Nearly 500 Players Pack St. Patrick’s Day Tournament at Harrah’s Rincon

Rincon Reservation, CA (March 18, 2012) – Dan Natarelli had it coming.  The IT professional from Simi Valley, CA had participated in at least 25 World Series of Poker Circuit tournaments so far, by his estimation.  He previously made two final tables.  Natarelli even came close to winning one time, finishing second in the Main Event earlier this season at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.  But the thrill of ultimate victory seemed like an elusive dream that remained a fleeting fantasy.

During the rigors of the latest WSOP Circuit tournament held at Harrah’s Rincon, near San Diego, Natarelli found himself more concerned with the National Championship points race.  Sitting on 70 points coming in, and needing perhaps another 30 or so points to be guaranteed a seat in the $1 million tournament at season’s end, Natarelli repeatedly asked those around him how many points he would get with each incremental move up the money ladder.

In the end, none of this mattered, as Natarelli got the maximum payback -- in terms to ranking points, prize money, and a gold ring.  Indeed, Natarelli got it all, and will most certainly be among those in the championship finale.

Natarelli’s tournament win was memorable, an experience he will cherish no doubt for years to come.  First of all, he won what was indisputably the toughest tournament yet, at least in terms of size.  Natarelli outlasted 487 other players, which was no small feat. 

Moreover, Natarelli beat one of the WSOP Circuit’s best players in heads up play.  He outfoxed venerable pro David Clark, denying him what would have been a third gold ring title.  The satisfaction of defeating as good a player as Clark made victory all the sweeter.

Natarelli collected $30,182 in prize money – quite a score for two days of “work.”  But the ring and the thrill of victory seemed to matter most to the 43-year-old high-tech professional who has been a recreational player for most of his life.  Alas, Natarelli can now return home to his wife and proudly show off the wares of his victory.  Mrs. Natarelli won her own victory a few years ago in an event in Los Angeles.

Following the tough win, the poker room looked like a barren battlefield after all the shots had been fired and all tools of war had been exhausted.  It was 6:30 am and all that remained around him where dozens of empty tables and a defeated David Clark staggering away as the tournament’s final casualty.  Surrounding him was golden silence.  The mood was almost spiritual.

Sometimes, good things do happen to good people.  Sometimes justice prevails.  Sometimes, perseverance pays off – a veritable truth Dan Natarelli now knows too well. 


The fourth of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Saturday with Event #4 – a $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament attracted 487 entries, who braved a rainstorm and made it to the St. Patrick’s Day event.  The total prize pool came to $141,717.  The top 54 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #4 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days – including a Day One re-start with two playing sessions.  There were 80 survivors who took seats on the second day of action, played on Sunday.

Following several hours of play on Day Two, the final table was set.  Adrian Lopez arrived among the final ten as the chip leader.  But several talented players were close on his heels.

Seat 1 – David Clark with 708,000 in chips
Seat 2 – Chris Shadron with 261,000 in chips
Seat 3 – Michael DeGroot with in chips
Seat 4 – Dan Natarelli with 554,000 in chips
Seat 5 – Rene Luna with 628,000 in chips
Seat 6 – Randy Podolsky with 375,000 in chips
Seat 7 – Grant Foster with 700,000 in chips
Seat 8 – Adrian Lopez with 725,000 in chips
Seat 9 – Connor Cronkite with 331,000 in chips
Seat 10 – Sean Burson with 423,000 in chips

The final playing session began at 9:30 pm local time.  Play finished at 6:30 am making the total duration about nine hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

10th Place – Randy Podolsky finished in tenth place.  He is a 47-year-old real estate investor from Rancho Santa Fe, CA.  This was only the second WSOP Circuit event Podolsky has played.  His home cardroom is Oceans 11, in Oceanside.  Podolsky says he “loves to play poker,” but “hates to pay taxes.”  His tax bite won’t be too bad on the $2,259 score.

9th Place – Connor Cronkite ended up in ninth place.  He took two horrific beats late and exited the final table quickly.  In fact, Cronkite’s two beats were so bad, every single player at the final table stood up to shake his hand (a rarity in poker).  Cronkite is a 21-year-old poker pro and student from Erie, PA.  He has several online wins, including a few scores for upwards of $70,000.  But he is just now venturing into live games and tournaments, due to age.  Cronkite is also an avid golfer, having won the team state championship in gold (Pennsylvania).  He also played golf in college.  Ninth place paid $2,900.

8th Place – Chris Shadron was the eighth place finisher.  He is a 29-year-old software test engineer from San Diego.  This was the first WSOP Circuit event Shadron has ever played.  He collected $3,519.

7th Place – Adrian Lopez was the seventh-place finisher.  He is a 26-year-old civil engineer from San Diego.  Lopez is the proud father of two who made his best run in a WSOP-related tournament with this finish.  He collected $4,485 in prize money.
6th Place – Sean Burson finished in sixth place.  He is a 42-year-old contractor from Hidden Valley, CA.  Burson was the most colorful and demonstrative player at the final table.  He enjoyed his many dramatic moments.  At one point, Burson took a brutal beat and was left with only a few chips.  But he managed to double up and then triple up, climbing back into contention.  But Burson ultimately ran into David Clark’s big hand and was eliminated.  Burson received $5,797 in prize money.
5th Place – Rene Luna came in fifth place.  He is a 36-year-old architect from Tepic, Mexico.  Luna is one of several Mexican nationals who have already cashed this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He also became the highest finisher from his home country.  This marked his third time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  Fifth place paid $7,599. 
4th Place – Michael DeGroot was the fourth-place finisher.  He is a 26-year-old assistant manager for AT&T.  He was disconnected during the sixth hour of play.  DeGroot was previously a professional video game player.  He specialized in a game called Madden.  This was his best showing yet in a WSOP-related tournament.  Fourth place paid $10,105.

3rd Place – Grant Foster came in third place.  The man with one of the coolest names in poker is a 51-year-old chiropractor from San Diego.  The father of three has also played in three WSOP Circuit events, appropriately enough taking third place.  He collected a well-deserved $13,631.

2nd Place – David Clark put in two grueling days of poker playing and was rewarded with $18,659.  But he barely missed on getting what would have been a second WSOP Circuit gold ring.  Clark was visibly flustered by the course of events.  Even the victor later acknowledged the deck hit him with a flurry of good cards late in the match. 

Nonetheless, Clark had reason to be proud.  This marked his eighth cash this season, and 18th time in the money for a WSOP Circuit event.

When heads-up play began, Clark enjoyed a slight chip advantage.  But Natarelli won just about every late showdown and ended up with what some may consider an upset victory.  The final hand came only about 90 minutes into the duel and proceeded as follows:


Natarelli had Clark completely dominated pre-flop, and then left him drawing deal by the turn.  Natarelli improved on the river to make three aces, a fitting exclamation point to a riveting victory versus a fine player.

1st Place – Dan Natarelli became the fourth WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He won $30,182 for the victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring.  This marked his second cash this season on the Circuit, following a runner-up finish in the championship finale at Lake Tahoe, last November.

With his victory, Natarelli now shares the top spot alongside the previous three event winners (#1, #2, and #3) as the early leaders 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).

Here is the list of winners from Harrah’s Rincon, so far:

EVENT #1:  Randy Paguio (San Diego, CA) defeated 331 players in $345 NLHE
EVENT #2:  Dean Buchanan (Kirkland, WA) defeated 155 players in $555 NLHE
EVENT #3:  Patrick Schulze (Glendora, CA) defeated 100 players in $345 NLHE
EVENT #4:  Dan Natarelli (Simi Valley, CA) defeated 487 players in $345 NLHE

With the fourth tournament wrapped up, there are still eight 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 Luiseno 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)..

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.