That’s a Wrap at Choctaw


A record-breaking Circuit series is in the books as the 12th and final ring event at Choctaw Casino Resort has concluded in Durant, Okla. The 12-day festival kicked off nearly two weeks ago with a 4,053-entry field in the opening re-entry event — the largest tournament in the Circuit’s 11-year history. Texas pro Ray Henson earned his fourth gold ring along with $197,588 for his victory in the record-breaking tournament.

Things continued this past weekend with the $1,675 Main Event that drew another impressive field — 1,363 entries. Jose Montes from Bronx, N.Y. won the $352,699 first prize. In addition, he punched his ticket to the National Championship where he’ll join Choctaw Casino Champion Ben Reason to play for an up-to $2,000,000 prize pool and a gold bracelet. Reason earned Casino Champion honors following up first, fourth 128th-place finishes in preliminary events with a sixth-place finish in the Main Event. He donned the honors with little resistance from the field.

Here’s a look at the 12 gold ring winners from the Choctaw series:

  • EVENT #1: Thomas Johnson defeated 990 players ($365 NLH Monster Stack) for $56,427
  • EVENT #2: Mark Fisher defeated 197 players ($365 PLO) for $15,366
  • EVENT #3: Ray Henson defeated 4,053 entries ($365 NLH Re-Entry) for $197,588
  • EVENT #4: Kevin McColgan defeated 402 players ($365 One-Day NLH) for $26,533
  • EVENT #5: Ben Reason defeated 281 players ($365 NLH) for $20,233
  • EVENT #6: Stewart Yancik defeated 379 players ($365 Six-Handed NLH) for $27,281
  • EVENT #7: Johnny Donnelly defeated 241 players ($365 NLH) for $17,711
  • EVENT #8: Steve Moore defeated 281 players ($365 NLH) for $20,233
  • EVENT #9: Danny Watkins defeated 225 players ($365 NLH) for $16,877
  • EVENT #10: Bret Zorich defeated 314 players ($580 One-day NLH) for $36,899
  • EVENT #11 (Main Event): Jose Montes defeated 1,363 entries ($1,675 NLH) for $352,669
  • EVENT #12: Tzu Yen defeated 345 players ($365 NLH) for $23,806

Complete results from the series are available on

Thanks for following along from Choctaw. Don’t forget, Circuit action starts up again this Thursday at Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Miss.

Montes Wins Main Event and $352K

Jose Montes Winner

New York-based pro outlasts 1,363 entries in the season’s largest Main Event. Ben Reason earns Casino Championship honors.

Jose Montes navigated through a field of 1,363 players to win the largest Circuit Main Event of the 2014-15 campaign. Montes takes home $352,669 for his first place finish in the Choctaw Durant Main Event. Along with the top prize, Montes secures a berth to this year’s National Championship.

This marks the New York native’s fourth ever WSOP cash and first gold ring. While the cash and the ring are satisfying, it was not an easy ride for the 29-year-old poker professional. With the large field and massive first place prize, there were plenty of Circuit grinders and other top pros who came to take their shot at Circuit glory. Montes battled at the final table with two-time ring winner Ben Reason, ring winner Ryan Tepen and defeated ring winner Ben Keeline heads-up for a ring of his own.

The gold ring that comes along with the victory is something Montes was especially excited about.

“I can show my son one day,” said Montes about the gold ring. “Look at what dad won.”

Montes has an 11-month-old boy at home who shares the same birthday as Montes. He also has another boy on the way. He has been looking at homes for his family for the past few months. According to Montes, part of his prize money will go toward buying his family a new home.

Montes’ road to victory was well deserved. While he found his fair share of luck, Montes wielded his big stack like a true pro. He entered the final table as the chip leader and used his stack to continue to collect chips throughout the day. He was aggressive three-betting throughout the entire day and was one of the more active players at the table.

Montes’ aggressiveness got him into a tough spot with four players remaining. He opened the pot and then called a three-bet against Nancy Nguyen. Montes check raised all-in on a 10-9-8 board with A-7 suited and was called by Nguyen holding Q-Q. A 6 landed on the river giving Montes a straight and one of the biggest pots of the day. Nguyen was eliminated and Montes took that momentum to victory.

“Tournament poker is so tough. You get so close and it hurts when you lose. Still winning money and it still hurts. You want to win. I am a competitor; competitors want to win every time. I want to play every time and I never want to bust out. I want to win every time.”

Montes is a regular at tournaments on the East Coast, and this wasn’t an event he planned on playing. He decided last minute to make the trip to Oklahoma with a friend and they flew out of Atlantic City at 7 a.m. They landed in Oklahoma a few hours later and bought into Day 1A without much rest.

Montes finished Day 2 in the middle of the pack with regards to chips, finishing in seventh out of 16 players. He was guaranteed to earn at least $18,953 at that point and the pay jumps were starting to get big. He had no intention of worrying about the pay jumps though. He was playing for the gold ring.

“Don’t think about money, and play as good as I could,” said Montes about his mentality coming into the final day of play.

That mentality worked out great for Montes. It helped him play aggressively, fearless and for the win. It is ultimately what lead him to victory in one of the toughest Circuit tournaments of the season.

The Main Event was the eleventh of twelve events on the Choctaw Durant schedule. The $1,675 No Limit Hold’em tournament created a massive prize pool of $2,044,500. As expected, this tournament drew some of the top players in the game. TJ Cloutier, 2013 November Niner David Benefield, Jose Serratos, Maurice Hawkins, 1996 WSOP Main Event runner-up Bruce Van Horn and Nipun Java all earned cashes of varying degrees.

Cloutier, a six-time bracelet winner, was coming off of a runner-up finish for $122,040 in the largest tournament in Circuit history, a $365 No Limit Hold’em with 4,053 runners. He lost heads-up to Ray Henson, who also fired two bullets in the Main Event.

Other notables who played the event included Kevin Eyster, 2005 WSOP Main Event third place finisher Tex Barch, David “ODB” Baker, and Bracelet winner Bryan Campanello.

With Montes’ victory comes the conclusion of the Choctaw Durant Circuit series. The WSOP Circuit will continue at Horseshoe Tunica starting Thursday.

Final table results:

1. Jose Montes – $352,669
2. Benjamin Keeline – $218,762
3. Douglas Fusella – $160,309
4. Nancy Nguyen – $121,873
5. Marc Maxey – $92,779
6. Benjamin Reason – $71,455
7. Mohammad Arani – $55,672
8. Alex Greenblatt – $43,875
9. Ryan Tepen – $34,981

Complete results available on

Yen Wins Last-Chance Ring Event

Tzu Yen Winner

Event #12
No-Limit Hold’em
Buy-In: $300 (+$65)
Total Entries: 345
Prize Pool: $103,500
January 18-19, 2015

12-day series concludes with Jose Montes in the Main Event winner’s circle, Ben Reason dons Casino Champion honors.

Tzu Yen arrived at Choctaw Casino Resort Friday to take a shot in the property’s $1,675 Main Event. Yen made his presence known in the finale, playing his way well into the money before busting 84th for $4,171. With some extra cash in his pocket and some unwanted free time, he decided to give it a go in the series’ last-chance ring event – Event 12, a $365 no-limit hold’em tournament. Fast forward 24 hours and he’d be in the winner’s circle reveling in a $23,806 first prize and a gold ring after outlasting 345 players in the series closer.

“I was playing a little more aggressive (in Event 12) because of the fact I’d just busted out of the Main,” Yen said. “It worked out pretty well.”

Yen, a Houston semi-pro with five WSOP-related cashes totaling more than $50,000, chose just the right time to record his breakthrough victory. Event 12 was the last of the property’s ring events. The 12-day Circuit series began nearly two weeks ago and kicked off with a 4,053-entry re-entry event that set the record for the largest field in Circuit history. Texas’ own Ray Henson went on to conquer the monstrous field and take home its $197,588 paycheck.

The property’s Main Event, which headlined the series and played out alongside the Event 12 final table, saw Jose Montes of Bronx, N.Y. walk with its $352,699 first prize and a berth in the National Championship. Montes was joined at the final table by eventual sixth-place finisher Ben Reason. While many players would be disappointed as they hit the rail, Reason had reason to smile as he made his way to the cashier. A 25-year-old professional poker player and coach, Reason preceded his Main Event run with first, fourth and 128th-place finishes. The Main Event run earned him 35 additional points bringing his total to 117.5 and cementing his lead and Casino Championship title. He lapped the field and left little sweat heading to the 12th and final day of the series.

Event 12 was the last of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at Choctaw Casino Resort. The $365 no-limit hold’em event attracted 345 players. The total prize pool came to $103,500 and the top 36 finishers were paid. With Yen, Henson, Montes and Reason all firmly in the winner’s circle, the Choctaw Circuit series has come to a close, but don’t fret. The WSOP gets right back to work Thursday at Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Miss.

Final table results:

1st: Tzu Yen – $23,806
2nd: Jesse Capps – $14,717
3rd: Manish Parekh – $10,736
4th: Gregg Merkow – $7,963
5th: William Donovan – $5,999
6th: Robert Simmons – $4,588
7th: Paul Sokoloff – $3,560
8th: Abraham Aray – $2,803
9th: Austine Miranda – $2,238

Complete results available on

Reason Wins Casino Championship

Ben Reason Winner

Ben Reason (pictured) earned 117.5 points during Choctaw’s 12 combined gold ring events and lapped the field for the title of Casino Champion of the record-breaking series. Reason, a Texas pro, followed up first, fourth and 128th-place finishes in preliminary events with a sixth-place finish in the Main Event.

For his efforts, he’s earned a seat in the season-ending National Championship where he’ll compete alongside the yet-to-be-crowned Choctaw Main Event champion for an up-to $2,000,000 prize pool and a gold bracelet.

Congratulations, Ben!

More information on the one-of-a-kind event is available on