Romanian-born semi-pro joins Mark Smith, Kyle Cartwright and Kurt Jewell as the only five-time winners; trails all-time leader Alex Masek by three.
Biloxi, Miss. (September 9, 2014) — Valentin Vornicu etched his name further into the poker record books Tuesday at IP Casino Resort and Spa in Biloxi, Miss. The 31-year-old math tutor broke through for his fifth career Circuit win in Event 5, a $365 no-limit hold’em tournament, joining the likes of Mark Smith, Kyle Cartwright and Kurt Jewell as the tour’s only five-time champions.

In addition to the ring and a $12,231 score, the win moves Vornicu within shouting distance of the all-time ring leader Alex Masek who tops the record books with eight.

“[Each ring] is the same amount of excitement,” Vornicu said. “Every time is really exciting. I’m super stoked right now.”

Vornicu’s Circuit career started out hot, breaking through for a win in his first-ever cash at Horseshoe Hammond in 2011. He followed it up with another at Harrah’s Rincon in 2012 and then took a hiatus until 2014. While this is his first win of the season, impressively it’s his third of the calendar year. He carded wins at both the Bike and the Lodge toward the end of last season and continued his winning ways in Mississippi Tuesday night.

“I put a lot of hours in,” Vornicu said of his solid play. “I have good friends I talk hands with. I have my math background. [Poker] is just basically problem solving where you don’t have all the variables sometimes. It’s essentially a game of strategy – a game of skill. I’m to the point where I’ve got that skill and I’m using it now.”

The math background Vornicu mentioned comes from the fact he holds a masters degree in the subject and represented his home country of Romania at the International Math Olympiad earning a bronze medal. He even turned his math skill into a profession by helping start a tutoring site, A San Diego-based company purchased the site about eight year ago and Vornicu left Romania to make a life in the States. He continues to tutor for the site and runs his own math summer camp for gifted children.

Surely someone as mathematically sharp as Vornicu knows he wasn’t the odds-on favorite the entire tournament Tuesday at IP Biloxi. He began Day 2 with the chip lead, but slipped and found himself all-in at risk with eight players remaining. His ace-queen held against his opponent’s ace-jack, but that wouldn’t be the end of the sweat for the young semi-pro.

“With the exception of one, I was involved in every single all in at the final table,” Vornicu said. “I was all over. I was chip leader, then I was short stack, then I was at risk.”

With five players left Vornicu came out on the winning end of a three-way all-in that saw his pocket tens best the hands of Joseph Worth and John Richardson. After that, he held command of the table and it wasn’t long before Joshua Turner busted third and Danny Gray second.

“Five puts me up there,” Vornicu said of his place in the record books. “I’m coming after [the guys at the top].”

Event 5 was the fifth of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at IP Biloxi. The $365 no-limit hold’em event attracted 151 entries. The total prize pool came to $45,300 and the top 18 players were paid.

Follow the action from the 12-day series at

Final table results:

1st: Valentin Vornicu - $12,231
2nd: Danny Gray - $7,559
3rd: Joshua Turner - $5,441
4th: John Richardson - $3,988
5th: Joseph Worth - $2,974
6th: Robbie Betancourt - $2,257
7th: Ray Parker - $1,742
8th: Robert Lovell - $1,367
9th: Lee Jones - $1,090

Full results available on