Brandon Cantu Dominates $1K Buy-In and Collects First Gold Ring

Rincon Reservation, CA (March 25, 2012) – Brandon Cantu made a mockery out of the latest World Series of Poker Circuit tournament played at Harrah’s Rincon, near San Diego.

While most of the field was intently focused on every single table movement, playing ultra-serious poker, Cantu spent much of his day in quite an opposite frame of mind, bouncing in and out of his seat sweating basketball games.  Cantu's afternoon and evening pretty much consisted of running between his tournament table and several television screens around the poker room, which were showing the latest college basketball games and scores.  No doubt, Cantu had more than just a casual rooting interest in the sporting contests.

One of the many commandments of winning poker is never to play when distracted or upset.  All poker books advise against playing while partaking in things like watching sports -- which can be a monumental diversion away from playing one’s best game.

But don’t tell that to Brandon Cantu.  He departed his seat dozens of times, chattered incessantly about his various bets with others in the room (including those who report on poker tournaments), and spent considerable time sweating first-halves, second-halves, overtimes, totals, and game lines to their thrilling, and hopefully profitable conclusion.  Based on outward appearances, the last thing Cantu appeared to be concerned with was the poker tournament he was engaged in.

Of course, as has happened many times in his poker career, Cantu defied all logic.  He not only outlasted each and every one of the far more serious and focused players around him, he ended up (you guessed it) winning the tournament.  Shredding all the good advice that’s been written about paying close attention to the game, he collected $27,004 in prize money.  It’s wasn’t a huge score in the Cantu radar screen of multiple six-figure wins.  But, it was a profitable, seemingly effortless day.  The latest champion was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

Cantu, now age 30, lives in Las Vegas.  He is a two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner.  Cantu won his first title in 2006 ($1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em).  His second victory came in 2009 ($1,500 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha High-Low Split).  With his latest victory, which was only his second time to cash on the WSOP Circuit, Cantu now has nearly $1.8 million in career WSOP earnings.

Despite his impressive record and unbridled success in WSOP events, Cantu is widely remembered in the public eye for his 20th-place finish in the 2008 Main Event Championship – a remarkable feat, albeit bittersweet disappointment.  At the time, Cantu was regarded as one of the favorites (if not the favorite) to win the world championship when play reached the final three tables.  But Cantu ended up busting out, which only emboldened his reputation as a wild and unpredictable player.

No doubt, nothing that took place at Harrah’s Rincon the last few days is going to change that image.  Not his first WSOP Circuit title victory.  Not busting out fellow gold bracelet winner Gavin Smith at the final table.  Not destroying the field in near-record time – turning a tournament that was scheduled to go two days into just one.   

Cantu’s impressive victory was not admired by everyone.  Gavin Smith, who finished fourth, said Cantu was very fortunate to win.  Smith stated that he entered play at the final table ranked dead last in chips and had a chance to seize the chip lead when play became four-handed.  Smith told of his final fateful hand late in the tournament against Cantu when he flopped two pair – which sadly did not hold up.

Smith relayed his bad beat story the following day to a group of bystanders gathered around the tournament area.  All that’s known about the hand is that Smith flopped two pair.  The rest of the details are fuzzy since no one stuck around long enough to hear the rest of the bad beat story.


The tenth of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Friday with Event #10 – a $1,080 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament attracted a modest field size of 87 entries.  The total prize pool came to $84,730.  The top nine players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #10 can be seen here.

Cantu became the tenth WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s Rincon.  With his victory, Cantu 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 one win, plus 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
EVENT #10:  Brandon Cantu (Las Vegas, NV) defeated 87 players in $1,080 NLHE

With the tenth tournament wrapped up, there are only two 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.