History of the World Series of Poker Circuit Planet Hollywood


One of the more recent additions to the World Series of Poker Circuit, the Planet Hollywood stop didn’t become a fixture until 2014. Starting that year, it was held once every season with the exception of 2017-18, when it received two stops.

On Wednesday, Planet Hollywood began “hosting” its online Circuit for the current season, with 12 ring events set to be awarded on WSOP.com.

With that in mind, PokerNews thought it an appropriate time to delve back into the history of the stop, taking a look at all of the turnouts, Main Event winners, and Casino Champions as part of the ongoing series tracking the history of the WSOP Circuit.

November 2014: Eames Crosses the Ocean for a Title

John Eames
Eames earned a career-best score.

The first running of WSOP Circuit Planet Hollywood sported an aggressive $1 million guarantee, but the 1,044 entries had no problem covering that as they produced a prize pool in excess of $1.5 million.

Heading into the final table, powerhouse big name Matt Berkey looked like the man to beat with an enormous chip lead going to start Day 3. However, John Eames of the U.K., who had just a few blinds early at the final table, managed to storm back and take him down heads up to win $289,706 following a lengthy heads-up match.

Another notable finish was that of Ping Liu. The future multiple-WPT finalist would take third place for $133,110.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 John Eames Southport, U.K. $289,706
2 Matt Berkey Las Vegas, Nevada $179,119
3 Ping Liu Chicago, Illinois $133,110
4 Dustin Johns Nappanee, Indiana $100,067
5 Brad Libson Annapolis, Maryland $76,092
6 Corey Emery Simi Valley, California $58,537
7 Johnny Neckar Mountain View, California $45,555
8 Quang Ngo Lawrence, Kansas $35,861
9 Michael Skomac Henderson, Nevada $25,864

Kheang Tang took down the initial ring, the first awarded in the property’s history, in the big reentry. He won $71K for that one, then got second in another $365 event for $13,905. He tacked on one more small cash, and it was enough for Casino Champion honors.

November 2015: Nearly $2M in Prize Pool

Sean Berrios
Berrios won a whopping $347K.

An even bigger field turned up the next year, and the prize pool came in just under $2 million thanks to 1,304 entries.

A typically tough Vegas field turned up full of pros who would be just as at home in a big bracelet event, but it was a little-known player emerging as the victor for $347,192. Recreational player Sean Berrios won by far the biggest prize of his life, $347,192, after topping a final table that included poker millionaires Ben Palmer (fifth for $91,052) and Peter Hengsakul (second for $215,160).

Berrios would come just shy of a bracelet in the $10K limit event the following year but the $347K remains a personal best.

One bit of trivia — ninth-place finisher Ali Fazeli would eventually make headlines for a different reason as he was handed a prison sentence in 2019 in California after pleading guilty to wire fraud felony. He may have been funding his poker activities during roughly this time in 2015 with ill-gotten funds from his nefarious activities.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Sean Berrios St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands $347,192
2 Peter Hengsakul Pasadena, California $215,160
3 Antonios Roungeris Los Angeles, California $157,908
4 Davis Aalvik Long Beach, California $119,316
5 Ben Palmer Las Vegas, Nevada $91,052
6 Brian Hansen Las Vegas, Nevada $70,083
7 Dennis Stevermer St. Paul, Minnesota $54,572
8 Jonathan Chehanske Brigantine, New Jersey $42,993
9 Ali Fazeli Houston, Texas $34,269

WSOP regular AJ Kelsall would claim Casino Champion honors thanks to a pair of high finishes. He got second in a small PLO event for $6,675 then followed up with a victory in the $365 Turbo finale for $16,576. That was his first ring, though he’d later add two more and then a bracelet in the 2020 Global Casino Championship, the first one to take place online.

September 2016: Yu Wins Second of Eight

Sean Yu
Yu would go onto more Circuit success.

A new schedule slot of September for the 2016-17 edition of the WSOP Circuit would not be kind to the numbers at Planet Hollywood. Possibly due to partial overlap with two other stops, the turnout crashed to just 528, putting $792,000 in the prize pool.

Still there was $170K up top to play for, and a couple of really big names found themselves in contention at the final table. Jake Schindler, whose sterling resume included one early Circuit ring, would fall in sixth for $32,710, not much more than a buy-in for the stakes he was already playing regularly.

The other star, Eli Elezra, would advance to heads-up play. However, he’d be unable to defeat ascending Circuit star Sean Yu, who collected his second WSOPC ring. Yu would go on to great success with six more rings, but even more impressively, he parlayed his Global Casino Championship seat into a bracelet and $296K to kick off the following season.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Sean Yu Los Angeles, California $170,286
2 Eli Elezra N/A, Israel $105,281
3 Daniel Needleman Long Island City, New York $76,911
4 Arianna Son Las Vegas, Nevada $57,016
5 Kevin Calenzo New Harford, New York $42,879
6 Jake Schindler Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $32,710
7 Brandon West Las Vegas, Nevada $25,304
8 Keith Doering Brownton, Minnesota $19,855
9 Colin York Las Vegas, Nevada $15,800

Circuit superstar Josh Turner secured Casino Champion honors, but the race was about as close as possible. He and Kindah Sakkal both scored 75 points at the stop, with Turner snagging his fifth ring in the process. It came down to the tiebreaker, with Turner edging out Sakkal in winnings, $15,936 to $15,025.

November 2017: Galvan Wins First Ring

Fernando Galvan
Galvan topped the likes of Ali Imsirovic.

Back in its old familiar November slot, turnout kicked back up in 2017. Not quite to the old four-figure levels, but 845 entries produced a prize pool of $1,267,000.

As seemed to be the custom in Planet Hollywood, another tournament superstar made his way to the final table. This time, it was Ali Imsirovic, a high roller hero used to playing for millions of dollars instead of merely hundreds of thousands. He took one of the shortest stacks into the final table but managed to ladder to fourth place for $83,959.

The man who eliminated him, Fernando Galvan, had a smoking-hot run and simply couldn’t be stopped. He would prevail over Chris Tam and Corey Hochman three-handed to grab his first — and still only — WSOPC ring and $247,160.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Fernando Galvan Denver, Colorado $247,160
2 Corey Hochman Phoenix, Arizona $152,734
3 Chris Tham San Francisco, California $112,503
4 Ali Imsirovic Vancouver, Washington $83,959
5 Bruce Kramer Westminster, California $63,476
6 Melanie Banfield Las Vegas, Nevada $48,609
7 Mark Ioli Bayside, New York $37,695
8 Danny Elmore Sherwood, Oregon $29,596
9 Neil Scott Mammoth Lakes, California $23,525

A truly exemplary performance earned Vegas regular Arkadiy Tsinis the title of Casino Champion. Tsinis bagged not one, not two, but three rings to go with his other piece of gold to run his overall total to four. Tsinis shipped two $365 hold’em events and also was half of the tag team that won that event. He also had another cash to boot.

March 2018: Zamani Adds Circuit Title to Accolades

Ben Zamani
Zamani added to a long list of successes.

For the first time, the WSOP Circuit rolled through Planet Hollywood twice for the 2017-18 season. The March running of the event drew a crowd more in line with the September runnings than the November ones as 610 entries were logged for a $915,000 prize pool.

It was a star-studded final table that emerged with top tournament regs Ben Zamani, Joseph Cheong and Barry Hutter making it, to say nothing of Jesse Yaginuma, Stephen Nussrallah and Ben Palmer, making another appearance after his fifth-place finish in 2016.

Cheong, Nussrallah and Yaginuma went down in the first half of the final table, but Hutter, Palmer and Zamani were left to contest the big prizes in the final three. The latter had everyone in an ICM hell for most of the latter stages though and easily dusted his remaining competition to add a WSOPC title to his two bracelets and WPT Player of the Year honors.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Benjamin Zamani Boca Raton, Florida $192,152
2 Ben Palmer Las Vegas, Nevada $118,849
3 Barry Hutter Hollywood, Florida $86,907
4 Scott Powrie Bothell, Washington $64,489
5 Aaron McEvoy Los Alamos, New Mexico $48,522
6 Jesse Yaginuma Silver Spring, Maryland $37,012
7 Hank Mlekoday N/A $28,621
8 Joseph Cheong La Mirada, California $22,436
9 Stephen Nussrallah Alpharetta, Georgia $17,824

Samuel Lee didn’t record a cash at the stop until Event #10, but from there on out, he racked up 100 points to roar in late for Casino Champion honors. After that win in a six-max, worth $13,860, Lee cashed the Main Event in 51st then final tabled two post-lims, finishing ninth and third.

November 2018: Back to Once Per Cycle

Travis Dorsey
Dorsey won the smallest of the Planet Hollywood Mains.

After the experiment with a double stint in Planet Hollywood the previous season, the Circuit returned to dropping by once per season in 2018, in its old familiar November slot as sister properties Bally’s and Rio hosted in the spring. A record-low turnout of 510 populated the venue for a prize pool of $784,770.

The smallish field did nothing to dilute the quality of final-table participants as notable pros Brent Roberts, Tim Reilly, Jared Griener, Daniel Strelitz and Ryan Tosoc all made it in.

The latter two would see three-handed play but neither could secure his first ring. Instead, the decorated pros would each fall to Travis Dorsey, who grabbed his third ring and his biggest career cash, $168,722.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Travis Dorsey Boerne, Texas $168,722
2 Ryan Tosoc Chicago, Illinois $104,319
3 Daniel Strelitz Torrance, California $76,209
4 Zinan Xu N/A, China $56,496
5 Jared Griener Huntington Beach, California $42,487
6 Tim Reilly Natick, Massachusetts $32,411
7 Jody Fayant Edmonton, Canada $25,073
8 Brent Roberts Las Vegas, Nevada $19,674
9 Rafael Lebron Puyallup, Washington $15,656

Romania’s Cosmin Joldis managed three final tables in the festival, and that would be enough to stay clear of Josh Turner, denying him a second Casino Champion title and sending the Global seat to Joldis. Joldis won his first and still only ring in a $600 event then also booked fourth- and eighth-place finishes to end with 95 points.

November 2019: Trivett Wins, Palmer Makes Third Final Table

Michael Trivett
Trivett won his first ring.

Numbers bumped up to 778 the following year for a prize pool of $1,178,670.

The trend of Vegas-based pros having success continued, but this time, one would seal the deal at the final table. It was former mixed-game pro Michael Trivett who triumphed to the tune of $215,943 and his first ring.

Trivett got through the likes of Zachary Donovan (fourth), Ryan Leng (seventh) and Ben Palmer at the final table. Impressively, it was the third time there for Palmer despite the fact the even was less than a decade old. However, he only managed to add ninth place to his second- and fifth-place scores from previous years.

Place Player Hometown Prize
1 Michael Trivett Las Vegas, Nevada $215,943
2 James Petzing Las Vegas, Nevada $133,462
3 Tzu Huang Surrey, Canada $98,912
4 Zachary Donovan Franklin, Massachusetts $74,098
5 Casey Stewart Santa Cruz, California $56,116
6 Jorge Arriola Midland, Texas $42,967
7 Ryan Leng Las Vegas, Nevada $33,266
8 Rubin Chappell Youngstown, Ohio $26,046
9 Ben Palmer Las Vegas, Nevada $20,626

Just two cashes was enough to secure Casino Champion at this stop, and Scott Cunningham was the man to get there, squeezing through thanks to the quality of those two scores. Cunningham finished third in a $400 event, then he shipped the penultimate open event for $10,489 to grab a seat in the Global Casino Championship.

At a Glance: History of WSOPC Planet Hollywood

Edition Main Event Champ Prize Casino Champion
November 2014 John Eames $289,706 Kheang Tang
November 2015 Sean Berrios $347,192 AJ Kelsall
September 2016 Sean Yu $170,286 Josh Turner
November 2017 Fernando Galvan $247,160 Arkadiy Tsinis
March 2018 Ben Zamani $192,152 Samuel Lee
November 2018 Travis Dorsey $168,722 Cosmin Joldis
November 2019 Michael Trivett $215,943 Scott Cunningham

Lead photo courtesy of Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons, winner photos courtesy of WSOP



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