WSOP Circuit Rings

Loni Harwood Wins 2015 WSOP National Championship

Loni Harwood earned her second career World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet on Friday, taking the title in the World Series of Poker National Championship, the invitation-only event that brought the 2014-2015 WSOP Circuit Season to a close. Her triumph over a field of 122 players earned her $341,599.

While the WSOP National Championship is invitation-only, it is not just some made-for-TV tournament where only poker celebrities are granted a spot. Rather than being gifted, invitations are earned throughout the course of the WSOP Circuit season. Automatic bids are extended to the Main Event winners at each of the 20 Circuit stops (the explanation on WSOP.com says there are 22 stops, but I’m going by my count based on the season schedule posted on the site). Another batch of 20 seats is awarded to the series-points winner at each Circuit stop, determined by points earned according to a standard formula. Another 60 spots are given to the highest points earners spanning the entire 2014-2015 Circuit season. Because of some overlaps in those groups, there were 96 complementary seats handed out.

Another hundred players were also extended invitations, but they had to pay $10,000 to participate. This group was composed of the top 100 WSOP Player of the Year points earners during the past two years.

With the 122 players who actually played, that meant that the prize pool was $1,220,000.

2015 WSOP National Champion Loni Harwood Photo credit: WSOP.com

2015 WSOP National Champion Loni Harwood
Photo credit: WSOP.com

Loni Harwood paid her way into the event; she was 18th in total Player of the Year points. She entered the seven-handed final table on Friday with a dominating lead – her 1,340,000 chips were more than double those of the second-place competitor, veteran WSOPC regular Darryll Fish. Next to Harwood, all eyes were on the man that entered the final table in third place: Daniel Negreanu. The six-time WSOP bracelet winner and 2014 Poker Hall of Fame inductee was making his first WSOP National Championship final-table appearance, and he was the only other final-table player besides Harwood to buy in to the tournament directly. Most recently, Negreanu came up just short of making the November Nine in the 2015 WSOP Main Event, finishing in 11th place. This one was not meant to be, either, as he finished sixth in the WSOP National Championship.

Harwood, though, cruised through most of the final table. She held the chip lead for the vast majority of the time, only falling behind briefly when Alex Masek eliminated Darryll Fish in third place to take a 1,925,000 to 1,735,000 chip lead going into heads-up play. Harwood regained the lead in short order, though, and proceeded to pull away from her opponent.

On the final hand, Harwood raised all-in pre-flop with 3-3 and Masek, with a stack short enough where he basically had to go all-in or fold, made the call with A-7.  The flop came down 8-7-3 and Masek made a pair, but Harwood flopped a set, requiring Masek to hit some sort of miracle to stay alive. Since this is poker and not Fantasy Island, the cards failed to rescue Masek, making Loni Harwood the 2015 WSOP National Champion.

While Masek must have been disappointed, particularly because he did have the chip lead for a short time heads-up, part of him had to have been thrilled about where he ended up, considering where he started. Masek was the short stack – by a mile – going into the final table, clinging to just 100,000 chips. Making final-table runs is nothing new to him, however, as he is one of the most decorated poker players on the WSOP Circuit. Masek has won eight Circuit rings, more than anybody else, and has now earned $1,236,127 in his live tournament career.

After her victory, Loni Harwood credited her brother, saying, “I wanna shout out to my brother, Scott Harwood. He’s one of my best friends. He’s always there for me. He wanted to be here today, but he works and he couldn’t get the day off. He’s been on the virtual rail and I’m sure he’s waiting for a phone call right now.”

As mentioned, this is Harwood’s second World Series of Poker bracelet. Her first was earned two years ago in one of the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em events at the 2013 WSOP. She almost made it a double that year, finishing fourth in a similar $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em tournamernt. She has two WSOP Circuit rings and 14 total WSOP cashes, contributing to her $1,627,485 in total career earnings.

Now that the 2014-2015 WSOP Circuit Season is over, the next one will get started posthaste. The first stop on the 2015-2016 WSOP Circuit starts this Thursday, August 6th at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The $1,675 Main Event will run Friday, August 14th through Monday, August 17th.

2015 WSOP National Championship Final Results

1.    Loni Harwood – $341,599
2.    Alex Masek – $211,599
3.    Darryll Fish – $152,402
4.    Brad St. Vincent – $111,984
5.    Vincent Moscati – $83,716
6.    Daniel Negreanu – $63,647
7.    Paul Mattioda – $49,203
8.    Seth Berger – $38,650
9.    Jonathan Abla – $30,854
10.    Robert Hankins – $25,010
11.    Gevork Kasabyan – $25,010
12.    Brian McDaniel – $25,010
13.    Ari Engel – $20,594
14.    Michael Sanders – $20,594
15.    Dominik Nitsche – $20,594

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