The World Series of Poker wrapped up in Las Vegas last month in lieu of the Main Event’s final table in November, but the WSOP Circuit continued on. Last night, the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina played host to the 5th edition of the WSOP National Championship. As the final table of 7 dwindled, it was the lovely Loni Hardwood that emerged victorious, claiming the $341,599 1st place prize and her second career bracelet.
The WSOP National Championship is a unique invitation-only poker tournament with an exceptional format. A maximum of 200 seats are available, each valued at $10,000, with the first 100 being free. Every winner of a WSOP Circuit event during the season receives a free seat, as do all current Casino Champions along the tour. The remaining free seats go to the top point earners on the WSOP Circuit leaderboard.
The next 100 seats are available to the highest WSOP Circuit points earners over the previous two years. These players have the option of buying into the WSOP National Championship for $10,000 a piece. This year’s event attracted 122 players, building an overall prize pool worth $1.22 million.
It seemed Lady Luck was comfortably perched upon the shoulder of Loni Hardwood throughout much of the event. Things were going great for Loni on Day 2, and improved dramatically when she eliminated two birds with a single stone late in the evening.
Hardwood took Kx Kx into the fray against the 10x 10x of Gevork Kasabyan and A♣ K♥ of Robert Hankins. The board favored no one, sending Kasabyan and Hankins to rails while skyrocketing Hardwood to the top of the counts with 1.225mm.
By the time the final table of 7 convened on Day 3, Loni was the dominant leader, holding more than 2x the chips of her nearest rival. She added to that lead by personally ousting Paul Mattioda in 7th ($49,203) when her Ax Jx held up against his Qx Jx.
Next to exit the table was Daniel Negreanu in 6th ($63,647), one of the most successful and decorated professional poker players in the world. That task was undertaken by Hardwood’s eventual heads-up opponent, Alexandru Masek, whose Ax Qx overpowered the Jx Jx of Negreanu.
Hardwood returned to the plate at that point, knocking Vincent Moscati out of the park in 5th ($83,716), followed by Bradley St. Vincent in 4th ($111,984). Masek then handled the elimination of Darryl Fish in 3rd ($152,402), bringing about an intense one-on-one battle between Hardwood and Masek.
Alexandru had proven himself worthy of his position already. Starting the day as the low stack, not only did Masek whittle his way to a heads-up battle for the WSOP National Championship, he actually swiped the lead from Hardwood for a brief period of time. In the end, however, Loni’s skills prevailed.
On the final hand, a short-stacked Masek went for broke on Ax 7x, getting the call from Hardwood with 3x 3x. The board panned out 8x 7x 3x 5x 6x, giving Hardwood the game, set and match. Masek earned $211,133 for the runner up finish while Hardwood scooped the $341,599 1st place prize and her second WSOP bracelet.
Hardwood’s first bracelet win came two years ago in Las Vegas when she won a $1,500 NLHE Event; one of 6 cashes claimed by Loni at the 2013 WSOP. She also wrangled up two WSOP Circuit rings in 2012, and has over $1.6 million in live poker tournament earnings.
|WSOP National Championship Final Table Results|
|4th||Bradley St. Vincent||$111,984|