Sukhpaul Dhaliwal’s path to River Rock Casino Champion honors can be accurately described as a one-two punch. Thanks to a ring victory and a runner-up showing at last month’s Vancouver poker series, the Langley, British Columbia resident managed to punch his ticket to the 2014 WSOP National Championship in Atlantic City next May, not to mention bank over $40,000 in winnings as well as his first Circuit ring.

What started out as a disappointment ended up being a blessing in disguise for Dhaliwal. In the opening sellout event, Dhaliwal put together quite the run, getting heads-up for the ring with fellow BCer Vincent Wong. Dhaliwal came close to the glory in that event, even cracking Wong’s aces during heads-up action to put his opponent on the ropes. Wong rallied back though, claiming the victory and leaving Dhaliwal to settle for second place.

Fast forward just four days though and things looked much different for Dhaliwal, even though he was in a very familiar place. Once again heads-up for a ring, this time in the $580 buy-in Pot Limit Omaha event, Dhaliwal was up against a formidable foe, Marc Verhiel. Moreover, Dhaliwal once again began heads-up play with the chips in the other guy’s advantage. This time though, there would be no settling. Instead, Dhaliwal won his first ring, pocketed another $20,000 payday, and jumped out to a sizable lead in the Casino Championship contest. When asked what it felt like to notch first and second place finishes, Dhaliwal summed up the highs and lows of his week at River Rock:

“I was a little bit disappointed after the first one, but this just feels awesome. It feels really good to win. I’ve been running pretty good in tournaments, so I’m just happy. I’m happy to be here and happy that my friends are here."
It was a fast start for Dhaliwal and something to be proud of in and of itself. But, there was potential for even more, as his 87.5 points put him in good shape in the race for one of the two seats to the National Championship awarded at the Canadian venue. However, he would have to wait even longer than most to learn whether or not his performance would be enough, as this venue is one of two stops this season that features online ring events in addition to tournaments on property. Last season, these online events saw Sandra Wong surpass Idina Manzucco to take the honors.

This year, the online tournaments drew some solid numbers once again. The host site, PlayNow.com had 159 players take part in the $320 buy-in Event 11 and another 123 played in the $530 buy-n Event 12. In Event 11, Anthony Karim earned almost $13,000 and the ring for his victory, while in Event 12 Jean-Nicolas Fortin picked up $16,820 for his win.

There were some nice paydays awarded on PlayNow.com, but none of the finishes were enough to push players past Dhaliwal. So, almost a month after winning his ring, Dhaliwal received confirmation he won the Casino Championship as well. That puts the total number of Canadians qualified for May’s bracelet event at three, as Dhaliwal joins River Rock Main Event winner Lincoln Milne and Charles-Andrew Sylvestre, the Lac-Leamy Champ, as the lone non-American qualifiers so far. Last year, a record number of international players qualified for the American-heavy event, including eventual final tablist Nicolas Vaca-Rondon.

In a couple of days, we will learn who will be the fourth Canadian to qualify for the National Championship, as the results from the Espacejeux online ring events will be published to WSOP.com.