History of the World Series of Poker Circuit Horseshoe Southern Indiana

WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana

While the live version of the World Series of Poker Circuit is on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will return in the future. In the meantime, PokerNews is offering a stop-by-stop historical look back at the biggest winners and stories to come out of each venue.

We previously explored the history of the WSOPC Choctaw Durant in Oklahoma, and this week we turn our attention to Horseshoe Southern Indiana, one of only a handful of stops to grace the WSOPC schedule from the very beginning.

Back in 2005, the property was known as Caesars Indiana, but in 2008 rebranded as Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

October 2005: Vinny Vinh Defeats “The Master”

Vinny Vinh
Vinny Vinh

Back in 2005, the WSOP Circuit hosted $10,000 buy-in Main Events across the country. The stop at Caesars Indiana attracted 127 runners and offered up a $1,211.600 prize pool, which was paid out to the final table of nine.

Coming out on top was Vinny Vinh, who defeated seven-time WSOP bracelet winner Men “The Master” Nguyen in heads-up play to win a $437,760 top prize and his only gold ring. It was a bit of redemption for Vinh, who three months earlier finished runner-up to Rafi Amit in the 2005 WSOP Event #35: $10,000 Pot-Limit Omaha, good for $282,280.

1Vinny VinhN/A$437,760
2Men “The Master” NguyenBell Gardens, California$243,200
3Ron HargroveN/A$133,760
4Samuel WhittN/A$97,280
5Doug “Rico” CarliAlliance, Ohio$85,120
6Bill EdlerLas Vegas, Nevada$72,960
7Martin RoweN/A$60,800
8John SmithLa Habra Heights, California$48,640
9Clint KeownN/A$36,480

October 2006: Chad “lil’ hold’em” Batista Victorious

Chad “lil’ hold’em” Batista
Chad “lil’ hold’em” Batista

The following year, the buy-in was lowered to $5,000 and saw 169 players pony up the buy-in to create an $819,650 prize pool. Doug “Rico” Carli made back-to-back final tables and once again finished in fifth place, this time for $48,519.

In the end, it was the late Chad “lilholdem” Batista beating Hoyt Lance in heads-up play to win the gold ring, his first and only, and the accompanying $262,002 first-place prize.

1Chad BatistaHenderson, Nevada$262,002
2Hoyt LanceRinggold, Georgia$137,471
3Edward CorradoNaples, Florida$80,865
4Hilbert ShireyFlorida$64,692
5Doug “Rico” CarliAlliance, Ohio$48,519
6Joel CasperChicago, Illinois$40,433
7Robert ArthurColumbus, Ohio$32,346
8Danny BrownN/A$24,260
9Thomas FullerBoulder, Colorado$16,173

April 2007: Men “The Master” Nguyen Finds Redemption

Men Nguyen
Men \"The Master\" Nguyen

After finishing runner-up in the inaugural WSOPC Caesars Indiana in 2005, Men “The Master” Nguyen returned in April 2007 and topped a 154-entry field in the $5,000 Main Event ($736,901 prize pool) to win a $238,756 top prize and his fourth career gold ring. He did so by defeating one of his students, Young Phan, in heads-up play.

Others to cash the tournament were Barry Greenstein (17th - $8,843), Adam Friedman (16th - $8,843), Johnny Hayes (12th - $11,760), Scott Fischman (9th - $14,738), and Bryan Sapp (3rd - $73,690).

1Men “The Master” NguyenBell Gardens, California$238,756
2Young PhanGarden Grove, California$125,273
3Bryan SappCincinnati, Ohio$73,690
4Tim McCarthyN/A$58,952
5Dennis AnnessN/A$44,214
6Steve BoyleN/A$36,845
7George LusbyGeorgetown, Kentucky$29,476
8Dean SchultzStow, Ohio$22,107
9Scott FischmanLas Vegas, Nevada$14,738

November 2007: Carlos Uz Victorious

Carlos Uz
Carlos Uz

Another $5,000 Main Event was held in early November 2007, and 144 runners created a $688,401 prize pool. Among those to make deep runs but fall short of the final table were Keven Stammen (18th - $8,261), Kou Vang (13th - $9,638), and Bryan Sapp (10th - $11,014).

The title came down to Florida’s Carlos Uz and Texas’ Marc Fratter, and the former ultimately prevailed to win the title and $223,042 top prize.

1Carlos UzHialeah, Florida$223,042
2Marc FratterMurphy, Texas$223,042
3Vito CasulloN/A$68,840
4Terry OgleSevierville, Tennessee$55,072
5Chris MooreCountryside, Illinois$41,304
6Chris VioxGlen Carbon, Illinois$34,420
7James LindsayHayesville, North Carolina$27,536
8Tom SchneiderScottsdale, Arizona$20,652
9Tomas HoverBlue Diamond, Nevada$13,768

April 2008: Wilbur Futhey Claims Title for Tennessee

Wilbur Futhey
Wilbur Futhey

In April 2008, the $5,000 Main Event attracted just 117 entrants, which created a $556,450 prize pool. For the third time, Doug “Rico” Carli was at the final table, and this time he finished one spot better than his prior two appearances taking fourth place for $44,516.

After Dale Poynter bowed out in third place, the title came down to Steve Merrifield and Wilbur Futhey, with the latter ultimately coming out on top to claim the $180,290 top prize.

1Wilbur FutheyCrossville, Tennessee$180,290
2Steve MerrifieldLas Vegas, Nevada$94,597
3Dale PoynterWaynesboro, Virginia$55,645
4Doug “Rico” CarliAlliance, Ohio$44,516
5Benjamin HockN/A$33,387
6Jason MannSan Antonio, Texas$27,823
7Giovanni MarcacciN/A$22,258
8Jerry MartinN/A$16,694
9Michele IacovoneMentor, Ohio$11,129

October 2008: Field Drops Below 100

Samuel Oberlin
Samuel Oberlin

The October 2008 edition of the $5,150 Main Event declined considerably with just 84 players. That meant the final table of nine got paid, and honors went to Michigan’s Samuel Oberlin, who won the ring and $143,064 first-place prize. It was Oberlin’s second WSOP-related cash, and while he’d add a few more in the coming years, he hasn’t cashed a WSOP tournament since 2010.

This was also the stop that it shifted in name from Caesars Indiana to Horseshoe Southern Indiana.

1Samuel OberlinEast Grand Rapids, Michigan$143,064
2Jerry MartinN/A$79,480
3David KopaczHopkinsville, Kentucky$43,714
4Len AshbyN/A$32,792
5Joey CoudenTamarac, Florida$27,818
6Jamin StokesGrand Rapids, Michigan$23,844
7Derek WhelanCanada$19,870
8Dean SchultzStow, Ohio$15,806
9Ray LynnN/A$11,922

October 2009: Cook Denies Tryba

Gabriel Cook
Gabriel Cook

The WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana field dropped against in October 2009 as the $5,150 Main Event attracted just 55 runners. It was the first time a six-figure prize did not await the winner, who wound up being Gabriel Cook of Terre Haute, Indiana. He bested poker pro Chris Tryba in heads-up play to win a $92,430 prize.

1Gabriel CookTerre Haute, Indiana$92,430
2Chris TrybaEvergreen, Colorado$51,350
3David LeonardIndianapolis, Indiana$28,242
4Ronald SurenkampAvon, Indiana$20,540
5Chase SteelyWilliamsburg, Kentucky$17,973
6Harold EvansEvansville, Indiana$15,405
7Jamin StokesGrand Rapids, Michigan$12,838
8Steve GaleyPetersburg, Indiana$10,270
9Karen LowFresno, California$7,703

October 2010: Main Event Rebounds at Lower Price Point

Champion Charles "Woody" Moore
Charles “Woody” Moore

In 2010, the WSOP Circuit shifted formats by doing away with the big buy-in Main Events and instead lowered the price point to $1,600. It proved a popular decision at Horseshoe Southern Indiana as the field ballooned to 289 entries and offered up a $416,160 prize pool.

Among those to cash were Joel Merwick (9th - $9,163), Drazen Ilich (16th - $5,081), Adam Friedman (20th - $4,294), Stephen Kats (24th - $3,683), Larry Ormson (27th - $3,200), and Ulises Roman (30th - $2,821).

In heads-up play, Charles “Woody” Moore bested Kevin Calenzo to win the title for a $98,878 payday. Not only did Moore win the tournament, he punched his ticket to the inaugural WSOPC National Championship.

1Charles “Woody” MooreLas Vegas, Nevada$98,878
2Kevin CalenzoNew Hartford, New York$61,724
3John HolderScottsville, Kentucky$44,787
4Michael FosterChicago, Illinois$33,043
5Krisopher BradshawScottville, Michigan$24,782
6Brian McKainScottsburg, Indiana$18,885
7John AlferaArnold, Pennsylvania$14,615
8Jorge Solorzano-ReyesLouisville, Kentucky$11,486
9Joel MerwickOmaha, Nebraska$9,163

Kevin Manley earned the stop’s inaugural title of Casino Champ after a strong showing, which included topping a 126-entry field to win the $350 NLH Shootout Event for $9,566 and a gold ring.

October 2011: Castoire Holds Off Bazeley and Massey

Champion Robert Castoire
Robert Castoire

The 2011 WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana $1,600 Main Event saw 313 entrants take their shot at a $455,415 prize pool. Some familiar names to cash but fall short of the final table were 2010 runner-up Kevin Calenzo (13th - $6,576), Frank Maggio (22nd - $3,976), and Travell Thomas (32nd - $2,719), just to name a few.

The final table was comprised of veterans like Bernard Lee (8th - $12,378) and Mark “Pegasus” Smith (5th - $26,651), as well as up-and-comers Aaron Massey (3rd - $48,060) and Jake Bazeley (2nd - $66,172).

However, it was 56-year-old ship’s officer and semi-pro Robert Castoire who came out on top to win a $107,023 first-place prize and a seat into the National Championship. It marked his 12th WSOPC cash, ninth final table, and third ring victory.

“I’m still shocked. A half hour ago I wasn’t expecting to be here,” Castoire said after the win. “I was just looking to go out with a little bit of dignity. – It was bloody, it was brutal, it was cruel, but I got lucky. I was the last one.”

1Robert CastoireCecelia, Kentucky$107,023
2Jake BazeleyCincinnati, Ohio$66,172
3Aaron MasseyElmwood Park, Illinois$48,060
4Donovan DarlandStafford, Virginia$35,500
5Mark “Pegasus” SmithGeorgetown, Kentucky$26,651
6Thang NguyenMclean, Virginia$20,325
7David HengenOmaha, Nebraska$15,744
8Bernard LeeWayland, Massachusetts$12,378
9Sameer Al-DbhanyFrankfort, Kentucky$9,878

Thanks in large part to his fifth-place finish, Mark “Pegasus” Smith locked up the Casino Championship and joined Castoire as the stop’s winners for a seat into the 2011 National Championship.

October 2012: Watch Out, It’s Dan Heimiller!

Dan Heimiller
Dan Heimiller

In 2012, the $1,675 Main Event grew to 340 entries, which meant a $510,000 prize pool was on tap. Some familiar names to cash the tournament were Kenny Nguyen (16th - $6,085), Kathy Liebert (21st - $5,126), Russ Head (22nd - $4,376), Ryan Olisar (31st - $2,938), and Rob Edelstein (36th - $2,637).

The final table was filled with players who would go on to great poker success, such as now-high roller regular Sean Winter (5th - $29,560) and Chad Eveslage (3rd - $52,903), but in the end, it was longtime poker pro Dan Heimiller beating future bracelet winner Jonathan Taylor in heads-up play to win the title for $117,300, his first gold ring (he’d win another a year later), and a seat into the National Championship.

Taylor wound up winning the stop’s Casino Championship title, which meant he too punched his ticket to the National Championship (it took place at Harrah’s New Orleans that year).

1Dan HeimillerLas Vegas, Nevada$117,300
2Jonathan TaylorPhil Campbell, Alabama$72,517
3Chad EveslageRamsey, Indiana$52,903
4Timothy ChangWoodbury, New York$39,240
5Sean WinterJacksonville, Florida$29,560
6Ki Y. KimNashville, Tennessee$22,609
7Joseph WorthJeffersonville, Indiana$17,545
8Charles FureyAtlantic City, New Jersey$13,811
9Kevin DavisLouisville, Kentucky$11,027

October 2013: Zal Irani Wins Main Event

Zal Irani
Zal Irani

With 301 entrants, the 2013 edition of the WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana offered up a $451,500 prize pool to the top 33 finishers. Among those to cash were Ralph Massey (24th - $3,942), Nick Depalma (21st - $4,596), Eric Crain (16th - $5,436), and final table bubble boy Bernard Lee (10th - $7,933).

In the end, Zal Irani beat Michael Hahn in heads-up play to win the title for $106,103, his first gold ring, and a seat into the National Championship.

1Zal IraniChicago, Illinois$106,103
2Michael HahnBloomington, Indiana$65,603
3Sean LippelValley Stream, New York$47,647
4Ryan JonesBurlington, North Carolina$35,194
5Nicholas PhillipsHenderson, Nevada$26,422
6Robert GeithIndianapolis, Indiana$20,150
7Robert GeoratoNaples, Florida$15,608
8Allan VroomanGreenville, North Carolina$12,272
9Donald CrabtreeMount Juliet, Tennessee$9,793

After winning a $365 NLH event and notching two fourth-place finishers, plus a 10th-place finish, Patty Till earned the title of Casino Champion with an impressive 120 points. As a result, she secured a seat into that year’s WSOP National Championship in Atlantic City.

October 2014: Pediatric Dentist Gregory Johnson Cleans Up

Gregory Johnson
Gregory Johnson

With 360 entrants, which created a $540,000 prize pool, the 2014 $1,675 Main Event was the largest in the property’s nine-year history. For the fourth time in that stretch, Doug “Rico” Carli was at the final table, this time finishing in eighth place for $14,623.

Coming out on top after defeating Russ Head in heads-up play was 63-year-old Gregory Johnson, a pediatric dentist from Carmel, Indiana. He won a $124,200 top prize, his first gold ring, and a seat into the National Championship.

“This is kind of like one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me, really,” he said after the tournament. “Seriously, it is. This is a lot more exciting than graduating from dental school. Mom and dad wouldn’t want to hear that, but it really is. It’s something [...] I’ve always wanted to do. The ring is the most exciting part to me. Actually winning and getting the validation.”

1Gregory JohnsonCarmel, Indiana$124,200
2Russ HeadLindale, Georgia$76,783
3Brian PowellLouisville, Kentucky$56,014
4Eric WirthweinJasper, Indiana$41,548
5Everett LawrenceMarshall, Illinois$31,298
6Charles “Woody” MooreLas Vegas, Nevada$23,938
7Ryan DerschLouisville, Kentucky$18,576
8Doug “Rico” CarliAlliance, Ohio$14,623
9John DenmanLouisville, Kentucky$11,675

Winning Casino Championship honors was Charles “Woody” Moore, who became the only player to qualify for the National Championship for the first four years of its existence. He qualified after amassing 95 points from three cashes, including two final table appearances and a ring win, the second of his career after winning the Main Event in 2010.

October 2015: Russ Head Wins After Finishing Second Year Before

Russ Head
Russ Head

A year after finishing second in the $1,675 Main Event, Russ Head bounced back and topped a 374-entry field ($561,000 prize pool) to win the tournament for $123,420 and his second gold ring.

“Last year when I played Greg heads-up I played very fast, very aggressive. This year I wanted to play small ball as much as I could, see the flops and not get my money in until I knew I had him,” said Head, who donated 10% of his winnings to a church in his hometown of Rome, Georgia.

Head also locked up a seat into the 2016 Global Caisno Championship after having qualified for it as an at-large qualifier the year before.

1Russ HeadLindale, Georgia$123,420
2Abhishek YerraOkemos, Michigan$76,268
3William WatsonLexington, Kentucky$55,730
4Richard BaiSchaumburg, Illinois$41,379
5George Woody IIS. Charleston, West Virginia$31,203
6Chad EveslageRamsey, Indiana$23,882
7John MahlerDallas, Texas$18,546
8Lytle AllenNashville, Tennessee$14,608
9Kim SchincoFreeland, Michigan$11,669

Winning that year’s Casino Championship was Frank Covich, who won a ring and $43,860 after he defeated a 731-entry field in Event #2: $365 NLH Re-Entry.

October 2016: Robert Hankins Wins 6th Career Ring

Robert Hankins
Robert Hankins

The 2016 WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana attracted 432 entrants and offered up a $648,000 prize pool. Circuit grinder Robert Hankins emerged victorious to win the $146,520 top prize, a Global Casino Championship seat (his fourth consecutive year qualifying), and a gold ring, which was the sixth of his career and second of the series. He became just the ninth player to win at least six rings in the Circuit’s 13-year history.

“This feels [expletive] awesome,” the 28-year-old Hankins said after his victory. “It’s gratifying because I get probably 25 percent of the volume that most players get. So, to have a good week up here, you know — for myself, it just feels good.”

1Robert HankinsMurfreesboro, Tennessee$142,560
2Hank SittonGreenville, South Carolina$88,096
3Lytle AllenNashville, Tennessee$64,372
4Ben KeelineOswego, Illinois$47,796
5Karen HodgeFishers, Indiana$36,042
6Garry SimmsShelbyville, Kentucky$27,585
7Alan WyseWauseon, Ohio$21,423
8Keven StammenCincinnati, Ohio$16,874
9Al HencheckLoveland, Ohio$13,478

Nate Bandy of Chattanooga, Tennessee earned the title of Casino Champion at Horseshoe Southern Indiana. He won the second and third gold rings of his short career as a professional poker player taking down back-to-back events. He won both Event #5 ($365 Six-Max) and #7 ($365 Monster Stack) to accumulate 100 total points and $41,670 in combined winnings.

October 2017: Justin Boggs Bests Wendy Freedman

Justin Boggs
Justin Boggs

In 2017, the $1,675 Main Event had 424 runners create a $635,978 prize pool, with $139,920 reserved for the winner. That wound up being Justin Boggs, who defeated Wendy Freedman in heads-up play to win his first ring and a seat into the Global Casino Championship.

“Wendy and I went back and forth. There was a huge hand on Day 2. It was just a sicko hand,” stated Boggs, a 30-year-old health and fitness teacher. “From that point on, I really just kind of told myself ‘this is going to be a heads-up battle between us.’ I don’t know why, it just kind of seemed like that.”

The Ohio native continued: “It’s nice to be able to play and finally get a monkey off my back, one I have had for quite a bit. I’ve had some online scores, but live has just always been not so good.”

1Justin BoggsNew Paris, Ohio$139,920
2Wendy FreedmanLas Vegas, Nevada$86,464
3Michael FoleyBelleville, Michigan$63,180
4Al HencheckLoveland, Ohio$46,911
5Scott MontgomeryOttawa, Ontario, Canada$35,374
6Hamid IzadiRoswell, Georgia$27,074
7George LusbyGeorgetown, Kentucky$21,026
8Jerry RobinsonRaleigh, North Carolina$16,561
9Chris CareyEfland, North Carolina$13,228

Danny Lawson managed to edge out Josh Reichard for the Casino Champ title after winning two gold rings. First, he took down Event #1: $365 Double Stack NLH Turbo for $12,474 and thenwon Event #11: $365 NLH Turbo for $10,260.

Traveling Poker Dealer Wins Big; Lech Casino Champ

Heather Alcorn
Heather Alcorn

The October 2018 edition of the $1,700 Main Event drew 389 entrants and offered up a $589,335 prize pool. Coming out on top was longtime traveling poker dealer Heather Alcorn, who captured her first ring, a $129,654 top prize, and a seat into the Global Casino Championship.

The 41-year-old Alcorn out of Missouri, had no intention of playing the Main Event, but her plans changed when she ended up final tabling two events at the stop. She finished eighth in Event # 7: $400 No-Limit Hold'em for $1,752 and fourth in Event #8: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack for $10,150.

''I couldn't work this event for personal reasons so I just happened to be driving through town so I thought I'd just stop and say hi to everybody,” she told WSOP officials after the win. “I thought I was going to stay one night and play one tournament, ended up final tabling, so I stayed the next day and final tabled that one. So, I went ahead and played the main.''

1Heather AlcornOzark, Missouri$129,654
2Kevin IacofanoCincinnati, Ohio$80,120
3David SillTitusville, Florida$58,545
4Abhishek YerraOkemos, Michigan$43,469
5Michael FoleyBelleville, Michigan$32,799
6Michael LechAlma, Arkansas$25,088
7Saleem DelawallaTucker, Georgia$19,483
8Daniel LoizzoLibertyville, Illinois$15,346
9Robert JamesLouisville, Kentucky$12,258

With four final table appearances, including sixth in the Main Event, Michael Lech won the Casino Championship title for a seat into the GCC.

Thomas Alcorn the Reigning Champ

Thomas Alcorn
Thomas Alcorn

Last year, the $1,700 Main Event had 357 runners and offered up a $540,855 prize pool. After playing and cashing in three consecutive WSOP Circuit Main Events, Thomas Alcorn (no relation to Heather Alcorn) broke through to capture his first gold ring and a $117,322 first-place prize.

“Even though I know the new strategy is very good, I do way less bluffing than the new style of poker. Everyone is so used to people betting their bluffs that I can get called when I am betting my monsters.” the Georgia retiree said, “The good players realize I am doing this, and they won’t bluff me, so I mess up their whole game.”

1Thomas AlcornWinder, Florida$117,322
2Robert JamesLouisville, Kentucky$72,512
3John GallaherLebanon, Tennessee$52,190
4Nick PupilloGilbert, Arizona$38,145
5Ken WareGeorgetown, Kentucky$28,318
6Jesse CarterBlaine, Tennessee$21,358
7Alan PercalWeston, Florida$16,370
8David WinrichNew Albany, Indiana$12,754
9Brett ApterSt. Petersburg, Florida$10,103

With 105 points, Charlie Dawson won the title of Casino Champion for a seat into the Global Casino Championship. It came after the three-time gold ring winner notched four cashes, three final tables, and two runner-up finishes.

At a Glance: History of WSOPC Horseshoe Southern Indiana

EditionMain Event ChampPrizeCasino Champion
October 2005Vinny Vinh$437,760N/A
October 2006Chad “lilholdem” Batista$262,002N/A
April 2007Men “The Master” Nguyen$238,756N/A
November 2007Carlos Uz$223,042N/A
April 2008Wilbur Futhey$180,290N/A
October 2008Samuel Oberlin$143,064N/A
October 2009Gabriel Cook$92,430N/A
October 2010Charles “Woody” Moore$98,878Kevin Manley
October 2011Robert Castoire$107,023Mark “Pegasus” Smith
October 2012Dan Heimiller$117,300Jonathan Taylor
October 2013Zal Irani$106,103Patty Till
October 2014Gregory Johnson$124,200Charles “Woody” Moore
October 2015Russ Head$123,420Frank Covich
October 2016Robert Hankins$142,560Nate Bandy
October 2017Justin Boggs$139,920Danny Lawson
October 2018Heather Alcorn$129,654Michael Lech
October 2019Thomas Alcorn$117,322Charlie Dawson

Photos courtesy of WSOP

  • Take a look at the history of WSOP Circuit Horseshoe Southern Indiana, which dates back to 2005.

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Executive Editor U.S.

Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.

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