Poker

History of the World Series of Poker Circuit Harrah’s Atlantic City


Throughout the past year and change, PokerNews has traced the history of various World Series of Poker Circuit event stops. Now, it’s time to look at the stop that is WSOP Circuit history: WSOP Circuit Harrah’s Atlantic City, which was the very first stop on tour way back in 2005 when the idea to spread the WSOP brand throughout the country first got off the ground.

Since then, the Harrah’s Atlantic City stop has endured, hosting a ring series each and every season without fail, even an abbreviated one in 2020 that ended abruptly due to the pandemic.

January 2005: The First Circuit Event

Though it remains billed as the 2004-05 season, the first hands dealt on the Circuit did occur in January 2005 at Harrah’s Atlantic City. The seven-event series culminated in what was then a $10,000 Main Event, which drew 249 runners for a prize pool of $2,365,500.

Stars of the game such as Chris Ferguson, Chad Brown and Erick Lindgren made the final table but none would be able to topple the ultra-aggressive Canadian upstart Henry Tran. Tran bested Lindgren heads up to win $780,615.

In a 15-plus year career that’s seen him edge up to almost $2 million cashes to date, that figure remains his best score as well as his only Circuit ring.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Henry Tran Vaughan, Canada $780,615
2 Erick Lindgren Henderson, Nevada $430,521
3 Nicky Frangos White Plains, New York $236,550
4 Mimi Tran Cerritos, California $189,240
5 Aaron Bartley Cary, North Carolina $141,930
6 Stan Goldstein Los Angeles, California $118,275
7 Chad Brown Margate, Florida $94,620
8 Chris Ferguson Pacific Palisades, California $70,965
9 John Esposito Las Vegas, Nevada $47,310

February 2006: Korotki Wins First of Two

A slight ding in the buy-in $9,700 and a bigger dip in the entries to 124 meant the prize pool for the second go-round was about half the size at $1,202,800 in 2006.

Commensurate with the decrease in prize money, a less star-studded final table emerged, though there was still a handsome sum of $433,008 up top. That amount went to Abraham Korotki of New Jersey after getting by Denmark’s Brian Jensen heads up.

Similarly to Tran, the win jump-started a poker career that has seen Korotki pile up $1.9 million in cashes. Unlike Tran, however, he did manage to snag a second ring, and it would be several years down the line at this very stop.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Abraham Korotki Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey $433,008
2 Brian Jensen Aars, Denmark $240,560
3 Steven Jacobs New York, New York $132,308
4 Jody Gararienta N/A $96,224
5 Herbert Cheng Elmhurst, New York $84,196
6 Edward Corrado Naples, Florida $72,168
7 Ernest Shepherd Lizella, Georgia $60,140
8 Harry White Hughesville, Pennsylvania $48,112
9 Jianhua Zhou N/A $36,084

December 2006: Racener’s Rise Begins

The following season of Circuit action would see the Harrah’s Atlantic City stop shifted to December, so it took place in the same calendar year as the prior stop. A cut in the buy-in to $4,900 would see a bigger field of 237 turn out but roughly the same prize pool of $1,161,300 collected.

The winner of the event would be Rick Rossetti for $368,096. However, Rossetti would never recapture that sort of glory again, though he has maintained a consistent record of cashes and popped up for several scores in the 2020 online bracelet series.

Instead, a different star emerged from the final table: third-place finisher John Racener. Racener earned $103,527 for his first recorded live cash and would go on to WSOP glory with a bracelet and more than $8.5 million in cashes headlined by his runner-up finish at the 2010 Main Event.

As you’ll see below, he had some Circuit success as well.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Rick Rossetti Linwood, New Jersey $368,096
2 Alex Gomez N/A $202,453
3 John Racener Tampa, Florida $103,527
4 Feming Chan West Windsor, New Jersey $80,521
5 Ken Goldin Clearwater, Florida $69,018
6 Michael Bernstein Chicago, Illinois $57,515
7 Ray Ho Lin N/A $46,012
8 Drew Gliem Trenton, New Jersey $34,509
9 Tam Ly Lansdale, Pennsylvania $23,006

December 2007: Racener Runs it Back

A similar field of 244 came out for the $5,000 Main Event the following December to create a prize pool of $1,195,600. For the first time, the event received live coverage on PokerNews, archived right here.

Once again, Racener would find himself making a run to the final table. This time, Racener shared the table with fellow future WSOP Main Event final tablist Eric Buchman. The two entered the final table with big stacks and as it would happen, they’d wind up heads up.

This time, Racener finished the job he’d started the year before. He won $379,392 and his first and to date only Circuit ring, though of course bigger and better things were ahead in his career.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 John Racener Tampa, Florida $379,392
2 Eric Buchman Hewlett, New York $208,666
3 Feming Chan West Windsor, New Jersey $106,704
4 Joseph Brooks Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey $82,992
5 Thomas Patrick Fee N/A $71,136
6 Dave Fox Coram, New York $59,280
7 Adrian Velez N/A $47,424
8 James Nelson N/A $35,568
9 Sam Skolnik Las Vegas, Nevada $23,712

December 2008: Roberts Grabs His Only Circuit Ring

Brent Roberts
Roberts won his only Circuit ring.

The turnout dipped to 179 for the following year’s $5K Main Event, so the prize pool ducked under seven figures for the first time, hitting $867,100.

A handful of future WSOP stars made the final table. Both Allen Bari and Kyle Bowker, who would go on to win seven figures in bracelet events over the course of their careers, fell a bit shy of the title with fifth- and third-place finishes, respectively.

Instead, it would be another recognizable reg, Brent Roberts, who snagged a ring and $280,040. Roberts would eventually surpass $500K in WSOP cashes and pile up more than $370K on the Circuit, but he has yet to find himself back in the winner’s circle even as his total tournament winnings surpassed $2.4 million.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Brent Roberts Las Vegas, Nevada $280,040
2 Phillip Reed N/A $147,707
3 Kyle Bowker Walton, New York $86,710
4 Robert McLaughlin Washington, D.C. $69,368
5 Allen Bari West Orange, New Jersey $52,026
6 Timothy Kelly Thorold, Canada $43,355
7 Dwyte Pilgrim Brooklyn, New York $34,684
8 Scott Zakheim Davie, Florida $26,013
9 Alex Camejo N/A $17,341

December 2009: Klod’s Only Ring, Another Close Call for Bowker

Chris Klodnicki
Klodnicki had a tough final few opponents (c/o WSOP).

The tournament legend known to many as “SLOPPYKLOD,” Chris Klodnicki has piled up millions in winnings both live and online but only has one Circuit ring, and that came at the $5,000 Main Event in Atlantic City in 2009.

In a slightly bumped up field of 195 — prize pool of $926,835 — Klodnicki had a whale of a final four to deal with. Future WPT Player of the Year Mukul Pahuja would take fourth, online legend Grayson “gray31” Ramage got third, and none other than previous year’s third-place finisher Kyle Bowker made it heads up. Unfortunately for Bowker, he was only able to do one better as Klodnicki held a big chip lead heads up and did not let it slip it away.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Chris Klodnicki Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $215,915
2 Kyle Bowker Walton, New York $128,357
3 Grayson Ramage Austin, Texas $100,852
4 Mukul Pahuja Coconut Creek, Florida $73,347
5 Ryan Karp West Chester, Pennsylvania $67,178
6 Charles Furey Atlantic City, New Jersey $55,010
7 Wayne Lewis Galloway, New Jersey $45,842
8 Farzad Rouhani Brigantine, New Jersey $36,673
9 Eugene Fouksman Manalappan, New Jersey $27,505

December 2010: Waxman Wins First Lower-Priced Main

Matt Waxman
Waxman collected Circuit gold a few years before his bracelet.

The WSOP opted to shift around the format of the Circuit for the 2010-11 season, downsizing the Main Events to $1,650 and adding the points race leading toward the season-ending $1 million National Championship. Short-lived Regional Championships were also added, with one held at Harrah’s Atlantic City.

However, the Main would be at the aforementioned $1,650 price point for the first time, drawing 352 entries for a prize pool of $512,160.

Once again, a future WSOP bracelet winner took it down, this time Matt Waxman. The Florida pro would win $117,979 and go on to bracelet glory in 2013, part of $1.1 million in WSOP earnings and counting.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Matt Waxman Fort Lauderdale, Florida $117,797
2 Ismael Cabrera Marietta, Georga $72,824
3 Mark Sykes Hamden, Connecticut $53,126
4 Chris Bonita Winthrop, Massachusetts $39,406
5 David Cubeta Falls Church, Virginia $29,685
6 Dennis Summers Charlottesville, Virginia $22,704
7 Tam Ly Lansdale, Pennsylvania $17,618
8 Brandon Croft Sumter, South Carolina $13,869
9 Manish Patel Burlington, New Jersey $11,073

A Casino Championship leaderboard was kept for the first time to award another seat to the National Championship, and it would be second-place Main Event finisher Ismael Cabrera taking the honors. That placing was a big factor as the points were distributed differently back then, enabling Cabrera to hold off East Coast legend Chris Reslock by the slimmest of margins.

December 2011: Phan Makes Maiden WSOP Score a Big One

Tuan Phan
Phan had zero WSOP cashes at the time.

The buy-in was slightly cut to $1,600 but a much bigger turnout of 618 boosted the prize pool considerably to $899,190 in 2011.

Future high roller regular and multiple-time major tournament champion Anthony Zinno would make a deep run only to go down in sixth place for $36,372, a mere fraction of the millions that awaited him down the road.

Two Virginians, Tuan Phan and Hao Le would meet heads up, with the former coming out on top for $188,190. It was Phan’s very first time cashing a WSOP event, and it would nearly be his last as he managed just one more in the intervening years.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Tuan Phan Vienna, Virginia $188,190
2 Hao Le Fairfax, Virginia $116,796
3 Marc Roy Montreal, Canada $85,405
4 Larry Riggs Maysville, North Carolina $63,375
5 Manh Nguyen Homestead, Pennsylvania $47,684
6 Anthony Zinno Boston, Massachusetts $36,372
7 Kevin Kaikko Princeton, New Jersey $28,127
8 Denis Gnidash Fair Lawn, New Jersey $22,048
9 Michael Devinsky Middletown, New Jersey $17,516

While Le couldn’t quite capture the title, he did get the consolation prize of Casino Champion much like Ismael Cabrera before him, taking advantage of the heavier points weight to second-place Main Event finishes. Le had also gotten third in the opening $365 event and it was enough to score him 80 points to top the 72.5 of Jeffrey Gurfinkel.

December 2012: Teasdale Wins Main, Fish Named Casino Champ

Adam Teasdale
Teasdale earned by far his biggest WSOP score.

A near-identical field of 616 turned out for the again slightly altered price point of $1,675 in the December 2012 Main Event, making for a prize pool of $924,000.

The star power of previous years wasn’t present, as it was instead little-known Adam Teasdale from North Carolina who emerged for the $194,040 first-place prize, topping Minnesota pro Wade Woelfel in the process. It remains Teasdale’s only ring and dwarfs the rest of his career cashes combined by about a 2-to-1 ratio.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Adam Teasdale Wilmington, North Carolina $194,040
2 Wade Woelfel Mankato, Minnesota $120,018
3 Pedro Rios Houston, Texas $87,762
4 Sung Kim New York, New York $65,124
5 Terry Grimes Yonkers, New York $49,000
6 Aaron Overton Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $37,376
7 Barry Leventhal Brooklyn, New York $28,903
8 Ed Modlin Jamesville, North Carolina $22,656
9 Trevor Deeter Langhorne, Pennsylvania $18,000

A 14th-place finish in the Main Event along with his first Circuit ring (and a $50K score) in the multi-flight event gave Nebraska native Brandon Fish enough points to snag Casino Champion honors. He finished comfortably clear of Main Event third-place finisher Pedro Rios.

December 2013: Lapinta Tops Smaller Field

The field dipped a bit to 578 in 2013, making for a prize pool of $867,000.

A Circuit standout and a future bracelet winner would both make the final table but neither would be the last standing as both James Dorrance and Jeremy Wien, respectively, would go down fairly early in eighth and sixth. Joseph Lapinta would collect all of the chips and win $182,070, one of only two Circuit cashes on his ledger to this day.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Joseph Lapinta Toms River $182,070
2 Joseph Wertz Montoursville, Pennsylvania $112,615
3 John Jones Spotsylvania, Virginia $82,384
4 Keith Donovan New Milford, New Jersey $61,106
5 Fabrizio Sarra N/A $45,977
6 Jeremy Wien Mount Kisco, New York $35,070
7 Melad Marji Oneida Castle, New York $27,120
8 James Dorrance Hershey, Pennsylvania $21,259
9 Kevin Kernan Warwick, Rhode Island $16,889

Richard Block has just five Circuit cashes to his credit, but the two highest finishes came in timely fashion in close proximity to one another at the 2013 Harrah’s Atlantic City stop. He won the $580 event for $28,373 and then followed up a few days later with third place in a $365 for $7,895. Those two finishes were enough for the title of Casino Champion.

December 2014: Pahuja Finishes the Job

Mukul Pahuja
Pahuja finished the job from the earlier fourth-place run.

Back in 2009, Mukul Pahuja had come close to a Main Event win at Harrah’s Atlantic City only to see Chris Klodnicki take the honors at a really tough final table. Another meat grinder of a finale emerged in 2014 — numbers dipped to 460 entries for $690,000 in the prize pool — but this time Pahuja finished the job.

In the midst of a career breakout that would see him WPT Player of the Year, Pahuja topped a final table that featured East Coast standouts Joseph Liberta, Mike Dentale Jesse Cohen,and Jake Toole, whom Pahuja bested heads up. Adam Teasdale also made a repeat final-table run following up his win two years earlier.

Pahuja earned the second of three rings and $148,345.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Mukul Pahuja Coconut Creek, Florida $148,345
2 Jake Toole Hoboken, New Jersey $91,722
3 Gajan Jeganathan Monmouth Junction, New Jersey $67,006
4 Mike Dentale Brooklyn, New York $49,673
5 James Petolicchio Sewell, New Jersey $37,357
6 Adam Teasdale Wilmington, North Carolina $28,497
7 Jesse Cohen Ardmore, Pennsylvania $22,046
8 Joseph Liberta Berlin, New Jersey $17,298
9 David Matthews Columbus, Ohio $13,766

After finishing third in the Main Event the previous year, John Jones followed up with Casino Champion honors in 2014. He had three final table runs, finishing first in the $580 for $17,100, ninth in a $365 for $1,148 and third in a $365 six-max for $8,345.

March 2016: A New Slot

Robert Kuhn
Kuhn bested a final table with some tough pros.

For the 2015-16 season, the Harrah’s Atlantic City stop was moved to the mid-March slot as The Bike in L.A. took over early December. The move did nothing to stem the sliding participation as just 370 entries were recorded for a prize pool of $555,000, the property’s lowest since 2010.

Again, there were a slew of strong players at the final table. Joseph Liberta made it back-to-back years in the final nine but could only improve his standing one spot to sixth. Jared Jaffee, Joe Cappello, and Ari Engel also made deep runs but couldn’t find their way to gold.

Future WSOP.com bracelet winner Robert Kuhn would be the last man standing to win $122,098 and to date his only Circuit ring.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Robert Kuhn Las Vegas, Nevada $122,098
2 Nenad Cvetkovic Atlantic City, New Jersey $75,452
3 Dorian Rios N/A $55,134
4 Ari Engel Las Vegas, Nevada $40,937
5 David Cossio Las Vegas, Nevada $30,869
6 Joseph Liberta Berlin, New Jersey $23,626
7 Joseph Cappello New Rochelle, New York $18,348
8 Jared Jaffee Brooklyn, New York $14,452
9 Oliver Entine New York, New York $11,544

While Engel couldn’t quite finish the Main with a ring, he did earn enough points with that fourth-place finish combined with his eighth ring win — he now has 10 — in the $580 to grab a ticket to the newly minted Global Casino Championship. Leaderboard grinders everywhere were undoubtedly relieved as the prolific Engel was always known for collecting more than his share of points and cashes, meaning a likely at-large bid was opened up.

March 2017: Korotki Completes a Brace

Abraham Korotki
Korotki won the event twice, more than a decade apart.

The WSOP stuck with the March slot for the 2016-17 season but attendance fell even further to 341, for a record-low prize pool of $511,500.

Though it paled in comparison to his previous win worth $433K way back in 2006, Abraham Korotki was undoubtedly still thrilled to gather in $117,645 and a second Circuit ring more than a decade after his first.

He beat Alex Rocha heads up. Other notable finishers included previous year’s runner-up Nenad Cvetkovic in fifth for $29,647 and tournament star Shannon Shorr in eighth for $13,851.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Abraham Korotki Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey $117,645
2 Alex Rocha Flagler Beach, Florida $72,730
3 Edward Duncan Oneida, Tennessee $53,085
4 Henry Edmondson Oceanport, New Jersey $39,355
5 Nenad Cvetkovic Atlantic City, New Jersey $29,647
6 Brian Paneth Brooklyn, New York $22,675
7 Jeremy Stein Washington, D.C. $17,596
8 Shannon Shorr Las Vegas, Nevada $13,851
9 Julie Cornelius Rockville, Maryland $11,059

It would be New Jersey sensation Dan Buzgon, one of the most prolific players in Circuit history with 126 cashes and counting, who claimed Casino Champion honors. He easily dusted the rest of the competition with three cashes and more importantly two wins, shipping two $365 turbos for a combined $24,455, landing 17.5 points clear of second place.

March 2018: Second of Five for Porbandarwala

Soheb Porbandarwala
Porbandarwala has become a successful grinder.

Numbers inched further downward in March 2018 with 306 entries for $459,000 in the prize pool.

A pair of ring winners met heads up for $107,862 up top as it would be Peter Vitantonio facing off with Soheb Porbandarwala. The fast-rising Porbandarwala, who had grabbed a six-figure win in the big Foxwoods reentry the season before, added a Main Event win to his list by besting three-time ring winner Vitantonio.

Porbandarwala has continued to have success in the ensuing years, adding three more rings, including two online where he has been one of the most successful players in the regulated U.S. markets.

Also of note was a fourth-place finish by WSOP mixed-game grinder Matt Glantz.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Soheb Porbandarwala Stamford, Connecticut $107,862
2 Peter Vitantonio Wickliffe, Ohio $66,693
3 Jason Maeroff Atlanta, Georgia $48,438
4 Matt Glantz Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania $35,779
5 Scott Sisler Novi, Michigan $26,861
6 Billy Cashwell Stedman, North Carolina $20,485
7 Jeffrey Miller Jupiter, Florida $15,868
8 Kevin Grabel Southampton, Pennsylvania $12,476
9 Daniel Monosson Plainview, New York $9,956

Min Wang had a spectacular performance at the stop with three cashes — two firsts and a runner-up. The ring wins came in $580 Double Stack and a $365 regular event while the runner-up came in a single-day event. Wang finished with a staggering 137.5 points, meaning even Vitantonio’s excellent results that included a ring win with the runner-up finish didn’t get him close.

March 2019: No. 4 for Eriquezzo

Ryan Eriquezzo
Eriquezzo has had a ton of success in the Northeast.

One of the most successful players in Circuit history has undoubtedly been Ryan Eriquezzo. With more than $700K in earnings, four rings, and not one but two wins in the season-ending bracelet event, Eriquezzo has made his mark on the Circuit like few others.

His native Northeast has been a particularly successful stomping ground, and Eriquezzo entered the 2019 Harrah’s Atlantic City stop having already won a previous Circuit Main at sister property Caesars Atlantic City. He added another ring, his fourth, topping a field of 357 at the new $1,700 price point, which had produced a prize pool of $540,855.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Ryan Eriquezzo Danbury, Connecticut $124,397
2 Denis Gnidash Fair Lawn, New Jersey $76,904
3 Kurt Lichtman New York, New York $56,103
4 Richard Hanheide Clintondale, New York $41,613
5 Ryan McKnight Harrisburg, Pennsylvania $31,348
6 John Forlenza Matawan, New Jersey $23,976
7 Ross Gottlieb Columbus, Ohio $18,605
8 Renata Colache Clayton, New Jersey $14,646
9 Daniel Park Bayside, New York $11,693

Michael Marder put on quite the blitz at the stop as he cashed six out of a possible 13 events. They weren’t all of the min-cash variety either as he found himself at four final tables. There, he’d bank two fourths and a ninth before snagging his first ring and $10,394 in the $400 post-lim. He piled up 132.5 points, usually an easy way to win Casino Champion, but it was barely enough to edge Porbandarwala who had six cashes of his own.

At a Glance: History of WSOPC Harrah’s Atlantic City

Edition Main Event Champ Prize Casino Champion
January 2005 Henry Tran $780,615 N/A
February 2006 Abraham Korotki $433,008 N/A
December 2006 Rick Rossetti $368,096 N/A
December 2007 John Racener $379,392 N/A
December 2008 Brent Roberts $280,040 N/A
December 2009 Chris Klodnicki $215,915 N/A
December 2010 Matt Waxman $117,797 Ismael Cabrera
December 2011 Tuan Phan $188,190 Hao Le
December 2012 Adam Teasdale $194,040 Brandon Fish
December 2013 Joseph Lapinta $182,070 Richard Block
December 2014 Mukul Pahuja $148,345 John Jones
March 2016 Robert Kuhn $122,098 Ari Engel
March 2017 Abraham Korotki $117,645 Dan Buzgon
March 2018 Soheb Porbandarwala $107,862 Ming Wang
March 2019 Ryan Eriquezzo $124,397 Michael Marder

Lead photo courtesy of TruffStuff/Wikimedia Commons, winner photos via WSOP



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