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Recapping the 2012 World Series of Poker Circuit Africa

Joe-Boy Rahme

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

SeatPlayerChip Count
1James Parker1,756,000
2Marc Joseph525,000
3Brian Bouwer189,000
4Jason Straus400,000
5Ivan Pakkiri949,000
6Joe-Boy Rahme737,000
7Gregory Ronaldson1,223,000
8Matt Mullhall300,000
9Brad Flynn450,000

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 {A-}{6-} outdrew the {A-}{J-} 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 {Q-}{10-} against the {J-}{J-} 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

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Joe-Boy RahmeJohannesburg, South Africa$158,595
2Ivan PakkiriPolokwane, South Africa$98,012
3Jason StrausJohannesburg, South Africa$71,368
4James ParkerJohannesburg, South Africa$52,780
5Gregory RonaldsonJohannesburg, South Africa$39,649
6Marc JospehKrugersdorp, South Africa$30,196
7Brad FlynnCape Town, South Africa$23,409
8Matt MullhallCape Town, South Africa$18,397
9Brian BouwerJeffrey’s Bay, South Africa$14,654

Event #1

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.

Gregory Ronaldson, winner of Event #1
Gregory Ronaldson, winner of Event #1

WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #1 No-Limit Hold’em

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Gregory RonaldsonGauteng, South Africa$22,842
2Jaco Van TonderPretoria, South Africa$14,123
3Jospeh AntonyJohannesburg, South Africa$10,255
4Mario MichaelsWindhoek, Namibia$7,582
5Nicholaas WleynhassKlerksdrop, South Africa$5,686
6Nick SissouPretoria, South Africa$4,335
7Tony SemmensJohannesburg, South Africa$3,360
8Eugene Du PlessisStellenbosch, South Africa$2,642
9Mark BothaBenoni, South Africa$2,046

Event #2

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.

Jason Strauss, winner of Event #2
Jason Strauss, winner of Event #2

WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #2 No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Jason StraussMorningside, South Africa$25,979
2David CrookesJohannesburg, South Africa$16,048
3Steven BrownCamps Bay, South Africa$11,340
4Wayne MonksCape Town, South Africa$8,061
6David CornellSouth Africa$4,139
7Ryan ShandelSouth Africa$2,296
9Uzi AronsonN/A$2,174

Event #3

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.”

Rob Fenner, winner of $10,000 High Roller Event
Rob Fenner, winner of $10,000 High Roller Event

WSOP Circuit Africa Event #3 High Roller NLHE

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Rob FennerJohannesburg, South Africa$97,000
2Kinesh PatherJohannesburg, South Africa$58,200
3Bennie LingenfelderKempton Park, South Africa$38,800

Event #5

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.

Armand Saayman, winner of Event #5
Armand Saayman, winner of Event #5

WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #5 No-Limit Hold’em

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Armand SaaymanJohannesburg, South Africa$17,610
2Barry LevinJohannesburg, South Africa$10,882
3Stuart BrodieCape Town, South Africa$7,863
4Greg TuckerBedfordview, South Africa$5,786
5Manuael De CostaLisbon, Portugal$4,334
6Emmanuel WistonDurban, South Africa$3,306
7Stuart NelGauteng, South Africa$2,559
8Nicholas SimigiannisBoksburg, South Africa$2,013
9Ryan DreyerJohannesburg, South Africa$1,610

Event #6

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.

Heau Pienaar, winner of Event #6
Heau Pienaar, winner of Event #6

WSOP Circuit Africa Ring Event #6 No-Limit Hold’em

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Heau PienaarJohannesburg, South Africa$7,784
2David ShieifmanCape Town, South Africa$4,811
3Sally HuckleJohannesburg, South Africa$3,425
4Ayaz Sadrudin ManjiPortugal$2,488
5Roberto CapaioJohannesburg, South Africa$1,391
6Adrian ShunmusamJohannesburg, South Africa$1,391
7Eugene Du PlessisStellenbosch, South Africa$1,072
8Shawn HalgreenPort Elizabeth, South Africa$838
9Lynete FourieBoksburg, South Africa$669

Ladies Event

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.

WSOPC Africa Ladies Event
WSOPC Africa Ladies Event

WSOP Circuit Africa Ladies Event

Buy-inEntrantsPrize Pool
1Pippa RockasJohannesburg, South Africa$4,617
2Viki-Lee MiltidamJohannesburg, South Africa$2,853
3Sachsa WalterCape Town, South Africa$1,892
4Nicole DadicJohannesburg, South Africa$1,339
5MLM GouvelaCape Town, South Africa$1,008
6Chandra DeibJohannesburg, South Africa$805
7Lorelle HenningJohannesburg, South Africa$678

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