Winning the Casino Championship title at any given stop on the World Series of Poker Circuit is no easy feat. Winning the title back-to-back at the same stop? Almost unthinkable. And yet, that’s exactly what 27-year old Juan Mendoza accomplished at Harrah’s Cherokee.
Mendoza took down this esteemed honor last year after making three final tables and finishing runner-up in two of those events.
“Last year, Harrah’s Cherokee was actually the first time I had played a WSOP Circuit stop,” Mendoza said. “After winning at seat to the WSOP National Championship, the next stop was New Orleans and then I went to Biloxi. I don’t travel the Circuit regularly. Hopefully, very soon, I will be planning on playing at a lot more stops.”
Despite not being a traveling grinder of the Circuit, Mendoza once again brought focus and dedication to the Cherokee series, cashing in a total of four events. Two of Mendoza’s cashes were final table appearances, with his highest finish a sixth place in Event 9: $365 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo.
Following up his stellar performance in the preliminary events, Mendoza went on to make a run at the Main Event. Despite coming into Day 2 of the Main Event with a short stack, Mendoza was able to grind throughout the day and make the final two tables. Eventually, Mendoza was eliminated from play in 14th place, but this deep run was enough to seal the deal and once again secure him a seat among the Circuit’s elite.
While Mendoza admittedly does not play very many live tournaments, his final table appearance in the first event of the series led to him focusing on nothing other than once again winning the Casino Championship.
“Before Cherokee this year, I had not played any live tourneys,” said Mendoza. “This stop was very crucial for me. My main goal was to be profitable and prove myself that I actually had it in me. Winning the Casino Champion title back-to-back was a very remote possibility. I drove for seven hours, jumped into Event #1, and final tabled. After Day 1, winning the Casino Champion title was the only thing on my mind.”
Now that Mendoza has locked up his seat, he’s looking for redemption on the National Championship felt. Mendoza did not cash last year and hopes to come into this year more focused and prepared.
“The Championship did not go so well,” said Mendoza. “I lacked a lot of experience and confidence. I made a lot of mistakes…which ultimately led me to be unprepared and not ready for such a huge shot to win $350K. This year, I am just going to try to get it in with the best hand and hope for the best.”
Here’s a look at Mendoza’s results during this series:
Event 1: $365 No-Limit Hold’em – 7th place - $6,472
Event 6: $365 No-Limit Hold’em Six-Handed – 24th place - $1,117
Event 9: $365 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo – 6th place - $4,695
Event 11: $1,675 Main Event – 14th place - $12,519