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California players thrive at the first stop of the new Circuit season 

August 15, 2017 (Cherokee, NC) - The first stop of the 2017/2018 WSOP Circuit season wrapped up on Monday evening with Harry Arutyunyan winning the $1,675 no-limit hold'em main event. Arutyunyan won $283,597, his first Circuit ring and a seat into next year's Global Casino Championship thanks to his victory. 

His close group of friends had a very successful series as well and California players as a whole enjoyed a profitable series.

Todd Mercer won the Casino Championship and joins Arutyunyan as the first two players qualified for next year's GCC. The first 12 ring events of the season are in the books and the next stop gets underway in just a few days in Connecticut at Foxwoods.

Completed Events

Event #1 - Todd Mercer defeats a field of 2,482 players to earn $121,495 in $365 No-Limit Hold'em Re-Entry
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #2 - Trey Walton defeats a field of 356 players to earn $24,569 in $365 Pot-limit Omaha
| Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #3 - Nikhil Gera defeats a field of 659 players to earn $40,354 in $365 No-Limit Hold'em Turbo
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #4 - Jordan Meltzer defeats a field of 307 players to earn $36,072 in $580 No-Limit Hold'em
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo 

Event #5 - Ryan McAllister defeats a field of 555 players to earn $40,793 in $365 no-limit hold'em six-max
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #6 - Matthew Kerr defeats a field of 417 players to earn $27,526 in $365 no-limit hold'em one-day
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #7 - Robert Messer defeats a field of 1,186 players to earn $63,101 in the $365 no-limit hold'em monster stack
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #8 - Gregory Armand defeats a field of 514 players to earn $33,156 in the $365 no-limit hold'em single-day
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #9 - Scott Stewart defeated a field of 114 players to earn $63,399 in the $2,200 no-limit hold'em high roller
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #10 - Harry Arutyunyan defeated a field of 1,022 players to earn $283,597 in the $1,675 no-limit hold'em main event
Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #11 - Steven Ruighaver defeated a field of 524 players to earn $33,792 in the $365 no-limit hold'em turbo

Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

Event #12 - Collin Wilson defeated a field of 446 players to earn $29,429 in the $365 no-limit hold'em double stack turbo

Results | Official Report | Winner's Photo

  Casino Champion Update

Thanks to his five cashes, two final tables and one ring. Todd Mercer won the Casino Champion title at Harrah's Cherokee with 90 points. He fended off a late run by Trey Walton to win by just 5 points. 


About the Winners

Todd Mercer: Winner of Event #1

The opening event of the WSOP Circuit at Harrah's Cherokee went to a native North Carolinian. Todd Mercer, a salesman from Elon, NC came out on top of what will almost certainly be the biggest field of the event. Mercer defeated a field of 2,482 entries to take home his first Circuit ring and the biggest score of his poker career.

"It's just kind of a surreal moment," said Mercer after his victory. "It's something I've always wanted. I've worked pretty hard for it and it finally came through."

Mercer bagged up the chip lead on Day 1C of the four starting flight event and had a sizable chip lead over the final 117 players that returned for Day 2. He rode his stack to the final table and put on a dominating performance, accumulating every chip at the table in just over two hours. He defeated Mark Merrith heads-up. Merrith earned $75,103 for his runner-up finish.

"[There was] a little bit of pressure because the expectations were so high," said Mercer about taking a big chip lead into the final day. "It was a roller coaster today. I got down below my starting stack and then I built it back up. But once I got to the final table, everybody was pretty much even."

Trey Walton: Winner of Event #2

The poker pro from Georgia won his second career Circuit ring and the first one awarded this season in what is one of his best games. Walton play a lot of pot-limit Omaha cash games back in his hometown of Cartersville and it paid off in spades on Friday night.

After a back and forth heads-up battle with Andrew Harkey that lasted several hours, Walton got all the chips in the middle with two pair and a straight draw against Harkey's bigger straight draw. Harkey made Broadway on the turn, but Walton filled up on the river to win the pot and the ring.

"I've been getting really, really close lately," said Walton after his win. "Some seconds and some final tables and I just couldn't close it out. So, it feels good to finish it out. I'm ecstatic."

With Walton's win, he took an early lead in the race for Casino Champion, a title he won here in Cherokee two years ago.

Nikhil Gera: Winner of Event #3

Nikhil Gera qualified for the Global Casino Championship with his first ring win last December in the WSOP Circuit main event at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles. His automatic bid into the GCC is what brought him to Cherokee. He came out a few days early with some friends and his early arrival brought him his second ring and $40,534.

Kenton Payne, Gera's close friend from childhood, accompanied Gera on his trip to Cherokee and played the event with him. They both made the final table, but Payne finished seventh, while Gera continued on to victory. He defeated Ryan Reid in a see-saw heads-up battle. Reid took home $25,078 for his runner-up finish.

"It was a great tournament," said the Diamond Bar, CA native. "Heads-up was tough. I got really lucky like 10 times in this tournament. I guess you need to do that in turbos. I lost with aces and was down to like four big blinds when we had like 40 something people left. I didn't think this would happen. I was very fortunate."

Jordan Meltzer: Winner of Event #4

Meltzer is a 29-year-old poker pro from Delray Beach, FL and won his first ring in the $580 no-limit hold'em. He won $36,072 and the title, but he dedicated his win to his late friend and two-time ring winner Jonathan Abla.

"I just want everybody to know that I'm dedicating this to Jonathan Abla," said Meltzer.

Abla passed away just over a year ago and was a good friend of Meltzer. As a tribute to Abla, Metlzer held pocket jacks in his winner photo, instead of the pocket tens that finished off the tournament for him. Jacks were Abla's favorite hand.

Not only was the win Meltzer's first ring, but it was his first outright tournament win. He was recently heads-up in two other tournaments at different venues, but they ended in a chop. He got credit for first place, but this was the first time he actually accumulated all of the chips in play.

He defeated Vincent Moscati heads-up, denying Moscati his seventh career Circuit ring.

Ryan McAllister - Winner of Event #5

Ryan McAllister, an aspiring poker pro and current poker dealer, took down his first Circuit title in the $365 no-limit hold'em six-max event. He defeated a field of 555 entries to earn $40,793, which was the biggest score of his poker career.

The 27-year-old from Charleston, SC will use the score to propel him to bigger and better tournaments, hopefully with as much success as he earned in the six-max.

"It's good. It feels overdue, man," said McAllister. "I'm probably going to play the main [event] now. I don't see how I couldn't."

Of all the events on the schedule, McAllister singled out this one when he first put eyes on the series. His background online coupled with his poker skill made him feel like this was an event he could excel in.

"I was very excited for the six-max," he said. "I feel like there is more skill. I think the more skilled players are going to win. I used to play a lot of six-max online."

Matthew Kerr - Winner of Event #6 

The completion of the sixth event of the series marked the end of the first half of the WSOP Circuit stop at Harrah's Cherokee and the $365 no-limit hold'em single-day event came down to two friends from Knoxville.

Matthew Kerr and Thuan Ngo are both cash game grinders from there and it came down to a battle for home game bragging rights as well as the $27,256 and the Circuit ring. After an hour-long heads-up battle between the two friends and cash game pros, Kerr emerged victorious to secure his first big tournament score.

"It was awesome," said Kerr. "We were joking early on that we were going to play heads-up and it actually happened."

The 26-year-old didn't have plans to play the event. Jumping in the single day event came from a combination of peer pressure from his friends a lack of cash game options for Kerr to play.

"I wasn't even planning on playing today," said Kerr. "My roommate woke me up cause he wanted to play, so I walked down with him and happened to enter. The cash games looked slow, so I just decided to win."

With the win, Kerr expects that he will be playing more tournaments in the future. If for nothing else, in an attempt to win the Casino Champion crown at this stop and secure an automatic entry into next year's Global Casino Championship.

Robert Messer - Winner of Event #7

Robert Messer is a cash game pro from Tennessee that only had entered one tournament before he took a shot at the $365 no-limit hold'em monster stack. Messer bested a field of 1,186 to win $63,101 in just the second tournament he ever played.

"I play cash games all the time," said the Kingsport, TN native. "But not much tournaments for me."

Messer didn't have an easy road to earn his first title and cash. He defeated three-time ring winner Christopher Staats heasd-up. It was during heads-up play that Messer really took control of the things.

"Until we got heads-up, I was getting killed and wasn't catching anything," said Messer. "Then, we got heads-up and the cards changed and I was catching some pretty good hands."

 Gregory Armand - Winner of Event #8

Gregory Armand made one of the best comebacks in recent history on the Circuit to win his second career ring and $33,156 in the $365 no-limit hold'em single day event. Armand was down to less than a big blind at the outset of the final table, but ran hotter than the sun to come back and win the tournament.

He dedicated his second ring to his father, who he says taught him how to stay focused and motivated on his goals - which were traits he needed to use when he was on the very short stack.

"He always taught me to fight and never give up and just always be persistent," said the entrepreneur from Santa Barbara, CA. "And just always go after what you want. So even if I knew that I mathematically I was basically done, I just said that I would keep fighting and hope things turn around. That's all you can do in poker."

Armand dedicated his first ring, which he won last season in Lake Tahoe, to his mother who passed away of Cancer a few years ago. With the second ring, he was able to dedicate one title to each of his parents.

Scott Stewart - Winner of Event #9

Scott Stewart won his fifth career Circuit ring in the $2,200 no-limit hold'em high roller event for $68,399 after defeating a field of 114 entries. The milestone Circuit win comes just weeks after the biggest score of his career on the biggest stage in poker - a 13th place finish in the WSOP Main Event for $535,000.

The win in Cherokee is just a continuation of the heater that Stewart admits he has been on for nearly a year.

"The heater has been going on for a while," said Stewart. "10 months or so. The Main Event was an unreal experience. I don't think I've ever been as physically or mentally tired from a poker tournament in my life, but there was also adrenaline. It was unbelievable."

Stewart has been steadily climbing the all-time ring leaderboard over the last few seasons and is happy to have picked up another title after a few of his buddies passed him on the list.

"A couple friends that have passed me have been needling me about it and now that I've won a fifth, hopefully a couple more come. It's always good to start [the season] off with a bang."

Harry Arutyunyan - Winner of Event #10

Arutyunyan is a successful entrepreneur from Southern California with a proven track record in tournament poker. He flew down to Cherokee to sweat his friend, Sean Yu's, win in the 2017 Global Casino Championship and decided to take a shot at the main event while he was in town.

Arutyunyan defeated a field of 1,022 entries to win $283,597 and his first Circuit ring. He's one of two players to earn a spot in next year's Global Casino Championship thanks to his win in the main event.

"This is all to Sean Yu right there, for shipping the Global," said Arutyunyan after his win.

Steven Ruighaver - Winner of Event #11

Running two of his own businesses doesn't leave Steven Ruighaver much time to play poker, but that didn't stop him from taking down his first Circuit ring in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The Sumter, SC native defeated a field of 524 entries to win $33,792 in the $365 no-limit hold'em turbo event.

"I'm amazed, shocked, mind blown," said Ruighaver. "It's crazy."

The win comes at a great time for Ruighaver. Him and his wife just put a down payment on a house and the win more than covers what they just spent.

The win seemed improbable for him at one point during the final table. He was down to just one big blind and was able to spin his stack back up and accumulate all of the chips in play.

"A chip and a chair," said Ruighaver. "A chip and a chair and the grace of god."

Collin Wilson - Winner of Event #12

Wilson is a 45-year-old project manager from the Atlanta area that loves poker. He defeated a field of 446 entries to win the final preliminary event of the stop - the $365 no-limit hold'em double stack turbo. Wilson earned $29,429 for his first place finish and can now be on par with some of his poker playing friends.

"I have a lot of friends that have rings and I don't have one," said Wilson. "So, I needed one."

Wilson travels a lot and is active in the tournament poker scene, but lacked a single major accomplishment. For Wilson, the ring win is crowning achievement of his poker career thus far and it meant a lot for him to take it down.He defeated Tommy Garst to earn the hardware.

"It feels pretty good," said Wilson. "We I was heads-up, he asked me how much the ring meant to me and I said 'A lot. I got to have it.'"