marked his 23rd time to cash on the Circuit, which places him in the top-20 all-time.  Souza took 16th place.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #1 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  Only about 5 percent of the starting field -- 18 survivors -- took seats on the second day of action, played on Friday.

Following two hours of play on Day Two, the final table was set.  Oddly enough, Rex Clinkscales, who had returned to Day Two as the player lowest in chips out of 18 players, arrived among the final ten as the chip leader.

The final table featured no former WSOP Circuit gold ring winners.  Hence, a first-time champion was guaranteed.  A few of the players were experienced professionals who had enjoyed previous tournament success.  But virtually all of the nine finalists were searching for their first live major tournament win.

The final playing session began at 4:30 pm local time.  Play finished at 1:30 am making the total duration about nine hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

9th Place – Mark Austria was the ninth-place finisher.  He is a 29-year-old student from Moreno Valley, CA.  Austria previously served in the U.S. Navy.  This was his first time to play in a WSOP Circuit tournament.  His best previous showing in a poker event was a third-place finish recently at the nearby Pechanga Casino.

8th Place – Dan Natarelli ended up in eighth place.  He is a 43-year-old IT professional from Simi Valley, CA.  Natarelli has an impressive record of finishes in WSOP-related tournaments – including 13 combined cashes.  His best showing was a second-place finish earlier this season at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.  Natarelli is active on a poker website called -- stackemcoaching.com

7th Place – Christopher Daniel took seventh place.  He is a 25-year-old student and pharmacy technician from Tempe, AZ.  This was his first time to play in a WSOP-related tournament, which makes his final table appearance in this tournament all the more impressive. 
6th Place – Jason Jacintho finished in sixth place.  He is a 36-year-old research assistant from San Diego.  For a part-time player, Jacintho has posted some powerful results.  He estimates to have played in only about ten WSOP Circuit tournaments, yet already has a 6th, 4th, and 2nd place finish.  He also had two cashes at the 2010 WSOP in Las Vegas.
5th Place – Steve Crockett took fifth place, after five-handed play lasted a mind-numbing four hours.  He is a 61-year-old former construction supervisor from Costa Mesa, CA.  This was Crockett’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.  He earned more than five-grand.
4th Place – Andrew Sapiro finished in fourth place.  He is a 24-year-old student and part-time worker who aspires perhaps to play poker professionally.  Sapiro resides in Alamo, CA.  This was his second major cash this year on the WSOP Circuit, following a second-place showing at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.   

3rd Place – Randy Reyes ended up in third place.  He is a 32-year-old IT professional from San Diego.  This was only the third WSOP tournament Reyes has played, so his third-place finish was most satisfying. 

2nd Place – Rex Clinkscales was the runner up.  He performed extraordinarily well, considering his chip stack at various stages of the tournament.  In fact, Clinkscales had no business anywhere near the final table, based on his earlier chip counts.  But if ever there was a player who showed what’s possible with a short stack, it was Clinkscales who put on a master clinic.  He ultimately lost the chip lead late during heads up play, losing two brutal hands late in the tournament which resulted in second place.  Nonetheless, this was his 12th cash in the WSOP Circuit this season – which leads all players.

When heads-up play began, Randy Paguio enjoyed a significant chip advantage over Rex Clinkscales.  But the underdog proved to have a real bite.  Clinkscales reversed the chips in his favor and was a card away from victory at one point.  The battle went back and forth before Paguio got the final rush of cards which propelled him to victory.  The final hand came about an hour into the duel and proceeded as follows:


Clinkscales pushed all in after he flopped flush draw.  Paguio called with top pair.  Clinkscales missed his club (flush), whil Paguio improved to three kings on the river.  He was declared the new champion.

1st Place – Randy Paguio became the first WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He won his biggest payout ever – totaling $21,844 for the victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring – which he dedicated to his late mother (Ruth).

With his victory, Paguio 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 Harrah’s Rincon’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 Main Event championship (to be held March 24-26).

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 Harrah’s Rincon continues through March 26th.  This year’s schedule includes not only all the gold ring events, but multiple second-chance tournaments, single table and mega satellites, plus cash games going around the clock inside the action-packed poker room



The Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, nestled in the cool mountains 45-miles away from sunny San Diego, is jointly owned and operated by the Rincon San Leandro Band of Indians and Caesars Entertainment.

Harrah’s Rincon has been one of only three flagship Caesars Entertainment properties which have hosted a tour stop during each and every season, since the WSOP Circuit was launched back in 2005.

This year’s “12 Rings in 12 Days” series is taking place March 15-26.  As has been the case for all previous major poker events, all action is held inside an expansive grand ballroom located on the first floor, adjacent to the main casino.

Harrah’s Rincon is widely considered to be one of most upscale properties on the WSOP Circuit.  The casino and poker room draws mostly from the Los Angeles and San Diego areas.  The hotel has 662 rooms and a 21-story tower.  The casino has 2,000 slot machines and 61 gaming tables – including a poker room with 11 tables located on the second floor and pool deck.  The hotel and resort includes a health spa and the Woods Valley Golf Club.

This will be the 14th out of 17 stops of the 2011-2012 World Series of Poker Circuit season.  Just two months ago, The Bicycle Casino (Los Angeles) became the second California casino to partner with the WSOP Circuit, following Harrah’s Rincon’s lead, years earlier.

Harrah’s Rincon is an easy drive from just about anywhere in Southern California.  The luxury resort is located north of San Diego off of Interstate 15 and is about a two-hour drive from Downtown Los Angeles.  Las Vegas is about a four-hour drive.  The casino is located close to the cities of Temecula and Escondido (CA).  Harrah’s Rincon is about an hour away from the San Diego International Airport.  Multiple direct flights are available from just about anywhere in the country.  As a major hub of Southwest Airlines, San Diego offers many bargain airfares.

Poker players with spouses and friends are encouraged to consider Harrah’s Rincon as the ideal destination to mix poker with many leisurely resort activities.  San Diego, with 70-degree weather, is one of America’s most popular tourist destinations.

With the current season now winding down, there's a lot at stake for poker players who make their way to Harrah’s Rincon.  Not only are a dozen gold rings up for grabs, lots of prize money will also be awarded to those who cash.  All players who finish in the money will also earn ranking points, which are used to determine finalists for the season-ending WSOP Circuit National Championship.
Since the season began in September, all tournament players have been in the running for 100 guaranteed pre-paid seats in the $1 million WSOP Circuit National Championship finale – which will be a WSOP gold bracelet event to be played in Las Vegas – July 6-7 (final table to be played July 11th)..

To see the complete Harrah’s Rincon tournament schedule, please visit here.

Stay tuned to WSOP.com for the latest reports and updates from Harrah’s Rincon.  WSOP.com will carry a LIVE VIDEO STREAM of every final table, starting most afternoons.