A total of 13 players won a seat into the Tournament of Champions with $1M guaranteed

Cherokee, NC (December 7, 2021) - After an extended hiatus, the World Series of Poker Circuit came back on the scene and started at Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina. With 13 gold rings scheduled to be rewarded in 12 days, attendance was sure to be high at one of the larger stops on the Circuit.

The $1,700 Main Event attracted 1,375 entries across two starting flight, making up a record-breaking prize pool worth $2,083,125. It was Tennessee’s Donald Crabtree who ultimately took down the momentous event, pocketing $329,828, earning his first WSOP Circuit ring, and a seat into the Tournament of Champions.

Crabtree was visibly in shock after the final hand was complete, especially after having to deal with an unruly player in Youseff Aly. Aly continuously did his best to get under everyone’s skin at the Main Event final table.

“I had to keep my head clear, so I just stayed focused on what I was trying to do. I knew what he was trying to do… They try to intimidate you a lot. I’ve been on other tables where people try to intimidate you. So I just stay cool and do what I do,” explained Crabtree.

The newly crowned champion did just that, and defeated Scott Davis heads up for the title. The final hand saw Davis all in and at risk with a straight draw, up against Crabtree’s three-of-a-kind. Crabtree held and the rest is now history. Davis earned $203,849 for second place and will have plenty of opportunities to snag his first ring now that Circuits are back in action.

The opening, multi-flight event at Harrah’s Cherokee collected over $800,000 in prize money, surpassing the guarantee of $500,000. This was a clear indication the series was going to be a huge welcome back for the live Circuit. All guarantees were, for the most part, exceeded twice over.

Players got to compete for a piece of gold jewelry and a shot at a bid to the Tournament of Champions, which will be held during the 53rd annual WSOP in the summer of 2022. The event will feature a $1 million prize pool and coveted gold bracelet up top. New to this season, every official ring winner, both live and online, will be awarded an invitation to the prestigious freeroll. Starting in 2022, all bracelet events will also qualify respective winners.

The North Carolina Circuit stop also saw several multi-ring champions throughout the series. Blake Whittington won his seventh-career gold ring in Event #9: $1,100 No-Limit Hold’em. In total, Whittington made four final tables with a fourth place and two runner-up finishes for over $150,000 in cashes. Other players that added additional rings to their trophy cases included Matt Higgins (3), Russell Sullivan (3) and Justin Booth (2).

The 2021 Circuit series at Harrah’s Cherokee is all wrapped up, but a return is imminent. Along with a series scheduled for April of 2022, an added stop has been announced for Harrah's Cherokee, running from February 17 through 28, 2022.

Harrah’s Cherokee Main Event Final Table Results:

1st place: Donald Crabtree - $329,828
2nd place: Scott Davis - $203,849
3rd place: Asaf Ben Shushan - $154,985
4th place: Youseff Aly - $118,780
5th place: Adam Ross - $91,770
6th place: David Mzareulov - $71,480
7th place: Scott Reginatto - $56,134
8th place: Rohit Kwatra - $44,449
9th place: Jayson Henderson - $35,491

Relive the action via the Live Updates and visit the Results tab to see which of your favorite players went deep in the Main Event.

Completed Events

Event #1: $400 NLH Double Stack - Brandon Sowers topped a field of 254 entries to win $18,798
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #2: $400 NLH Multi-Flight - Matt Higgins topped a field of 2,437 entries to win $111,858
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #3: $400 NLH $100K - William Davidson topped a field of 577 entries to win $35,362
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #4: $600 NLH $100K - Jason DeSha topped a field of 411 entries to win $43,057
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #5: $400 NLH Six-Max - Russell Sullivan topped a field of 692 entries to win $43,132
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #6: $600 Pot Limit Omaha - Pablo Crump topped a field of 217 entries to win $26,249
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #7: $400 NLH Monster Stack - Norman McKeldin topped a field of 2,356 entries to win $109,140
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - Shane Bissinger topped a field of 286 entries to win $20,593
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #9: $1,100 No-Limit Hold'em - Blake Whittington topped a field of 423 entries to win $85,574
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

MAIN EVENT #10: $1,700 No-Limit Hold'em - Donald Crabtree topped a field of 1,375 entries to win $329,828
Official ReportWinner's Photo | Results

Event #11: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - John Petty topped a field of 381 entries to win $26,030
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #12: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - Alan Felts topped a field of 447 entries to win $29,278
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

Event #13: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - Justin Booth topped a field of 317 to win $22,790
Official Report | Winner's Photo | Results

About the Winners

Event #1: Brandon Sowers - Sowers has been playing poker since he was 16, more than half of his life, and specifically enjoys tournament poker because of the mental grind. He also does this for his two daughters. “Playing poker for about half my living definitely makes me able to hang out with them and enjoy my little sales career as well.”

While this isn’t Sowers’ biggest score, he views this as his biggest achievement in poker. “This is definitely my most exciting accomplishment in terms of outlasting the field,” smiled Sowers. “I’m ready for a six-figure score.”

Event #2: Matt Higgins -  Higgins made it to heads up play against his best friend and six-time WSOP Circuit champion Blake Whittington. “Me and Blake have talked about playing heads up for a long time. It was nice to get to finally do that against one of my best friends,” he explained. The trio of Higgins, Whittington and four-time ring winner Eric Salazar have been playing together for five years and became best friends along the way. “I used to play cash, and then I started playing tournaments and he (Whittington) started coaching me.”

“I prayed about this all night long,” said an emotional Higgins. “It’s just been a bad six months. It’s a blessing. It’s just a blessing."

Event #3: William Davidson - “It feels great. I play quite a bit here, probably about twice a week playing just tournaments,” smiled Davidson. “This is the most I’ve ever won at once that’s for sure.” The newly crowned champion has been playing off and on since he was in high school. “Growing up I used to work at Kroger, and I would pay people to work for me so I could play poker,” laughed Davidson.

The 33-year-old has no other plans except to keep playing poker and winning more rings.

Event #4: Jason DeSha - “It’s pretty exciting. It’s been a long time coming,” smiled Jason DeSha, winner of Event #6: $600 No-Limit Hold’em. This is the Tennesee-native’s biggest score by far, tripling his lifetime earnings after winning $43,057 in this event. DeSha has been playing poker since before the Moneymaker boom and has transitioned from home games to playing in casinos. The part-time poker player plans to keep grinding. “I’m not a professional poker player like these guys. Maybe retire and grind, but I’ve still got 10 more years before that,” laughed DeSha. 

Event #5: Russell Sullivan - “It feels amazing. Feels great. Just keep playing and keep winning. Play good, run good – win!” exclaimed Sullivan, when discussing future plans for poker. The business owner and active poker player had a big rail behind him. It’s clear that Sullivan’s drive to do well has a lot to do with friendly competition amongst his peers. “Just to outdo Matt Higgins. I just wanna outdo Matt. That’s my dream,” laughed Sullivan. Higgins also recently won his third ring here at Harrah’s Cherokee.

Event #6: Pablo Crump“Awesome feeling. I just got into tournaments in the last year, so I’m thrilled to get my first,” said Crump. “In the past year I started traveling a bit more and taking it (poker) more seriously,” explained the youth soccer coach from Georgia. “I’ll just keep chasing rings. I like to travel to different stops and just enjoy the game.”

Event #7: Norman McKeldin - After a hard-fought battle, Normal McKeldin is victorious in the $400 No-Limit Hold’em Monster Stack for $109,140 and his first ever World Series of Poker Circuit ring. “It feels great,” said the humble winner. “I’ve always wanted to win one, and I had fun. It’s a good feeling.”

McKeldin was backed up by a massive rail, clearly a favorite among the regulars at Harrah’s Cherokee. Looking ahead, McKeldin is only really thinking about one thing. “I wanna win another one. How about that?” he laughed.

Event #8: Shane Bissinger - After a whirlwind final table, Shane Bissinger was in shock as he won his first World Series of Poker Circuit ring in Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold’em. “It feels absolutely great. Absolutely!” This is his biggest score and first ever WSOP cash. Bissinger played the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas last month, and that inspired him to take poker more seriously. “I learned how to play poker when my Dad had a car lot when I was five. They played five-card draw and from that point I loved it,” explained Bissinger. “My next goal is to win the Main Event tomorrow.” 

Event #9: Blake Whittington - “It feels f*cking awesome. I had a really tumultuous last few months. I went and visited family for a couple of weeks before coming here and it really help me reset. I came here with a clear mind. I’m really grateful for all of the success I’ve had here. I’ve run so super hot it’s ridiculous. That’s what you gotta do to win these. I feel really blessed,” said the humble winner.

Whittington credits his family for his competitiveness and drive to compete. “When I was little we were always playing games. Card games, board games. My family really was instrumental in my interest in competitive games. They’ve stood by me when they shouldn’t have.” In addition to his family, Whittington says he was also inspired by the Moneymaker era when he was 13 years old. “Moneymaker! I was like damn, that was sick. I wanna do that. All the chips and the money - that was baller.”

Event #11: John Petty - John Petty has taken down one of the last few events at Harrah’s Cherokee, winning Event #11: $400 No-Limit Hold’em for $26,030, a gold World Series of Poker Circuit ring and a seat into the Tournament of Champions in 2022. This is also Petty’s biggest career score.

“It feels great. I play whenever I get a chance. I work all over the United States so whenever I’m close I play as often as I can,” explained Petty. Going forward, Petty plans to continue adding to his trophy case. “Absolutely another ring or maybe even a bracelet,” smiled Petty.

Event #12: Alan Felts“It feels awesome! I’m really just an amateur. I’ve been playing since college, so the 2003 era, back when it got popular,” explained Felts. The newly crowned champion is an attorney and practices civil litigation, playing poker whenever he has time.

Felts has never really thought about chasing titles in poker, but that all might change now. “It’s hard for me to play as much as I want to, but hopefully this gives me some incentive,” smiled Felts.

Event #13: Justin Booth - “It feels amazing! I definitely wanna go ahead and win a bracelet.” The two-time champion was formerly a baseball player, and then took to poker. “My grandmother had a surgery and I dropped out of College. My junior year, I went to this bar called Stooges in Atlanta and they had a little cash game. I turned $170 into $2,200 and the rest was history.” Booth expressed appreciation for his Mom, grandmother and two daughters Madison and Sophie. “The goal is to be number one. Anything less than my best is not good enough,” said an emotional Booth.