In the life of a poker grinder, things don’t always work out exactly as planned. Sometimes though, they work out in way that is better than you could have ever imagined.

That is exactly what happened to Johnny Donnelly at the Horseshoe Bossier City Circuit series. Donnelly, a 43-year old poker professional, regularly makes the drive from his hometown of Dallas, TX to Bossier City, LA to play no-limit cash games every weekend.  While primarily a cash game player, Donnelly does play occasional tournaments in the area when cash games aren’t running. Little did he know, playing in two events at Circuit series this past few weeks would lead him to a seat in the 2014 WSOP National Championship to be played in May in Atlantic City.

In his poker career, Donnelly had never cashed in a WSOP Circuit event. That changed halfway through the Horseshoe Bossier City series when he played Event 6, a $365 No-Limit Hold ‘em event. A total of 183 players entered the event with only 13 advancing to Day 2.

Donnelly was in the middle of the pack going into the second day of action. The final day of play took only four hours to complete and Donnelly was able to work his way up the results page with a third place finish for $6,367.  A short-lived run in the Bossier City Main Event left Donnelly the opportunity to play Event 11, another $365 No-Limit Hold ‘em. The event kicked off on Sunday so Donnelly happened to still be in town to play cash.

A total of 145 players entered the event and the action on Day 1 was incredibly fast. When the dust settled on Day 1, only five players remained. Donnelly held a monster chip lead coming into Day 2, with 810,000, good for more than half the chips in play.

Before play started on Day 2, Donnelly talked with friends and came to the realization that he had a shot at the Casino Championship. Combined with the 30 points he earned for his third place finish, a victory would put him at 80 points. This would place him in the lead, ahead of Dale Roesel, who had 72.5 points.  A win would also make it impossible for the two players still in the Main Event and drawing live at the seat, Jason Lang and Jeff Niedelman, to catch him.

Once play kicked off on Day 2 of Event 11, it didn’t take long for Donnelly to take care of business. In just over an hour of play, Donnelly came out victorious and earned $12,181 plus his first Circuit ring.  More importantly, he added 50 points to Casino Champion points total, giving him 80 points overall and the lead. Despite taking the lead on the final day of play at Bossier City, Donnelly knew he did not have the title locked up yet.

“I knew that there were two player who were deep in the last event that had a chance to at least tie me, if not get more points,” Donnelly said of the points race.

Donnelly stayed in the tournament area to watch the end of Event 12. With just two tables remaining, two players had a shot at taking over the Casino Champion points lead from Donnelly.
Russell Belt had 72.5 points going into the last event and need to finish 10th or better.  With 12 spots cashing Belt fell just short of the money and his shot at overtaking Donnelly.  That left just Andy Robinson, who had won a ring earlier in the series.  Robinson need a third place finish or better to overtake Donnelly.  A third place finish would give Robinson 80 points as well, but Robinson would win the tie-breaker having won more prize money.  However, Robinson ended up being knocked out in 11th place and Donnelly locked up the Casino Champion points race late in the day. 
“It was stressful knowing that I was so close to winning,” Donnelly mentioned after locking up the WSOP National Championship seat. “But, it felt great once it was over and I knew I won.”
Despite not even considering having a shot at the automatic seat until the final event, Donnelly could not have been more excited about earning his shot to play in Atlantic City in May.
“It means a lot to me. I want to go and do well,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly, who strives to be a successful as his favorite poker player, Scotty Nguyen, will have a shot in the biggest tournament of his life now.
“It will be exciting and it means more that I earned it at my home casino,” Donnelly mentioned on winning the seat here in Bossier City.  
Come May, Donnelly will be channeling his inner Scotty Nguyen at the WSOP National Championship in Atlantic City. Good luck baby!