Hinkle Doing it Again in Iowa

Blair Hinkle

Some competitors just seem to shine at a particular venue: Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Tiger Woods at Augusta. And now, Blair Hinkle at Council Bluffs. The Main Event of the World Series of Poker Circuit at Horseshoe Council Bluffs started on Saturday and Hinkle established himself as the man to beat. After winning the Main Event here two of the past four years, Hinkle has amassed a huge Day 1 chip lead and is threatening to win his third Circuit ring, all in the same event.

Play began at noon Saturday as players in Day 1A took their seats. A total of 150 entered that flight, including 2008 November Niner Dennis Phillips, 2012 ONE DROP participant John Morgan, and Bernard Lee, who finished 13th in the WSOP Main Event in 2005. After 12 levels, 53 players bagged chips. They were led by Everett Carlton with 117,800. He was trailed by Jonathan Alfonso (112,700) and Nathanael Kogel (112,600).

However, Carlton’s time atop the leaderboard would not last long. Day 1B began at 5:00 PM with another 94 players, and within a few hours, Blair Hinkle established himself as the clear chip leader. When 28 players from Day 1B officially survived through the end of the day, Hinkle bagged 329,000 in chips, absolutely dwarfing the top stacks from flight 1A.

When Hinkle won this event last year, he became the first player to win the same Main Event twice. (He first won it during the 2010/2011 Circuit season). Fast forward to 2014, and he’s poised to do it again. With two full days still to play and 81 players still alive, the young Missouri pro is far from the home stretch, but he’s in good position heading into Day 2.

There was no shortage of subplots in this Main Event. In addition to Hinkle’s quest for his third victory in this tournament, the event also featured the battle for the top of all-time Circuit rings leaderboard. Alexandru Masek recently won his record-breaking eighth ring. He made two final tables in preliminary events here at Council Bluffs, but was unable to win his ninth ring. Masek played in Day 1A today, and finished with 31,400 in chips. Just behind Masek on the career rings list is Ari Engel. Engel has six rings on his resume, good for third on the all-time list. (Chris Reslock is in second place with seven rings.) Engel also played flight A, but was eventually eliminated late in the day. He re-entered in Day 1B, and survived through the end of the night. He’ll return for Day 2 with 13,700 in chips.

Phil Mader was also in the field today. Mader is somewhat of a hometown hero. Among his successes is a 43rd-place finish in the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event, a deep run which was well-chronicled in ESPN’s coverage of that tournament. Mader will return for Day 2 with 22,200 in chips. A few WSOP bracelet winners played today as well, including Robert Cheung, who bagged 54,400, and Eric Rodawig, who played only in flight B and was eliminated in the last level of the night.

Players from both Day 1 flights will return at 2:00 PM on Sunday for Day 2 with blinds of 800/1,600 and a 200 ante.

Here are the top ten chip counts. A full list of chip counts and seat assignments is available here.

1. Blair Hinkle – 329,000
2. Trevor Harrold – 134,500
3. Everett Carlton – 117,800
4. Jonathan Alfonso – 112,700
5. Nathanael Kogel – 112,600
6. Brendan Waite – 109,400
7. Jeffrey Fielder – 106,400
8. Gino Levrini – 103,600
9. Timothy Bishop – 101,500
10. John Holley – 101,000

Two Rings On Day Four

Day 4 of the Harrah’s Philadelphia WSOP Circuit series opened with Day 2 of the $365 No Limit Hold’em Re-Entry event.  Fifty-two players returned at 11am to battle for the ring and in the end it was local bartender and tournament regular Eric Suarez who claimed the gold and $22,839.

The other ring event running Saturday was the $365 Turbo No Limit Hold’em event, which kicked off at noon.  Event 3 was a one-day event and it played out in 11.5 hours.  Amateur player and paper salesman Joseph Mallon outlasted the field of 117 runners to take his first ring and $10,530.

Day 5, Easter Sunday, is devoted to Satellites, so there will be no ring events running.

Sunday’s Satellite Schedule:

11am, $60 No Limit Hold’em Satellite

2pm, $100 No Limit Hold’em Satellite

5pm, $350 Main Event Mega Satellite NLH

8pm, $60 No Limit Hold’em Satellite

That’s it for Day 4.  Goodnight from the Event Center at Harrah’s and Happy Easter!

Third Time Is The Charm For Joseph Mallon

$365 Turbo No Limit Hold’em

Joseph Mallon winnerJoseph Mallon sells paper products for a living and this event was only the third WSOP Circuit event he has ever played.  He cashed once before and now he’s got the top honor — a gold ring — on his third try.  The victory also brought him $10,530 in first-place prize money.

His heads-up opponent, John Jones, has four previous Circuit final tables on his poker resume and now adds another near-miss, finishing 2nd for $6,508.  Jones was the second-shortest stack when the final table formed but he managed to work his way into the chip lead when heads-up play began, about 6:5 over Mallon.  The world-record-holding juggler had Mallon on the ropes, all-in for his tournament life and behind, until Mallon caught a seven-outer on the river to survive.  Once Mallon had the lead, he never let it go.  The heads-up match took about a half hour and Mallon came out on top.

This one-day Turbo event had a $25,000 Guarantee on the prize pool.  The 117 players who turned out for the event beat that number with a prize pool totaling $35,100.  The final 12 players got paid and there was not a single WSOP Circuit ring holder among them.

Play began at 12 noon and was wrapped up by 11:30pm.  Joseph Mallon says it started out as a “slow grind”.  He was down to 8k and all-in holding pocket Queens against pocket Kings and thought he was headed for an early exit — then he hit a Queen.  “From that point on, [his stack] kept going up.”  He added “I used my stack to advantage and picked some good spots to be aggressive.”  He arrived at the final table second in chips behind the leader, David Aker, who eventually finished 5th.

Mallon earned 50 points toward the Casino Champion race and National Leaderboard, but he’s got to get back to work and won’t be playing any more events during this series.  He does plan to be back for future events now that he’s got a win under his belt.

Final Table Results

1 Joseph Mallon Alexandria, VA, US $10,530
2 John Jones Spotsylvania, VA, US $6,508
3 Stephen Miller Reisterstown, MD, US $4,634
4 Charles Lineberry San Antonio, TX, US $3,366
5 David Aker Kennesaw, GA, US $2,494
6 Giuseppe Pizzolato Ridgewood, NY, US $1,882
7 Jules Bui FAIRFAX, VA, US $1,448
8 Sean Lippel Valley Stream, NY, US $1,134
9 John Link Lafayette Hill, PA, US $904

Local Eric Suarez Claims First WSOP Circuit Ring

$365 No Limit Hold’em Re-Entry

Eric Suarez winnerLocal bartender and tournament regular Eric Suarez got some help from big hands on his way to victory today at Harrah’s Philadelphia.  His plan was to “play solid and 3-bet jam people — and it worked” he said.  Suarez won $22,839 and his first WSOP Circuit ring.

The heads-up match against Engineer Dave Urban only lasted about 30 minutes.  Suarez held the chip lead from the start of the final table until they got heads up.  The one-on-one match began with Suarez holding 2 million chips to Urban’s 1.2 million, but Urban pulled ahead as they battled.  Suarez shoved with pocket Tens on a seven-high flop and Urban decided to “gamble” and called with his open-ended straight draw.  He whiffed all his outs and Suarez doubled up to about 3 million, leaving Urban with only 11 big blinds.  It was over a couple of hands later.  Dave Urban picked up $14,119 for second place.

Kevin Grabel was the chip leader at the start of Day 2 with 52 players remaining.  He made the final table, but got his Kings cracked by AK, then ran pocket Queens into pocket Aces.  Grabel busted out in 8th place.

The only WSOP Circuit ring owner at this final table was Kenny ‘SuperTuan’ Nguyen, who won the Main Event here in 2011.  He was 10th in chips at the start of Day 2 and made the final table in 6th chip position.  He ran into some big hands and busted out in 6th place.

This re-entry event featured two starting flights on Thursday and Friday and carried a $75,000 Guarantee on the prize pool.  There were 124 entrants on Thursday and combined with the 207 entrants on Friday, that brought the field size to 331.  The total prize pool came to $99,300, covering the guarantee nicely.  The final 36 players would earn a payday.

Only 52 players survived a shortened Day 1 to return on Day 2.  It took seven hours to play down from 52 players to the ten-handed final table.  The final table played out in about four and a half hours.

In addition to the win, Eric Suarez earned 50 points toward the Casino Champion race and National Leaderboard.  Suarez says he’s not chasing points for either race and he’s not going to take any time off from work to play.  He does plan to be back for the Six Max event (Wednesday, April 23rd) and the Main Event, which begins Friday/Saturday, April 25th/26th.

Final Table Results:

1 Eric Suarez PHILADELPHIA, PA, US $22,839
2 David Urban Virginia Beach, VA, US $14,119
3 Charles Edwards Paeonian Springs, VA, US $10,300
4 Mike Jukich ARLINGTON, VA, US $7,640
5 Bradley Wexler Hobe Sound, FL, US $5,755
6 Kenny Nguyen Lansing, IL, US $4,402
7 Ronald Vidakovic New Milford, NJ, US $3,416
8 Kevin Grabel SOUTHAMPTON, PA, US $2,689
9 Cong Le Springfield, VA, US $2,147

Event 3: Joseph Mallon Wins, John Jones 2nd

$365 Turbo No Limit Hold’em

Level 26:  Blinds 15k/30k/5k ante

Joseph MallonJohn Jones held about 670k to Joseph Mallon’s (above) 500k when they got heads-up.  The match lasted about a half hour and Joseph was seven outs away from a second place finish.  His pair of Queens was trailing John’s 2 pair when the chips went in, but Joseph caught a Queen on the river to survive, double-up, and take the chip lead.

On he final hand, John was all-in pre-flop with J6 against Joseph’s KT.  Both a King and a Jack hit the board and John got no further help.  Joseph Mallon won his first WSOP Circuit ring and $10,530.  John Jones (below) collected $6,508.24 for second place.

John Jones


Event 2: Eric Suarez Wins, Dave Urban 2nd

$365 No Limit Hold’em Re-Entry

Level 26:  Blinds 15k/30k/5k ante

Eric SuarezDave Urban managed to grind his way into the chip lead, then their first all-in confrontation took place.  On a flop of 6 5 4 rainbow, Eric Suarez (above) shoved.

Dave said “Let’s gamble – I call” and showed A7 off for the open-ended straight-draw with overcard.  Eric was ahead with pocket Tens.

Turn was a 7 giving Dave a smaller pair and a couple more outs, but then the river brought a 6 and no more help.

Eric doubled up to nearly 3 million chips.  Dave was left with only 340k (11 big blinds).  He was all-in soon after holding K9 suited and dominated by Eric’s KJ suited.   The board came 8 8 5 6 A and although he picked up a flush draw on the turn, Dave came up empty on the river.

Eric Suarez won his first WSOP Circuit ring and $22,839.  Dave Urban (below) pocketed $14,119.47 for second place.

Dave Urban

Event 2: Urban & Suarez Heads-Up For Ring

$365 No Limit Hold’em Re-Entry

Level 26: Blinds 15k/30k/5k ante

Charles EdwardsCharles Edwards (above) got his last chips in with KQ offsuit.  Eric Suarez looked him up with AT suited.  The board came 8 5 4 T 5 and Eric took the pot.

Charles Edwards finished in 3rd place, earning $10,300.39.

Heads-up play began with Eric holding the chip lead with about 2 million to Dave Urban’s 1.23 million.

Event 2: Down to Three

$365 No Limit Hold’em Re-Entry

Brad WexlerBrad Wexler (above) got all-in holding pocket 5s against Dave Urban’s 65 offsuit (big blind).  The board fell 8 6 3 A Q and Dave took the pot.  Brad took $5,755.43 for 5th place.

Mike JukichThen Mike Jukich (above) got all-in holding QT suited.  Eric Suarez called from the small blind with pocket 3s.  The board ran out K 8 3 K 7 giving Eric a full house.  Mike picked up $7,640.14 for 4th place.

The final three are still in action.  Eric Suarez leads with over 1.5 million.  Dave Urban in second with 1.4+ million and Charles Edwards is third with less than 300k.