It was certainly a Happy New Year for Nathan Bjerno. The 24-year-old Canadian who now resides in Corona, California kicked off 2013 with a bang by winning Casino Champion honors at The Bicycle Casino Circuit event, held earlier this month.
Bjerno’s LA run began with a victory in Event 5, a $580 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event. Bjerno came to the final table in the middle of the pack, but his momentum kept building as he navigated his way to victory in less than three hours. He faced some stiff heads-up competition in the form of Zachary Fahmie. On the final hand of play, Bjerno flopped a winning full house to claim his first Circuit ring and over $20,000.
The hot streak continued for Bjerno during The Bike’s Main Event. Bjerno spent much of the middle stages of the tournament near the top of the chip counts and even came in to the third and final day of play with the chip lead. Early action on that third day was not kind to Bjerno though, and by the time the Day 3 starting group of 13 made it to the final table, Bjerno was one of the shortest stacks. He hung on for a while, but eventually busted in eighth place.
While the Main Event finish was likely a little disappointing for Bjerno, there was potential for a silver lining to the story. By virtue of making the final table, Bjerno took the lead in the Casino Champion contest from fellow ring winner Amir Ghazvinian. Even after busting, Bjerno still had a sweat though. The twelfth and final event of the series began at roughly the same time as the final table. With several points contenders in the field, Bjerno could only wait and watch as the field played down to the final seven over the course of the day.
Of the seven, one player could still catch the semi-professional poker player. Fellow Canadian David Pecaski had a big stack heading into Day 2 of the six-handed event and he would take Casino Champion honors with a victory. It was a rough day for Pecaski though, who saw his stack dwindle before he exited in fourth place.
Bjerno, who had been monitoring the Casino Champion progress via Twitter, could finally breathe a sigh of relief and start making plans for his upcoming trip to New Orleans for the 2013 WSOP National Championship presented by Southern Comfort 100 Proof.
Bjerno is the fourth Canadian so far this year to qualify for the typically American-heavy event, joining Hammond Casino Champ Mike Leah, River Rock Main Event winner John Crncic, and River Rock Casino Champ Sandra Wong. In 2011, there was only one non-American in the field, Adam Hui of Canada. Last year the 100 Circuit qualifiers featured three Canadians. With Bjerno’s seat, this year’s crop of National Championship qualifiers is already guaranteed to be the most international yet.