Choctaw Durant Circuit returns to former glory after two-year hiatus. Strong performance put on by female players as series awarded 16 gold rings.

19 January 2022 (Durant, Okla.) -- On Wednesday January 5th, 2022, the World Series of Poker Circuit returned to one of its most prolific locales, Choctaw Casino & Resort - Durant. Because of pandemic-related matters, the southern Oklahoma series was previously on a two-year hiatus, dating back to its last appearance in January of the 2019/20 Circuit season.

Even after a substantial lapse in time, the Choctaw Durant Circuit saw robust prizepool numbers, proving that it is still be one of the most high-volume stops within the WSOPC repertoire. All in all, 13 official gold rings were awarded, and nearly 4.6 million dollars in prize money was collected and redistributed to players.

A WSOP signature event, the Monster Stack kicked things off at Choctaw. The $250 buy-in, No-Limit Hold’em tournament drew a field of 943, which was topped by Brent Bogdanovecz. For the accomplishment, Bogdanovecz, out of Ava, Oklahoma was awarded $31,801 and his first Circuit gold ring.

Some other players that picked up a debut gold ring during the series were Garrett Patrick, winning Event #4: $400 No-Limit Hold’em, James Cordray, winning Event #7: $400 No-Limit Hold’em 6-Handed, former Major League Baseball player Jim Traber, winning Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold’em, and Jimmy Lujan, winning Event #11: $400 No-Limit Hold’em.

The first weekend at Choctaw Durant featured The Gargantuan, a newly coined title for the multi-flight ring event that regularly graces the schedule. Event #2: $600 No-Limit Hold’em The Gargantuan entailed three separate starting legs and attracted a massive field of 2,130 entries, generating a $1,096,950 prizepool.

Ultimately, John Fagg was the contender to close out The Gargantuan, picking up the handsome grand prize of $156,041 and his second Circuit gold ring.

Throughout the Choctaw Circuit, a handful of other players succeeded in adding to their WSOP gold count. Michael Budde won Event #3: $400 Congress (5 Card PLO High-Low) for his third gold ring, Shawn Sparks won Event #5: $400 No-Limit Hold’em Double Stack for his second gold ring, and Rodney Spriggs took down Event #13: $400 No-Limit Hold’em Bounty, the last official ring event of the series, to win his third gold ring.

One pattern that emerged during the series was the presence and strong performances being put on by women on the felt. In short, females were on fire. It all began with the $250 No-Limit Hold’em Ladies Event, which was positioned at the front end of the Circuit schedule.

Jessica Richards was the one to seize victory in the Ladies Event, defeating past champion Katie Offutt heads up for the title. Richards claimed her first gold ring and $7,140, along with gifts from the present and supportive Women’s Poker Association (WPA).

From there, a multitude of female players went on deep runs in ring events, made notable final tables, and graced the WSOPC winner’s circle.

Lori Gansel defeated 284 entrants while scoring nine bounties in Event #6 to win her first gold ring and a total of $17,799, which includes spoils from her nine bounty pickups. Paula Zingelmann followed with a first-place finish in the first Seniors Event of the series.

The solo turbo ring event of the series was conquered by Deanna Alaniz, winning her first ring and $15,114. Then, the final woman to reign as Circuit champ was Daphne Turner. Turner claimed an impressive third-career gold ring by winning Event #12: $600 Pot-Limit Omaha.

Another notable female performance was witnessed during the marquee tournament of the entire series, Event #9: $1,700 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event. Between two starting flights, the Main Event drew a field of 1,411 runners and generated a whopping $2,137,665 prizepool, making it one of the top-five largest Mains in Choctaw history.

There were plenty of gold ring winners among the Main Event competitors and even some WSOP gold bracelet owners, such as Rick Alvarado (7th Place - $158,286), Brian Green (16th Place - $19,516), and three-time bracelet winner David “The Dragon” Pham (40th place - $6,142).

The money was hit on Day 2 of the Main, as 246 Day 1 survivors whittled down to just 16 finalists by the end of the night. Chip leading at that time was Poker Pro Jessica Vierling. She carried her lead into Day 3 where Vierling made the final table still wielding a healthy stack.

Vierling was pushing for a Main Event Championship late into the day, but unfortunately fell in 3rd place when her Queen-Eight ran into Quan Tran’s Queen-Nine. The deep run earned Vierling a six-figure payday of $158,286.

Raul Garza finished as the runner-up for $207,928 and Tran was left as the Choctaw Circuit Main Event Champion. Tran, originally from Vietnam, captured his first WSOP gold ring and the $336,412 top prize. A more in-depth story on his championship run can be read by clicking here.

All 13 official ring winners at Choctaw Durant, as well as the three unofficial ring winners from the two Seniors Events and Ladies Event, also earned a seat to the Tournament of Champions. This $1,000,000 guaranteed freeroll tournament will feature a field of all the ring winners from the 2021/22 season and bracelet winners from the 2022 WSOP and will run after the conclusion of the next WSOP in Las Vegas.


Completed Events

Event #1: $250 NLH Monster Stack - Brent Bogdanovecz defeats 943 entries to win $31,801
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #2: $600 NLH The Gargantuan - John Fagg defeats 2,130 entries to win $156,041
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #3: $400 Congress (5 Card PLO Hi-Lo) - Mike Budde defeats 299 entries to win $22,445
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #4: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - Garrett Patrick defeats 441 entries to win $28,985
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #5: $400 NLH Double Stack - Shawn Sparks defeats 465 entries to win $30,200
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #6: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Bounty - Lori Gansel defeats 284 entries to win $17,349
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #7: $400 NLH 6-Handed - James Cordray defeats 306 entries to win $22,851
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - James Traber defeats 600 entries to win $36,443
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #9: $1,700 NLH MAIN EVENT- Quan Tran defeats 1,411 entries to win $336,412
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #10: $250 No-Limit Hold'em - Deanna Alaniz defeats 358 entries to win $15,114
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #11: $400 No-Limit Hold'em - Jimmy Lujan defeats 291 entries to win $20,834
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #12: $600 Pot-Limit Omaha - Daphne Turner defeats 221 entries to win $26,501
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results

Event #13: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Bounty - Rodney Spriggs defeats 159 entries to win $11,428
Official Report | Winner Photo | Results


About the Winners

Ring Event #1 - Brent Bogdanovecz

The first World Series of Poker Circuit event of 2022, at Choctaw Casino Durant, was conquered by Brent Bogdanovecz. The 48-year-old topped a field of 943 entrants in Event #1: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack, which was played over the course of two days, to win $31,801 and his first gold ring.

“Feels really good. I haven’t made a final table for a really long time. To take on down feels really good. First one,” said Bogdanovecz, following his victory.

Bogdanovecz bagged Day 1 with a middling stack among 33 survivors. He then held up a strong lead on Day 2 during the final table and eventually took down the Monster Stack honors, winning over $30k, a debut WSOP gold ring, and invite to the Tournament of Champions. The winnings turned out to be a lucrative early retirement present for Bogdanovecz who recently discontinued his career as a Chiropractor.

“Just retired this year,” Bogdanovecz explained. “I definitely do it [play poker] as a hobby and I’ve got plenty of time now, so hopefully going to continue getting a little better.”

Ring Event #2 - John Fagg

John Fagg was the contender to take down The Gargantuan at the World Series of Poker Circuit series at Choctaw Durant. The Carpenter from Terre Haute, Indiana ultimately topped a massive field of 2,130 entrants in the $600 buy-in, No-Limit Hold'em tournament to win $156,041 and his second WSOP Circuit gold ring.

“Oh, this one is bigger… This one’s bigger for sure,” said Fagg, comparing his recent triumph to his debut gold ring run. “It’s just been a while. I haven’t been playing live poker at all, in the last several years; Been playing online mostly.”

May of 2012 is when Fagg claimed his first Circuit title, in a 320-entry field at Harrah’s New Orleans. This time around, the path to victory was much more convoluted and grueling.

Fagg earned his bid to Day 2 of The Gargantuan during the third, and final, starting flight, Day 1C. Coming into Day 2 among 125 survivors, with a stack of 470,000, Fagg spun it up to nearly 10 million by the time he entered the final table.

“Just do it,” Fagg replied when asked how he stayed focused over such an extensive period poker play. “I mean, the money, the ring, the win,” he continued, referencing the prolific incentives tied to a first-place finish.

Ring Event #3 - Mike Budde

Mike Budde came away with his third-career World Series of Poker gold ring by closing out Event #3: $400 Congress (5 Card PLO High-Low) at the Choctaw Durant Circuit series, a tournament that drew 299 entrants.

The 71-year-old’s first two trips to the WSOPC winner's circle occurred during Seniors Events, which hold a tag of "unofficial ring events" on account of their exclusivity. With his achievement at Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma, Budde now lays claim to his first official gold-ring accolade.

“Well, it’s enjoyable to beat the players here because, generally speaking, these players are very knowledgeable. These are not easy guys to beat,” Budde claimed, while comparing his previous first-place finishes.

Not only did Budde find success in an open ring event, he found it playing an alternative game type. Congress, also known as Big O, is a staple in the Oklahoma/Texas arenas and is a game Budde is familiar with. Budde, from Williamsburg, Missouri, walked away with the nice payday of $22,445, his third Circuit gold ring in hand, and an automatic bid to the Tournament of Champions.

Ring Event #4 - Garrett Patrick

Garrett Patrick cruised to his first-ever World Series of Poker gold ring and a near-$30,000 payday on Monday at Choctaw Durant. The Colorado native outlasted 440 opponents in Event #4: $400 No-Limit Hold'em, a tournament that took two days to complete.

Day 1 encompassed 12 hours of Texas Hold’em. Toward the back half of that time, Patrick had amassed a commanding chip lead. Chips evened out a bit by the end of the night, but Patrick still held the chip lead when the seven finalists bagged up their stacks. Day 2 restarted at 12:00 p.m. Monday and things went array very quickly.

“One guy was missing from the table,” Patrick revealed. “But, you know, we just had some action cards, coolers against coolers, basically. And we had some short stacks sort of pushing too.”

Action was swift during the Day 2 finale. Coolers aided in reducing the final table to short-handed play. Eventually, Patrick raised his hands in victory, claiming the WSOP Circuit gold ring and $28,985. He then proceeded to take some victory photos with his beloved four-legged friend, Keno.

“It was awesome. Have my wife here and Keno,” Patrick stated, referencing his dedicated rail of his wife and dog. “It was fun. We had a good time. It was a really good time here at Choctaw."

Ring Event #5 - Shawn Sparks

Shawn Sparks successfully scooped up his second World Series of Poker gold ring after topping a field of 465 entrants in Event #5: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Double Stack at the Choctaw Durant Circuit series. The tournament took two-days and 32 levels poker to deem a champion, leaving Sparks as the last man standing.

“This one legitimizes the first one. The first one wasn’t just luck,” Sparks declared.

The Oklahoma native has now won a gold ring at each of the WSOP Circuit stops located in his home state. Sparks’ original gold-ring run came in March of 2018 at Hard Rock Tulsa when he defeated 163 opponents for $13,284. With Choctaw’s considerably larger fields, the 52-year-old walked away with more than double his previous first-place cash, this time banking $30,200.

“I mostly just play Circuits. I’ve got a full-time job. This is a hobby for me. I love it. I would never, ever want to play this game professional,” Sparks said with a laugh. “I enjoy it. I love the game too much. For me, I want it to be fun.”

For Sparks, playing poker is an enjoyable pastime. The fun-loving husband, father, and grandfather (a.k.a. “Grumps”) was thrilled following his win and readily happy to share the achievement with his family.

“I would love to play the main, but I’m probably going to my 5-year-old granddaughters birthday party on Saturday,” Sparks mentioned before taking his leave.

Ring Event #6 - Lori Gansel

Late last night, after an extended Day 1, Lori Gansel became a World Series of Poker Circuit champ by closing out Ring Event #6: $400 No-Limit Hold’em Bounty. The Virginia native, now living in Texas, picked up her first gold ring along with the top prize of $17,349.

“Pretty fantastic. I did not see this when I got up this morning. You always hope,” Lori responded when asked how it felt to win a gold ring. “I almost didn’t fire a second bullet today, but I’m glad that I did.”

The last bounty of Ring Event #6 was awarded to Gansel as she celebrated the momentous occasion with her rail, Ruth “Ruthless” Hall. Later she touched on the support that comes from being a part of the Women’s Poker Association.

“It’s awesome. Every time I come up here, I see a lot of the ladies I’ve played with in the ladies’ games, like Katie [Offutt]… Ruth [Hall], of course. She was my rail all day today,” said Gansel.

In total, Gansel procured nine bounties throughout play, worth a sum of $450. To put a cherry on top, Gansel is also awarded a seat to the Tournament of Champions, a $1,000,000 freeroll happening in Las Vegas during the 2022 WSOP.

Ring Event #7 - James Cordray

With his first-ever World Series of Poker cash, James Cordray captured his first Circuit gold ring Thursday afternoon at the Choctaw Durant tournament series. The Texas native outlasted a field of 306 players in Event #7: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Six Max.

The six-handed style competition took two days to reach a conclusion. Cordray made his way to the winner's circle with aid from two crucial hands where he cracked Ace-King each time.

“I got really lucky against this guy. I had King-Jack, he had Ace-King, and it was for my tournament life. I hit a Jack on the flop and it ran out. Ever since then, I ran it up,” explained Cordray. “I just ran really good.”

“It feels great,” said Cordray after his win. “I’ve been playing for ten years, just here and there, and never really won a tournament like this. I work a lot, so I really don’t get time to play that much,” he continued. “One of my friends told me about the tournaments out here. I took vacation from work and came out here and tried.”

It ended up being a profitable vacation for the 34-year-old Warehouse Selector. On top of the cash prize and WSOP gold ring, Cordray will get another shot at a nice payday during the Tournament of Champions in July of 2022.

Ring Event #8 - Jim Traber

Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold'em drew a field of 600 entries and took two days to deem a champion at Choctaw Durant. In the end, it was Jim Traber collecting every chip in play, securing his first World Series of Poker gold ring and $36,443.

“It’s crazy… You play a lot of poker. You never think you’re going to get to this point, but you do, and it’s really cool,” Traber said after his victory.

“I play a lot of events. But, during football season, I can’t because I’ve got a lot of work,” explained Traber who works as a Sports Radio Host. “I can’t go from like September, October, November… January is when I start back up and look what happens.”

What happened was, the 60-year-old out of Oklahoma seized his opportunity at the Choctaw Durant Circuit to win a debut World Series of Poker ring. However, it is not Traber’s first World Series ring.

In 1982, Jim Traber was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles during the Major League Baseball draft. After his retirement from professional sports, Traber eventually began his career in sports radio. He worked as a Fox Sports color analyst, covering the Arizona Diamondbacks during their World Series Championship run in 2001. For this, he was awarded an MLB World Series ring.

Ring Event #9 - Quan Tran

Choctaw Main Event Winner's Story

Ring Event #10 - Deanna Alaniz

When all was said and done in Event #10: $250 No-Limit Hold’em at Choctaw Durant, Deanna Alaniz remained as the last woman standing, claiming her first World Series of Poker gold ring, $15,114 payday, and seat in the Tournament of Champions.

“It feels amazing. I really wanted to win today so I’m really happy that I did. It was rough sometimes, but then I just said, ‘Just go for it!’” exclaimed Alaniz.

Going for gold was a focus that ultimately came to fruition for Alaniz. The 49-year-old Claims Adjuster from Celina, Texas began playing poker on account of family ties.

“I play because my father-in-law and my husband would play poker together and then I just got addicted,” Alaniz told. “Then, my husband would stay home, and I would take my father-in-law to go play poker everywhere,” she said with a smile.

Ring Event #11 - Jimmy Lujan

Jimmy Lujan struck gold at the World Series of Poker Circuit at Choctaw Durant on Sunday evening. The Texas native outmatched 290 opponents in Event #11: $400 No-Limit Hold'em. The tournament took two days to reach a conclusion, leaving Lujan as the last man standing. A large, enthusiastic rail celebrated with Lujan as he rode into the winner's circle.

“They’re all poker players from San Antonio. We all ride together, everywhere. We’ve got a good crew,” stated Lujan.

The 49-year-old out of San Antonio, Texas was proud to be enjoying the momentous occasion with his supporting crew. He also mentioned that the gold ring would be going to his 20-year-old son.

Along with the golden hardware, Lujan also picked up a seat to the Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas and grand prize of $20,834.

Lastly, when Lujan was asked if he had any plans for the money, he wasted no time in replying “Next tournament!”

Ring Event #12 - Daphne Turner

Daphne Turner successfully claimed her third-career World Series of Poker Circuit gold ring Monday by winning Event #12: $600 Pot-Limit Omaha. The Credit Repair Business Owner out of McKinney, Texas defeated a field of 221 entrants to also win $26,501 and a seat in the Tournament of Champions.

“It’s exciting. It’s been a long time,” said Turner after her achievement. “I’ve still been playing, but not as much as I used to.”

Turner’s first two Circuit titles date back to 2010 and 2008, both out of a Harrah’s New Orleans, her home city. She has now won a WSOP ring in three different tournament types. First came her $34,920 win in a $500 buy-in, No-Limit Hold’em competition. Then, a smaller, $6,727 score in a $340 buy-in, Seven-Game Mixed Event. Now, her recent victory covers PLO. Plush, she won with her husband Fred watching on.

“It means a lot. You always want that support,” Turner expressed, referring to her husband being there throughout the Ring Event #12 finale.

Ring Event #13 - Rodney Spriggs

The final official World Series of Poker gold ring handed out at the current Choctaw Durant Circuit series went to Rodney Spriggs. The 55-year-old from Joplin, Missouri defeated a field of 159 entrants in just one day, winning his third-career Circuit title, $11,428, and a seat to the Tournament of Champions.

Spriggs won his last gold ring here at the southern Oklahoma Circuit back in November of 2019. Before that, he won his debut gold ring in March of 2018 at Hard Rock Tulsa and all his first-place runs with the WSOP have a few commonalities.

“Honestly… I’m not a huge fan of bounties. I’d rather the money be in the prizepool, instead of getting chopped up,” said Springs. “My first ring was actually in anther format I’m not really thrilled with.”

Spriggs’ first ring stemmed from an impromptu entry in a turbo-style tournament while he waited for Day 2 of the Hard Rock Tulsa Main Event. His appearance in Event #13 also derived from a spontaneous entry.

“They talked me into staying watching the Chiefs play last night, and so I did that. And I was like ‘I might as well play this one,’” Spriggs explained.

The CEO of Vintage Stock, who still works full-time, was happy to achieve his third ring, especially after his last heads-up experience, which occurred at the Ameristar Circuit near St. Louis, Missouri.

“I was telling the story about St. Louis where I had the guy in eight times and couldn’t get him. I was like ‘Man, this third one is going to be tough,’” mentioned Spriggs.