Alex Masek doesn't usually travel far from his home in Los Angeles for poker tournaments. With The Bike and Commerce in his neighborhood and Rincon/San Diego and Bay101/San Jose nearby, he doesn't need to go far. But he decided to come to St. Louis and the Circuit stop at Lumiere Place to try to pick up some points to qualify for the National Championship.
He picked up more than just points. He picked up his record-setting eighth WSOP Circuit ring and $19,474, winning the $365 Buy-in Six Max No Limit Hold'em event. His heads-up opponent, Phil Stelzer, was nearly two and a half times his age. At 72 years young, Stelzer proved he could still compete with the youngsters who are taking over the game. He came to the final table as the chip leader, but Masek took the chip lead from him in the first few minutes of play with nut flush over second-nut-flush.
Masek held that chip lead as his opponents were taking out the competition. When Masek took out Sean Stevens in 3rd place, he held more than a 4:1 lead. Stevens has one Circuit ring from Choctaw in January and was the only other ring-bearer at this final table.
Stelzer, who was the Casino Champion here in 2011 when this was Harrah's St. Louis, kept trying to battle back, but couldn't get any traction. On the final hand, all the chips went in on the turn and Stelzer was drawing dead with two pair against Masek's trips. The final table played out in about four hours and the heads-up battle was the last 45 minutes of that.
This event was the largest non-re-entry event of this series with 245 players. The total prize pool came to $73,500 and the top 27 players made the money. Among those missing the final table was John Holley, who owns 2 WSOP Circuit rings. He finished 10th for $1,587. Daniel Rivera, who picked up his first Circuit ring in Tunica in January, finished in 14th place ($874).
The eighth ring pushes Masek ahead of Chris Reslock, who has a bracelet and seven rings spread across a career that spans numerous decades. For Masek, this Circuit success only began in 2009. Since winning his first ring at Rincon almost five years ago to the day, Masek has picked up at least one ring every year, proving himself as the most consistent player on the Circuit, despite playing at significantly fewer stops than his competitors. If you average them out, Masek has won a ring roughly every 7.5 months even though he only plays three or four stops a season.
Masek grew up here in the St. Louis area, which is why he decided to come here to try for more points. He arrived with 55 and picked up another 50 for the win, giving him a total of 105. That puts him in the top 50 on the National Leaderboard, but near the bottom and in danger of getting bumped. He's going to stick around and play some more events, including the Main Event, which starts tomorrow.
Masek's Circuit victories span across five properties, with most of them coming in Southern California. His most successful stop has been Harrah's Rincon, where he picked up three wins, but he also has two wins at The Bike, a win in Atlantic City, and a win in Lake Tahoe. Not only was this eighth ring special because it was one for the record books, it was special to Masek for where it took place, something he noted on his Twitter account @pujolsofpokr:
Here is the final table results for Event 7 at Lumiere Place:
1st: Alex Masek - $19,474
2nd: Phil Stelzer - $10,045
3rd: Sean Stevens - $9,369
4th: Brant Graves - $5,884
5th: Scott Hall - $4,178
6th: Marsha Adams - $2,996
And here is a look at Masek's long list of Circuit wins:
3/31/2009 - $230 No Limit Hold'em for $9,564 at Harrah's Rincon
3/7/2010 - $340 No Limit Hold'em for $39,372 at Caesars Atlantic City
3/11/2011 - $345 No Limit Hold'em for $22,794 at Harveys Lake Tahoe
11/16/2011 - $345 No Limit Hold'em for $15,236 at Harrah's Rincon
12/6/2012 -$365 No Limit Hold'em for $15,989 at The Bicycle Casino
1/11/2013 - $365 Turbo No Limit Hold'em for $15,905 at The Bicycle Casino
12/11/2013 - $365 No Limit Hold'em for $12,231 at Harrah's Rincon
3/26/2014 - $365 Six-Handed No Limit Hold'em for $19,474 at Lumiere Place