NorCal players win WSOP bracelets

By Arnold Warner

Northern California has once again been well-represented at the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. With 46 events completed as of press time, 203 people from NorCal have placed in the money, bringing home a grand total of $1,461,814.

Heading the list are three bracelet winners: Chiab Saechao of Visalia (Event #1, Casino Employees Championship), Oakland’s Max Steinberg (Event #33, No-Limit Hold’em), and Phil Hellmuth of Palo Alto (Event #18, Seven Card Razz) who got his record-breaking 12th WSOP title.

Steinberg’s win netted him $440,238— the biggest score so far—followed by Chris DeMaci of San Jose who took second in Event #34 (Pot Limit Omaha/Six Handed) which earned him $316,308.


After taking a victory lap in celebration of bracelet number 12 and the $182,893 that came with it, Hellmuth was asked how important it was for him to finally get a bracelet in a non-Hold’em event. He said, “You know, after three seconds [last year] I don’t think people were bringing up the Hold’em quite as much anymore. But still, I’ll take it. I felt like I was supposed to win the Deuce-Seven last year, but [John] Juanda played great. I feel like I was supposed to win the Players Championship, and you know, [Brian] Rast played great, and I just missed a bunch of hands. And I really thought I was gonna win the Stud Eight-or-Better two days ago. I kept thinking, ‘Wow.’ I kept seeing myself as the winner. Who knew it was going to be two days later instead in the Razz. So, I’m pretty pleased right now.”

The final table was a tough one, including top pros Barry Greenstein, Scott Fisch­man, and Brandon Cantu. Asked if he was rooting against his heads up opponent Don Zewin, Hellmuth added, “There’s no one on the planet that I do root against, honestly…. I was rooting for myself over Don Zewin. I was rooting for myself. Let’s put it that way.”

Hellmuth’s impressive WSOP statistics include his 12 gold bracelets, 89 cashes, 45 final table appearances, and over $8 million in earnings.


Steinberg, a 23-year-old pro, has played primarily online, specializing in short-handed and heads-up. He’s been making a name for himself in live tournaments the last couple years, though. In addition to his WSOP bracelet this year, he had a near-miss second place two years ago, and has amassed more than $1 million in live tournament cashes to date.

After his victory, he was asked if he felt any added pressure due to his second place finish in 2010. He said, “There’s definitely pressure coming in. When I came into the day, I was definitely feeling I just want to get to the final table, and then we’ll see what happens from there. Once I got there, I felt very, very comfortable. And, you know, I just felt really at ease here because I didn’t feel any pressure. Especially heads up…. It was actually the opposite. Like no pressure at all.”

Commenting on whether or not his play at the WSOP constitutes a switch to live poker he said, “I would say that I don’t know how much longer I’ll be playing poker. But I think that I do get excited playing live poker. Maybe I’m not yelling or screaming, but I do enjoy myself. Online is sort of my thing. I still play online too. I just had enough money to sit on for a while. Just, you know, I’ve been doing my thing. I was really excited for the WSOP because it was a chance to play poker every day again and just see what I can do. We’ll see what my future holds. I’m not really sure what it’s going to be though.”


For the second year in a row, a NorCal player has won Event #1, Casino Employees Championship at the WSOP. Saechao, a 35-year-old Blackjack dealer from Visalia came out on top of the 732 entrants, taking home $70,859. Originally from Thailand, he came to the United States when he was 15.

This was Saechao’s first cash in a major poker tournament. He says he mostly plays low-stakes cash games and the occasional low buy-in tournament. “I won my seat into the WSOP Main Event a few years ago, and then I won a seat again the following year. I decided to myself then that maybe I really can play this game after all,” he said.

His bracelet, he said, is not likely to sit in a box collecting dust. “I plan to wear it and show it off. Not too many can come over here to Las Vegas and go back home with this!”

NorCal players who have cashed
in the first 46 events of the
2012 World Series of Poker

Event #1: Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em, $500 buy-in, 732 entries, $329,400 prize pool

1st, Chiab Saechao, Visalia, $70,859

24th, Tom Weihrauch, San Jose, $2,223

35th, Phi Tran, Stockton, $1,828

37th, Glenn Lew, Sacramento, $1,828

72nd, Robert Rooney, Oakland, $925

78th, Hieu Le, Elk Grove, $820

Event #2: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 2,101 entries, $2,836,350 prize pool

13th, Todd Keikoan, Pinole, $23,655

40th, Candida Richessa, Sacramento, $10,324

45th, Danny Smith, Folsom, $10,324

48th, Michael Lee, Los Altos Hills, $8,565

49th, Ubaid Habib, Tracy, $8,565

52nd, Tracy Myers, Delhi, $8,565

61st, Phil Hellmuth, Palo Alto, $7,204

82nd, Elliot Shmukler, San Jose, $4,538

106th, Ernesto Magat, San Jose, $3,531

115th, Evan Schwartz, Oakland, $3,531

116th, Edmond Barna, San Francisco, $3,531

132nd, Ian Steinman, Mountain View, $3,531

Event #3: Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha, $3,000 buy-in, 317 entries, $865,410 prize pool

49th, Gordon Vayo, San Francisco, $3,395

54th, Tim West, Los Altos, $3,395

Event #5: Pot-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 639 entries, $862,650 prize pool

32nd, Zach Jiganti, San Francisco, $4,830

51st, Richard Tsai, Saratoga, $3,364

Event #7: Seven Card Stud, $1,500 buy-in, 367 entries, $495,450 prize pool

9th, Joseph Ranciato, Sacramento, $9,046

Event #8: Omaha Hi-Low Split – 8 or Better, $1,500 buy-in, 967 entries, $1,305,450 prize pool

14th, Joey Spanne, Danville, $11,957

20th, Wellington Draper, San Francisco, $7,989

22nd, Michael Stewart, Soquel, $7,989

44th, Matt Lefkowitz, Carmel Valley, $5,639

52nd, Phil Hellmuth, Palo Alto, $4,817

84th, Omar Mehmood, Foster City, $2,924

85th, Chris Swan, Los Gatos, $2,924

103rd, Kenneth Shei, Menlo Park, $2,480

Event #9: No-Limit Hold’em Re-entry, $1,500 buy-in, 3,404 entries, $4,595,400 prize pool

72nd, Cherie Beasley, San Francisco, $8,547

83rd, Matthew Weber, Sacramento, $6,157

124th, John Newmerzhycky, McKinleyville, $4,595

141st, Todd Thuan Bui, Sacramento, $4,595

142nd, William Mark Davis, McKinleyville, $4,595

153rd, Jerry Yang, Madera, $4,043

253rd, Brian Gudim, San Jose, $3,216

Event #11: Pot-Limit Omaha, $1,500 buy-in, 970 entries, $1,309,500 prize pool

29th, Howard Andrew, Walnut Creek, $6,691

34th, Isaac Baron, Los Gatos, $6,691

78th, Jeffrey Lennon, Fresno, $3,260

Event #12: Heads Up No-Limit Hold’em, $10,000 buy-in, 152 entries, $1,428,800 prize pool

4th, Tommy Chen, San Jose, $130,606

17th, Max Steinberg, Oakland, $10,966

Event #13: Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 730 entries, $985,500 prize pool

14th, Chris Swan, Los Gatos, $10,111

52nd, Chung Law, Milpitas, $3,833

55th, Hyung Lee, Petaluma, $3,242

73rd, Robert Pacleb, Vallejo, $2,453

80th, Millie Shiu, Milpitas, $2,453

Event #14: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout, $1,500 buy-in, 1,138 entries, $1,536,300 prize pool

5th, David Chase, Alameda, $64,555

22nd, Adrian Flores, Alameda, $5,295

45th, Matt Keikoan, San Francisco, $5,295

88th, Ryan Rinker, Vacaville, $5,295

104th, Derrick Yamada, Sacramento, $5,295

Event #15: Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split – 8 or Better, $5,000 buy-in, 212 entries, $996,400 prize pool

15th, Phil Hellmuth, Palo Alto, $11,637

18th, Marco Johnson, Walnut Creek, $9,675

Event #16: No-Limit Hold’em/Six Handed, $1,500 buy-in, 1,604 entries, $2,165,400 prize pool

4th, Gordon Vayo, San Francisco, $121,262

38th, Dmitry Savelyev, San Bruno, $7,578

57th, Haviz Khan, Stockton, $5,207

81st, Yochai Konig, San Francisco, $3,897

Event #18: Seven Card Razz, $2,500 buy-in, 309 entries, $702,975 prize pool

1st, Phil Hellmuth, Palo Alto, $182,793

Event #19: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 2,302 entries, $3,107,700 prize pool

5th, Gregg Wilkinson, Sacramento, $128,441

28th, Aaron Amator, Durham, $13,021

80th, Danny Smith, Folsom, $5,500

90th, Matthew Weber, Sacramento, $4,785

101st, Jeffrey Lennon, Fresno, $3,729

119th, Steve Moca, Pleasanton, $3,729

143rd, Jeff Fletcher, Danville, $3,356

156th, Jeremy Tucker, Petaluma, $3,356

159th, Arthur Tanimoto, Elk Grove, $3,356

173rd, Sharon Helldorfer, Pioneer, $3,076

183rd, Thomas Levesque, Clovis, $3,076

195th, Frank Holloway, Fairfield, $3,076

196th, Randy Lew, Mountain View, $3,076

226th, Buzzard Alavi, San Francisco, $2,796

Event #20: Limit Hold’em, $5,000 buy-in, 166 entries, $780,200 prize pool

9th, Ayman Qutami, Redwood City, $19,395

14th, Kenneth Shei, Menlo Park, $13,138

Event #21: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,000 buy-in, 2,799 entries, $2,519,100 prize pool

52nd, Max Steinberg, Oakland, $6,928

74th, Wilbert Chun, San Mateo, $4,182

109th, Michael Diaz, Oakland, $2,771

141st, Bryan Hyden, San Jose, $2,469

164th, Robert Fox, Los Gatos, $2,469

185th, Richard Tsai, Saratoga, $2,217

240th, Dean Reno, San Jose, $2,015

243rd, Evan Schwartz, Oakland, $2,015

254th, Antonio Martin, Merced, $1,839

255th, Michael Davey, Berkeley, $1,839

262nd, Gabriel Bronsztein, Santa Rosa, $1,839

278th, Michael Wisnoskil, Napa, $1,839

Event #22: 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball (Limit), $2,500 buy-in, 228 entries, $518,700 prize pool

7th, Von Altizer, American Canyon, $14,725

Event #23: No-Limit Hold’em/Six Handed, $3,000 buy-in, 924 entries, $2,522,520 prize pool

52nd, Galen Hall, San Francisco, $7,643

Event #24: Omaha Hi-Low Split – 8 or Better, $5,000 buy-in, 256 entries, $1,203,200 prize pool

24th, Matt Lefkowitz, Carmel Valley, $10,348

Event #25: Limit Hold’em Shootout, $1,500 buy-in, 366 entries, $494,100 prize pool

14th, Millie Shiu, Milpitas, $3,088

37th, Alexander Keating, Saratoga, $3,088

43rd, Omar Mehmood, Foster City, $3,088

Event #27: H.O.R.S.E., $1,500 buy-in, 889 entries, $1,200,150 prize pool

42nd, Wendy Freeman, San Francisco, $4,404

48th, Thomas Weideman, Fair Oaks, $4,404

62nd, Andrew Barber, Sacramento, $3,468

Event #28: No-Limit Hold’em/Four Handed, $2,500 buy-in, 750 entries, $1,706,250 prize pool

31st, Mohammed Rezalan, San Rafael, $8,821

Event #29: Seniors No-Limit Hold’em Championship, $1,000 buy-in, 4,128 entries, $3,715,200 prize pool

44th, Robert Herlien, Pacific Grove, $11,851

82nd, Laurie Morgan, Sacramento, $4,533

91st, Gary Askew, Healdsburg, $3,827

125th, David Vida, Pinole, $3,269

142nd, Loren Cloninger, Salinas, $3,269

153rd, Randall Rapp, Fresno, $3,269

182nd, Shawn Lawrence, Fairfield, $2,786

199th, John Solis, Oakland, $2,786

238th, William Mince, Menlo Park, $2,415

258th, Steven Choi, Berkeley, $2,415

290th, Denise Grove, Santa Rosa, $2,118

300th, Seyed Edalat, San Jose, $2,118

307th, Gary Lee, San Jose, $2,118

343rd, George Mosby, Windsor, $2,118

362nd, Orlando Rodriquez, Salinas, $1,858

364th, Larry Grove, Santa Rosa, $1,858

366th, Lora Stewart, Elk Grove, $1,858

386th, Daniel Larios, Tracy, $1,858

Event #30: 2-7 Draw Lowball (No-Limit), $1,500 buy-in, 285 entries, $384,750 prize pool

27th, Steven Hansen, Livermore, $3,124

30th, Chris Swan, Los Gatos, $2,593

32nd, Galen Hall, San Francisco, $2,593

34th, Mark Trombley, Foster City, $2,593

Event #31: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 2,811 entries, $3,794,850 prize pool

12th, J.C. Tran, Sacramento, $38,214

31st, John Dull, Fresno, $15,407

108th, Daniel Jose, Vacaville, $4,174

109th, Jensen Toma, Fremont, $4,174

131st, David Chase, Alameda, $4,174

145th, Kristina Holst, Palo Alto, $3,719

170th, Ted Bui, Stockton, $3,719

188th, Shirley Ng, Pacifica, $3,339

193rd, Charles Copeland, Sacramento, $3,339

209th, Robert Jones, Oakland, $3,036

241st, Scott Laird, Pinole, $3,036

249th, Benjamin Sarnoff, San Francisco, $3,036

260th, Tim West, Los Altos, $2,770

Event #32: H.O.R.S.E., $10,000 buy-in, 178 entries, $1,673,200 prize pool

4th, Phil Hellmuth, Palo Alto, $134,056

Event #33: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,000 buy-in, 2,795 entries, $2,515,500 prize pool

1st, Max Steinberg, Oakland, $440,238

99th, Neil Yanogacio, San Jose, $3,144

124th, Jeremy Tucker, Petaluma, $2,767

161st, Andrew Ho, Davis, $2,465

234th, Erik Klabunde, Pittsburg, $2,012

285th, Andy Wong, Stanford, $1,836

293rd, Daniel Young, Shaver Lake, $1,836

Event #34: Pot-Limit Omaha/Six Handed, $5,000 buy-in, 419 entries, $1,969,300 prize pool

2nd, Chris DeMaci, San Jose, $316,308

Event #35: Mixed Hold’em (Limit/No-Limit), $2,500 buy-in, 393 entries, $894,075 prize pool

26th, Eric Mankin, Sacramento, $6,437

36th, Randy Lew, Mountain View, $5,195

Event #36: No-Limit Hold’em Shootout, $3,000 buy-in, 587 entries, $1,602,510 prize pool

42nd, Hung Tran, San Jose, $9,086

50th, Gordon Vayo, San Francisco, $9,086

Event #37: Eight Game Mix, $2,500 buy-in, 477 entries, $1,085,175 prize pool

38th, Omar Mehmood, Foster City, $5,599

Event #38: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 2,534 entries, $3,420,900 prize pool

26th, Michael Palamidessi, West Sacramento, $17,378

43rd, Karl Dawson, Mammoth Lakes, $11,563

105th, Ivan Holmes, Berkeley, $3,831

107th, Andrew Pauka, San Jose, $3,831

124th, Robert Hillman, San Mateo, $3,831

161st, Brian Kee, Visalia, $3,421

167th, Richard Osborne, Martinez, $3,421

188th, Jason Montague, Berkeley, $3,079

233rd, Cory Carlson, Ukiah, $2,771

Event #40: Limit Hold’em Six Handed, $2,500 buy-in, 302 entries, $687,050 prize pool

2nd, Marco Johnson, Walnut Creek, $112,525

29th, Ayman Qutami, Redwood City, $4,912

Event #41: No-Limit Hold’em, $3,000 buy-in, 1,394 entries, $3,805,620 prize pool

23rd, David Lunde, Sacramento, $22,377

43rd, Michael Turnbull, San Jose, $15,679

86th, Gregg Wilkinson, Sacramento, $7,840

88th, Joshua Shaw, Sacramento, $7,840

94th, Kelsey Hendriks, Chico, $7,117

107th, Duy Le, San Francisco, $6,470

132nd, Gordon Vayo, San Francisco, $5,937

Event #42: Omaha/Seven Card Stud Hi-Low – 8 or Better, $2,500 buy-in, 393 entries, $894,075 prize pool

18th, Daniel Harmetz, Sacramento, $6,884

39th, Joshua Karnad, Hollister, $4,845

Event #43: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,500 buy-in, 2,770 entries, $3,739,500 prize pool

12th, Randy Lew, Mountain View, $37,657

28th, Evan Karcie, San Francisco, $15,182

37th, Roni Hayon, Sunnyvale, $12,415

91st, Zackary Moore, Clearlake, $4,674

114th, Kristina Holst, Palo Alto, $4,113

119th, Chandrasekha Billavara, San Francisco, $4,113

195th, Matthew Dimaggio, San Francisco, $3,291

231st, Joey Spanne, Danville, $2,992

234th, Myron Johnson, Sacramento, $2,992

291st, Richard Osborne, Martinez, $2,730

Event #44: No-Limit Hold’em, $1,000 buy-in, 2,949 entries, $2,654,100 prize pool

9th, David Forster, Alameda, $34,503

23rd, William Daymon, McKinleyville, $13,297

39th, Todd Keikoan, Pinole, $8,812

95th, Hemanth Kumar, Sunnyvale, $3,318

105th, Kenneth Shei, Menlo Park, $2,920

115th, Douglas Stavolone, San Jose, $2,920

131st, Ubaid Habib, Tracy, $2,920

141st, Richard Harroch, San Francisco, $2,601

161st, Zachary Dowhower, S. Lake Tahoe, $2,601

168th, Julian Galvan, Sacramento, $2,601

199th, Matt Keikoan, San Francisco, $2,336

222nd, Matthew Berto, Vallejo, $2,123

224th, Kelli Griggs, Folsom, $2,123

265th, Ronald May, San Jose, $1,937

281st, Mohammed Elrifai, Oakland, $1,937

Event #46: No-Limit Hold’em, $2,500 buy-in, 1,607 entries, $3,655,925 prize pool

32nd, Derrick Yamada, Sacramento, $16,781

56th, Andres Garcia, Salinas, $10,237

63rd, Scott Cole, Redwood City, $10,237

75th, Brandon Wong, Clovis, $7,860

105th, Isaac Baron, Los Gatos, $5,703

107th, Ubaid Habib, Tracy, $5,703

109th, Randy Lew, Mountain View, $5,703

116th, Bradley Gordon, San Jose, $5,703

134th, Harold Check, San Francisco, $5,265

141st, Matthew Gouge, Sacramento, $5,265

151st, Matt Keikoan, San Francisco, $4,826