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

The Final Day of the Choctaw Series

Today marks the 12th and final day of play of the Choctaw Casino Resort Circuit series. The nearly-two-week poker festival kicked off with what turned out to be the largest tournament in the Circuit’s 11-year history — a 4,053 entry re-entry event — and concludes today with the crowning of the Main Event champion. Running alongside the property’s finale will be Day 2 of Event 12, yesterday’s $365 last-chance ring event.

Here’s a closer look at the day’s action:

12 p.m., $1,675 Main Event, Day 3

  • 16 players remain
  • Sochetra Chansan leads, Ryan Tepen third, Ben Reason eighth
  • All are guaranteed $18,953, winner takes $352,699, a Circuit gold ring and a berth in the National Championship
  • Updated results, chip counts and live updates available on

12 p.m., Event 12, $365 no-limit hold’em, Day 2

  • 44 players remain, 36 spots pay
  • Carson Parker leads, actress Sasha Barrese 11th
  • Min-cash awards $535, winner takes $23,806 a Circuit gold ring and 50 points toward the Casino Championship
  • Complete start-of-day chip counts available on post below

Tepen Headlines Main Event Day 3


The largest WSOP Circuit stop of the year is down to its final 16 players and everybody is chasing Sochetra Chansan, the chip leader heading into the final day.

Chansan finished the day with 2.9 million in chips, but Alex Greenblatt and Ryan Tepen are right on his heels with 2.815 million and 2.405 million, respectively.

Tepen is a regular on the Circuit and has over $160,000 in WSOP earnings. He will be searching for his second career ring and first in a main event. He can earn his largest career score with a first or second place finish.

Tepen isn’t the only player searching for multiple rings on Monday afternoon. Ben Reason and Ben Keeline also head into the final day searching for another ring to add to their trophy case.

Reason is currently eighth in chips and is looking to earn his third Circuit ring and second of the series. Reason is the current Casino Championship points leader for this stop with two final tables and four cashes (including the main event). If he doesn’t win the main event, Reason can still find himself with a seat in the National Championship if he holds onto his lead for the Casino Championship.

When cards got in the air Sunday at noon, there were 279 players still vying for a Circuit title, but only 153 of those hopefuls would leave with a payday. It wasn’t until roughly halfway through the third level of the day that the money bubble popped and everybody remaining was guaranteed at least a $2,740 min-cash.

Jeff Gibralter, last year’s fifth place finisher in this event, was the unfortunate bubble boy, finishing in 154th place. Gibralter tried to run a bluff against Roy Upshaw just as the tournament staff had ordered the dealers to finish the hand they were on and stop dealing so that round-for-round play could begin. Upshaw turned a full house and called Gibralter’s bluff-shove on the river with queen-high to burst the bubble without round-for-round play taking place.

Last year’s champion Tyler Morris was also eliminated before the money. Jonathan Gaviao, Jesse Wilke, La Sengphet, John Land and Bracelet winners Bryan Campanello and Tex Barch were among the notable pros who were eliminated without a cash.

Kevin McColgan, Ting Ho, James Hellerer and Austin Buchanan were among the notables who cashed in this event. 2013 November Niner David Benefield made a deep run in this event as well, busting at the end of the day when he ran A-K into Nancy Nguyen’s aces. Benefield finished in 20th place and took home $15,804.

Play wrapped up at 2 am with 56 minutes remaining in the current level with blinds of 20,000/40,000 and a 5,000 ante. The levels from here on out are 75 minutes in length with short breaks after every level. The 16 players remaining are guaranteed $18,953, but they all have their sights set on the $352,669 first place prize, the ring and the seat in the National Championship. will have complete coverage of the day’s action as they play down to a winner. Here are a look at the chip counts of the final 16 players.

Day 3 chip counts:

1. Sochetra Chansan – 2,900,000
2. Alex Greenblatt – 2,815,000
3. Ryan Tepen – 2,405,000
4. Nancy Nguyen – 2,355,000
5. Doug Fusella – 2,270,000
6. Noah Nodine – 1,865,000
7. Jose Montes – 1,790,000
8. Benjamin Reason – 1,715,000
9. Bronson Tucker – 1,665,000
10. Mohammad Arani – 1,560,000
11. Mary Haught – 1,390,000
12. Ben Keeline – 1,250,000
13. Bill Donnelly – 1,250,000
14. James Moon – 1,090,000
15. Rick Leipsic – 525,000
16. Marc Maxey – 520,000

Event 12 Chip Counts

Sasha Barrese

Event 12, Choctaw Casino Resort’s last-chance ring event, began Sunday at 4 p.m. with 345 players. Following 15 levels, the field is down to just 44 remaining. Carson Park leads the way with 225,000 chips and is joined in the top 10 by Paul Sokoloff.

In addition to Sokoloff, another familiar face we’ll see on Day 2 is that of Los Angeles-based acress Sasha Barrese (pictured). Barrese, a regular on the tournament Circuit, is best known for her roll as Tracy in the Hangover series. As it turns out, she knows her way around a poker table as well. Baresse multiplied her 10,000-chip starting stack into 93,000 and starts the day just outside the top 10.

Day 2 resumes Monday at 12 p.m. with blinds of 1,500/3,000 and a 5000 ante. Just the top 36 finishing in the money. The tournament’s winner is set to earn $23,806, a Circuit gold ring and 50 points toward Ben Reason’s Casino Championship lead.

Top 10 Day 2 chip counts:

RankNameChip Count
1Carson Parker225,000
2WD Donovan190,500
3Jesse Capps178,500
4Lyle Glover171,500
5Robert Simmons152,000
6Tzu Yen149,500
7Brandon Nemeth141,000
8James Duke137,500
9Paul Sokoloff123,000
10Gregg Merkow114,500

Complete chip counts with seating assignments available on

Event 12 Prize Pool

Event 12, today’s 4 p.m. $365 last-chance ring event, drew 345 players generating a $103,500 prize pool. Each of the top 36 players finish in the money with a min-cash awarding $535. From there, payouts escalate steadily before topping out in a $23,806 first prize. In addition to the lion’s share of the prize pool, the winner earns a Circuit gold ring and 50 points toward Ben Reason’s Casino Championship lead.

Complete Event 12 prize structure:

Prize Pool

The clock currently reads 120 players remaining toward the end of Level 10. Those still alive include Dan Lowery, Julie Cornelius, DJ Mackinnon and Paul Sokoloff. As an amendment to the structure sheet, Day 1 wraps following Level 15 (~12:45 a.m.) and Day 2 resumes tomorrow at noon. Complete chip counts will be posted prior to the restart.

Ring Event 12 Underway

The 12th and final ring event of the Choctaw series — a $365 no-limit hold’em tournament — is underway now. This marks players’ last chance to earn points toward catching Ben Reason’s Casino Championship lead. Reason, who’s still alive in the Main Event, sits at 82.5 and counting — at least 22.5 clear of second place Justin “Choctaw” Kruger.

Here’s a closer look at tonight’s 4 p.m. ring event:

4 p.m., Event 12, $365 no-limit hold’em, Day 1

  • $365 buy-in gets players 10,000 chips
  • Blinds begin at 25/50
  • Registration remains open through Level 8 (~8:30 p.m.)
  • Day 1 concludes following Level 18 (~3 a.m.)
  • Levels 1-12 are 30 minutes, Levels 13-21 are 40 minutes, Levels 22-25 are 50 minutes, all remaining levels are 60 minutes
  • Advancing players return for Day 2 Monday at 2 p.m.