Ever since Raymond Rahme made the final table of the 2007 World Series of Poker, the game has expanded greatly in Africa. In South Africa, in particular, native players such as Warren Zackey, Jarred Solomon and Darren Kramer have found success. For the second year in a row, the World Series of Poker Circuit returned to the Emerald Casino in Johannesburg to host the continent’s most prestigious tournament series.
The premier tournament of the six-event stop was the $3,300 Main Event, which attracted 218 players and created a prize pool of $634,380. However, there were five other ring events, plus a ladies event, to keep things busy. Here’s a look at the action from the 2nd Annual WSOP Circuit Africa.
Main Event (Event #4)
The three-day event saw the field reduced to 134 players after the first day, with the aforementioned Zackey — the defending champ — finishing with the chip lead. However, he was unable to get anything going on Day 2 and was eliminated just shy of the 24-player money bubble. When players bagged and tagged heading into the final day, only 14 players remained.
On Day 3, it took just two hours to reach a final table, which included two players who had won rings just days before in Gregory Ronaldson and Jason Straus. The two Johannesburg natives trailed fellow local pro James Parker, who began the final table with a healthy chip lead.
WSOP Circuit Africa Main Event Final Table
Between Parker and Ronaldson, nearly half the chips were accounted for, which meant there were bound to be some early eliminations. The first was 29-year-old Brian Bouwer, who began the final table as the short stack. He was followed out the door by the other short stack, 22-year-old college student Matt Mullhall. Another college student, Brad Flynn, 24, was the next to go in seventh place.
After Marc Joseph was felted in sixth place, 28-year-old Ronaldson was eliminated despite having begun the final table second in chips. Days earlier, Ronaldson took down Event #1, which was the largest live poker tournament field in Africa's history. This title came just weeks after he won the Heads-Up Championship at the 2012 Crown’s Aussie Millions Poker Championship. Needless to say, it has been quite the year for Ronaldson, who took home $39,649 for his fifth-place finish.
Parker followed in Ronaldson’s footsteps after his big stack was dispersed among his opponents. The amateur player made his way to the payout desk in fourth place, collecting $52,780.
Joe-Boy Rahme then got lucky to double when his outdrew the of Straus, who was unable to recover and was eliminated in third place. That left Rahme to battle a self-employed father of two by the name of Ivan Pakkiri. There wasn’t much to the heads-up match as Pakkiri was soon all-in holding against the of Rahme. The board failed to help Pakkiri, who earned $98,012 for his runner-up finish.
“This feels great; I’ve been working toward a WSOP championship for 25 years. This is fabulous,” said Rahme, who earned $158,595, said after the win. “Poker has really grown over the last five years, we’re sending more and more players to Vegas for the annual WSOP each year and they are having great results. We play mostly home games, but casinos are starting to recognize us and more games are becoming available.”
WSOP Circuit Africa Main Event
|1||Joe-Boy Rahme||Johannesburg, South Africa||$158,595|
|2||Ivan Pakkiri||Polokwane, South Africa||$98,012|
|3||Jason Straus||Johannesburg, South Africa||$71,368|
|4||James Parker||Johannesburg, South Africa||$52,780|
|5||Gregory Ronaldson||Johannesburg, South Africa||$39,649|
|6||Marc Jospeh||Krugersdorp, South Africa||$30,196|
|7||Brad Flynn||Cape Town, South Africa||$23,409|
|8||Matt Mullhall||Cape Town, South Africa||$18,397|
|9||Brian Bouwer||Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa||$14,654|
The Main Event was preceded by the largest live tournament in Africa’s history. Event #1, a $350 no-limit hold'em event, drew 324 players to generate a prize pool of $97,200. Tournament Director Jack Effel and five-time WSOP bracelet winner Scotty Nguyen addressed the crowd and gave the ceremonial “Shuffle up and deal!”
The field ended up so big that a third day was added to the schedule, which worked to Greg Ronaldson’s advantage as he managed to overcome a big chip disadvantage at the final table to take home the ring. As mentioned before, this marked his second major win in less than two months, not to mention his Main Event final table appearance.
WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #1 No-Limit Hold’em
|1||Gregory Ronaldson||Gauteng, South Africa||$22,842|
|2||Jaco Van Tonder||Pretoria, South Africa||$14,123|
|3||Jospeh Antony||Johannesburg, South Africa||$10,255|
|4||Mario Michaels||Windhoek, Namibia||$7,582|
|5||Nicholaas Wleynhass||Klerksdrop, South Africa||$5,686|
|6||Nick Sissou||Pretoria, South Africa||$4,335|
|7||Tony Semmens||Johannesburg, South Africa||$3,360|
|8||Eugene Du Plessis||Stellenbosch, South Africa||$2,642|
|9||Mark Botha||Benoni, South Africa||$2,046|
Even though a chop had been negotiated during heads-up play in Event #2, Jason Strauss and David Crookes were determined to battle it out for the ring. The heads-up match lasted six hours, and it wasn’t until 7 a.m. that Strauss bested Crookes for the title.
"[Crooks] was a very tough opponent, picking good spots and keeping the pots small," Strauss said after the win. "This is a great feeling, winning such a prestigious tournament. It's unbelievable, really ... unbelievable." As we already mentioned, Strauss went on to final table the Main Event and established himself as a major player in South Africa.
WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #2 No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed
|1||Jason Strauss||Morningside, South Africa||$25,979|
|2||David Crookes||Johannesburg, South Africa||$16,048|
|3||Steven Brown||Camps Bay, South Africa||$11,340|
|4||Wayne Monks||Cape Town, South Africa||$8,061|
|6||David Cornell||South Africa||$4,139|
|7||Ryan Shandel||South Africa||$2,296|
The third of the six ring events, the $10,000 High Roller Event, was designed to appeal to South Africa’s elite poker players. The event drew 20 players, including Scotty Nguyen who was eliminated in ninth place. Day 1 halted with just seven players, with only three making the money on Day 2.
One of the men who managed to secure a payday was Bennie Lingenfelder, a 40-year-old married entrepreneur from Kempton Park. He finished in third place for $38,800. That left Rob Fenner, a 34-year-old consultant, to do battle against Kinesh Pather. Both players abandoned Event #2 to play the high roller event.
“I would say it turned out well,” Pather said.
Fenner echoed those sentiments: “I purposely busted out of the six-max event so that I could play in the high-roller event. I’m glad I did.”
The heads-up battle lasted about an hour and saw Fenner, who had finished fifth in the inaugural WSOP Africa Main Event, take down the top prize of $97,000.
“The online poker ban really hurt the economy in South Africa, you know and it came at a bad time as poker has grown tremendously here over the last few years,” Fenner said after the win. “Players are going to play regardless, whether in casinos of in a friends’ garages, we play because we love the game. We hope the government reverses course, but in the meanwhile tournaments like WSOP Africa are helping to keep the up momentum we’ve built here over the years.”
WSOP Circuit Africa Event #3 High Roller NLHE
|1||Rob Fenner||Johannesburg, South Africa||$97,000|
|2||Kinesh Pather||Johannesburg, South Africa||$58,200|
|3||Bennie Lingenfelder||Kempton Park, South Africa||$38,800|
The first tournament after the Main Event was Event #5, a $350 no-limit hold'em tournament, which drew 247 players, creating a prize pool of $71,877. The two-day event saw more than 60 players survive Day 1, and it took all afternoon on Day 2 to reach the final table, which saw Greg Tucker, a 29-year-old self-employed poker player from Johannesburg, enter as the dominating chip leader.
While Tucker had the chips, he couldn’t use them for victory, making his exit in fourth place. Instead, the day belonged to Armand Saayman of Witpoortjie, South Africa, who captured the ring and $17,610 top prize after playing into the early morning hours.
WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #5 No-Limit Hold’em
|1||Armand Saayman||Johannesburg, South Africa||$17,610|
|2||Barry Levin||Johannesburg, South Africa||$10,882|
|3||Stuart Brodie||Cape Town, South Africa||$7,863|
|4||Greg Tucker||Bedfordview, South Africa||$5,786|
|5||Manuael De Costa||Lisbon, Portugal||$4,334|
|6||Emmanuel Wiston||Durban, South Africa||$3,306|
|7||Stuart Nel||Gauteng, South Africa||$2,559|
|8||Nicholas Simigiannis||Boksburg, South Africa||$2,013|
|9||Ryan Dreyer||Johannesburg, South Africa||$1,610|
The last ring event of the WSOP Circuit Africa, a one-day event, drew 89 entries and created a prize pool of $25,946. It took all day, but in the end, Heau Pienaar, a 34-year-old poker player from Johannesburg, took down the last ring and earned himself $7,784 ... not bad for a day’s work.
WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #6 No-Limit Hold’em
|1||Heau Pienaar||Johannesburg, South Africa||$7,784|
|2||David Shieifman||Cape Town, South Africa||$4,811|
|3||Sally Huckle||Johannesburg, South Africa||$3,425|
|4||Ayaz Sadrudin Manji||Portugal||$2,488|
|5||Roberto Capaio||Johannesburg, South Africa||$1,391|
|6||Adrian Shunmusam||Johannesburg, South Africa||$1,391|
|7||Eugene Du Plessis||Stellenbosch, South Africa||$1,072|
|8||Shawn Halgreen||Port Elizabeth, South Africa||$838|
|9||Lynete Fourie||Boksburg, South Africa||$669|
Given that South Africa is comprised of 52 percent women, it only makes sense that the WSOPC would hold a Ladies Event. The tournament managed to draw 68 entrants, the largest ladies event in Africa’s short poker history.Pippa Rockas, a restaurant owner from Johannesburg, ultimately captured the $4,617 first-place prize.
“It’s not as promoted as it should be here,” Rockas said of the state of ladies poker in South Africa. “This was an amazing event and of course, I’m very happy that it was held here,” she said.
WSOP Circuit Africa Ladies Event
|1||Pippa Rockas||Johannesburg, South Africa||$4,617|
|2||Viki-Lee Miltidam||Johannesburg, South Africa||$2,853|
|3||Sachsa Walter||Cape Town, South Africa||$1,892|
|4||Nicole Dadic||Johannesburg, South Africa||$1,339|
|5||MLM Gouvela||Cape Town, South Africa||$1,008|
|6||Chandra Deib||Johannesburg, South Africa||$805|
|7||Lorelle Henning||Johannesburg, South Africa||$678|