Four-Time Gold Ring Winner Alexandru Masek Comes Up Short Again – Finishes Fifth

Rincon Reservation, CA (March 23, 2012) – Texans continue to dominate the World Series of Poker Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon.  Despite the thousand-mile separation, several Texas-based players have made the long trip west during the last two seasons, and have taken lots of prize money and gold rings back to the Lone Star State.  Native Californians have to look upon this as robbery.

The latest Texas bandit is John C. Harris, from Dallas.  He won the $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament, which was Event #9 at Harrah’s Rincon.  Harris collected $16,004 in prize money, plus his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

Harris became the second winner this week from Dallas, following Josh Evan’s victory two days earlier.  David Clark, another player from Dallas, finished second in an event played three days ago (and is still furious he did not win).  The two victories by Texans come one year after another pair of Dallas players absolutely dominated last year’s WSOP Circuit, played here at Rincon.  In March 2011, Seneca Easley (who is actually from the Dallas stepchild called "Fort Worth") won the Main Event.  His colleague Mstr Lunch (from Lake Lewisville) won two gold rings and the “Best All-Around Player” Honor.  Then, there's Justin Kruger, a.k.a. "Choctaw" who is from Dennison who won a gold ring, as well.  So, for those who are counting – six out of the last 19 gold ring events at Harrah’s Rincon have been won by players from the Dallas area – which is more than the host city of San Diego.  A joke about San Diego Chargers might be in order here if the Dallas Cowboys were not such an embarrassment.

Back to poker:  Harris is a 32-year-old former casino manager who is now aspiring to play tournament poker full-time.  For those who may be snickering at the prospect (many try and most fail), Harris’ game plan is grounded in a patient, one-step-at-a time process.  He makes modest goals and so far has achieved just about all of them.  He doesn’t dive into the biggest cash games or play over his head.  Instead, he treats the game as it should be treated by those who want to be successful at it – as a business.

Harris’ network of supporters and confidants includes a few names who might be recognizable to those who play in the WSOP Circuit -- such as David Clark (two-time gold ring winner) and La Sengphet (three-time gold ring winner) – who is (you guessed it)….also from Dallas.  Harris confided that they have provided lots of helpful advice about how to minimize expenses and maximize opportunity – which is not easy on today’s poker tournament trail.  So far, for all three of them, the plan seems to be working.

Harris has a cool personal story.  He departed his casino management job a few months ago, which was based in Bakersfield, CA.  He previously worked at the Venetian, in Las Vegas.  Before that, he dealt on the WSOP Circuit.  Harris saved up his money and with the support of his father, decided to attend a few WSOP Circuit events earlier this year.  He was encouraged by his results.  Accordingly, he decided to attend the San Diego series, where so many of his close friends have done well in the past.  Now, he has his own victory and has joined the club of champions – much to the chagrin of local poker players who must be perturbed by the Texas invasion. 
Most ironic of all is the fact Texas is pretty much a poker graveyard, where virtually no legal (casino) poker exists.  Just about everyone in the developing world that's grounded in the 21st Century is now embracing (or at least legalizing) poker.  Not Texas -- where the game the rest of the modern world plays was supposedly invented.  But that hasn't stopped the state with medieval gambling laws from producing many great players, including some of the games' greatest icons.

The final table won by Harris was watched closely by many who follow the WSOP Circuit.  Part-time tournament player Alexandru Masek had yet another chance to catch the all-time career wins leader, Mark “Pegasus” Smith (currently with five career victories).  But Masek ended up finishing in fifth place.  This was Masek’s third deep run in the last three months, following a second –place showing at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles (finishing as runner up to Freddy Deeb in the Main Event) and a tenth place finish in Event #2 here at Rincon four nights earlier.

Also of note was an in-the-money finish by Sam Barnhart, the defending WSOP Circuit National Champion.  He took 16th place in this event, which was his second time to cash here at Harrah’s Rincon.  Barnhart is inching closer to gathering enough point to defend his title, coming in July.


The ninth of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Thursday with Event #9 – a $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament attracted 220 entries.  The total prize pool came to $64,020.  The top 25 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #9 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  The final table was played on Day Two.  Chris Cronin arrived among the final ten as the chip leader.  But two rivals – Casey Stewart and Alexandru Masek -- were close on his heels.

Seat 1:  Anthony Ditomaso (San Diego, CA) – 152,000 in chips
Seat 2:  Casey “Sea Bass” Stewart (Canyon Country, CA) – 417,000 in chips
Seat 3:  Steve Buell (Oshkosh, WI) – 87,000 in chips
Seat 4:  John C. Harris (Dallas, TX) – 176,000 in chips
Seat 5:  Alexandru Masek (San Diego, CA) – 340,000 in chips
Seat 6:  Marc Dimla (Rancho Cucamonga, CA) – 32,000 in chips
Seat 7:  Micah Lambert (Oceanside, CA) – 35,000 in chips
Seat 8:  Emmanuel Desmarais (Montreal, QB) – 268,000 in chips
Seat 9:  Dale DaCruz (Warwick, RI) – 200,000 in chips
Seat 10:  Chris Cronin (Gilbert, AZ) – 493,000 in chips

The final table included only one former WSOP Gold ring winner – Alexandru Masek.

The final playing session began at 3:30 pm local time.  Play finished at 8:20 pm making the total duration nearly five hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

10th Place – Micah Lambert was the first player to go bust, finishing in tenth place.  He is 35-years-old and lives in Oceanside, CA.

9th Place – Marc Nelson Dimla exited in ninth place.  He is a 30-year-old visual merchandiser from Rancho Cucamonga, CA.  Dimla is originally from Japan. 

8th Place – Anthony Ditomaso finished in eighth place.  He is a 29-year-old system integrator from San Diego.  Ditomaso came close to winning a gold ring two months ago in an event at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, where he finished second.  Ditomaso couldn’t gain much traction at this final table, but did pick up some additional National Championship ranking points.  Ditomaso has now cashed three times at the Rincon series – 8th, 14th, and 18th.

7th Place – Dale DaCruz ended up as the seventh-place finisher.  He is a poker pro who plays regularly at the Foxwoods Casino, in Connecticut.  DaCruz is 47-years-old and resides in Warwick, RI.  He focuses primarily on cash games.  This was DaCruz’s first cash in a WSOP-related tournament since 2007, when he cashed in a tournament held at Caesars Indiana.

6th Place – Emmanuel Desmarais was the sixth-place finisher.  He is a 28-year-old poker pro from Montreal, Quebec (Canada).  Desmarais is primarily a cash-game player who plays online.  This marked his first time to play (and cash) in a WSOP-related tournament.  This was quite a debut performance for the Canadian.
5th Place – Alexandru Masek came in fifth place, which was a relative disappointment.  The four-time former winner missed a shot to make history, but could be pleased with his second final table appearance at this series.  Masek, a 27-year-old law school graduate plans to continue playing tournament poker part-time, but will focus much of his time and energy on the WSOP coming up this summer.  Masek has also earned enough points to likely qualify for the season-ending National Championship.

4th Place – Casey “Sea Bass” Stewart finished in fourth place.  He is a 26-year-old self-employed man from Canyon Country, CA.  Stewart now has third- and fourth-place finishes this season, after making a deep run at the Bicycle Casino, in January.  Stewart also has two cashes at the WSOP, in Las Vegas.

3rd Place – Steve Buell was the third-place finisher.  He is a 24-year-old poker pro from Oshkosh, WI.  This was his third time to cash on the WSOP Circuit.

2nd Place – Chris Cronin was the second-place finisher.  He is a 45-year-old owner, editor, and publisher.  He owns “Southwest Poker Player,” which is based in Arizona and largely covers the southwestern U.S. poker tournament scene.  Cronin has also served in management as a consultant to several major casinos.  Poker wise, he has several tournament wins, including the Winter Poker Classic in Arizona (which paid $50,000).  A victory would have been an even bigger feather in his cap.  But he had to settle for $9,892 in prize money as the runner up.

When heads-up play began, Harris enjoyed close to a 3 to 1 chip advantage.  He gradually increased his advantage and was up to about 5 to 1 when the tournament ended.  The final hand was dealt as follows:

Harris –    
Cronin –    
Flop –      
Turn –  
River –  

It’s not often than the loser of the final hand of the tournament has a full house.  But Cronin was left to play the board.  Harris ended up with jacks over kings, giving him the victory.

1st Place – John C. Harris became the ninth WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  He won $16,004 for the victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring.  This marked his third time to cash this season on the WSOP Circuit.

With his victory, Harris moved into contention as one of the leaders in this WSOP Circuit’s “Best All-Around Player” standings.  However, Jonas Mackoff leads all players at present, with 72.5 points – acquired from a win and another final table appearance. 

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
EVENT #5:  Delbert Ramos (Montebello, CA) defeated 159 players in TURBO
EVENT #6:  Jonas Mackoff (Vancouver, BC) defeated 197 players in $345 NLHE
EVENT #7:  Josh Evans (Dallas, TX) defeated 164 players in $345 6-HANDED
EVENT #8:  Corey Cutrell (Seattle, WA) defeated 139 players in $345 NLHE
EVENT #9:  John C. Harris (Dallas, TX) defeated 220 players in $345 NLHE

With the ninth tournament wrapped up, there are only three 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 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 for the latest reports and updates from Harrah’s Rincon. will carry a LIVE VIDEO STREAM of every final table, starting most afternoons.