Alexandru Masek Misses His Chance to Win Fifth Gold Ring

Rincon Reservation, CA (March 17, 2012) – Saturday was St. Patrick’s Day and Dean Buchanan did his best to celebrate the festive occasion in style.

He also ended up with a lot of green.

The 22-year-old professional poker player from Kirkland, WA won the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit event, held at Harrah’s Rincon, near San Diego.

Buchanan topped a relatively small but tough field of competitors, including a final table with some highly-accomplished players.  But the toughest opponent of all turned out to be John Piotrowski, who finished as the runner up.  In fact, the heads-up match between Buchanan and Piotrowski lasted nearly three hours, leaving both of the finalists in a near state of mental exhaustion.

For his victory, Buchanan collected $19,934 in prize money.  He was also rewarded with his first gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

There’s an old saying about nothing being more powerful than the “Luck of the Irish.”  But Buchanan, who proudly says he’s Scottish might insist, the Irish luck was overcome by Scottish skill.


Going into the final table, much of the excitement focused on Alexandru Masek, the local part-time poker player from San Diego, who is one of the WSOP Circuit’s most successful performers in recent years.  He had a chance to make poker history in this day, had he won what would have been his fifth World Series of Poker Circuit gold ring.

Masek arrived in the final ten with four WSOP Circuit victories.  He came close to a fifth win two months ago in The Bicycle Casino’s Main Event championship.  But he finished as the runner up to Freddy Deeb.  Masek is still attempting to join the all-time wins leader – Mark “Pegasus” Smith, from Georgetown, KY.

The 27-year-old recent law school graduate started the (unofficial) final table with an above average chip count.  But he ran into two tough beats early on and ultimately went out disappointing fashion – tenth place.

Another big name who made it to the finale was Jason DeWitt, who won a WSOP gold bracelet two years ago in Las Vegas.  He has amassed $1.4 million in WSOP-earnings alone and hoped to add to that figure with a deep run in this event.  But DeWitt busted out a few hands following Masek’s elimination and was forced to swallow the bitter pill of a ninth-place finish.  DeWitt, who is originally from Georgia, and now resides in the San Diego area, will certainly be a player to watch for the remainder of this tour stop.


The second of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Friday with Event #2 – a $555 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament attracted 155 entries.  The total prize pool came to $75,175.  The top 18 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #2 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  Only 12 survivors took seats on the second day of action, played on a rainy Saturday.

Following two hours of play on Day Two, the final table was set once Alexandru Masek hit the rail in tenth place.  John Piotrowski arrived among the final nine as chip leader – and ended up finishing second.

The final playing session began at 3 pm local time.  Play finished at midnight making the total duration about nine hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

9th Place – Jason DeWitt finished in ninth place.  The former WSOP gold bracelet winner ($5,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em – 2010) cashed for the second time on the WSOP Circuit, following a final table appearance at last year’s Regional Championship, held in Chicago.  DeWitt also has 13 cashes at the WSOP in Las Vegas.

8th Place – Stuart Pfeifer came in eighth place.  He is a reporter for the famed Los Angeles Times.  Pfeifer has enjoyed some success as a part-time player.  He has made three final tables this year alone – with previous deep runs at The Bicycle Casino and Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

7th Place – Tom Leach was the seventh-place finisher.  He is from Thousand Oaks, CA.  This marked his second time to cash on the WSOP Circuit.
6th Place – Chris Back finished in sixth place.  He is a 27-year-old poker player from Vancouver, BC (Canada).  Back has several major wins in online poker and is now making his mark in live tournament play, as well.  So far, he’s two cashes in two events here at Harrah’s Rincon (22nd in Event #1).
5th Place – Rich Lanes ended up in fifth place.  He is a 52-year-old mortgage broker from San Diego.  This was only the second WSOP Circuit Lanes has played, which makes his finish in this event all the more impressive.
4th Place – Mohammad Sotoudeh finished in fourth place.  He is a 48-year-old Iranian-born scientist now residing in San Diego.  This was his third WSOP Circuit entry and first time to cash.

3rd Place – Ronald Phipps came in third place.  He is a 33-year-old programmer from Santa Clarita, CA.  This was his best WSOP-related finish, following a fifth-place showing in a gold ring event last year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He’s also won a few events played elsewhere, including a victory at the Binion’s Classic in Las Vegas.  Interestingly, Phipps had a most unusual career several years ago.  He was a professional paintball player.

2nd Place – John Piotrowski proved to be tough as nails in the heads-up matchup, but ended up in second place.  The 49-year-old self-employed insurance agent from Tucson, AZ enjoyed his deepest run following a fifth-place finish in a previous event played here at Harrah’s Rincon.

When heads-up play began, Buchanan enjoyed a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Piotrowski.  But anyone who thought the final match would go fast might as well have gone out and seen a movie.  Perhaps even a double feature.  It took nearly 100 hands for Buchanan to accomplish the victory.   

1st Place – Dean Buchanan became the second WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He won $19,934 for the victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring.

With his victory, Buchanan moves into the top spot (tied for first place with Event#1 winner Randy Paguio) 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 second tournament wrapped up, there are still ten 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



Harrah’s Rincon hosted the tenth “RiverCard Quest for the Cup” poker tournament, which started and completed on the same day as World Series of Poker Circuit Events #2 and #3.

RiverCard has been marvelously successful as a local poker phenomenon, which is now branching into a regional force.  Sometime soon, organizers (Greg Whistler and Jim Page) hope to expand the brand nationally, and even internationally.

RiverCard, which is based in San Diego, is a collection of dedicated poker players who congregate at local casinos in order to fraternize and participate in a poker tournament.  At stake is a giant silver trophy, which resembles the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup.  Each tournament winner has his or her name inscribed on the base of the trophy.  There’s also some serious prize money for those who finish in-the-money.

RiverCard events are drawing an average of 200-300 players per event.  A Harrah’s Rincon casino executive praised the poker group, saying they tend to support other tournaments being held, as well. 

For more information about this group, visit:


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 1,600 slot machines and 51 gaming tables – including a poker room located on the second floor.  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 click here.

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