Biggest Pre-WSOP Poker Tournament Highlights of 2016

Every year, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the crème de la crème of poker tournaments. But outside of the WSOP’s seven weeks of activity in the summer, there are tournaments held all across the world and all year long.

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PeeGater Antonio Esfandiari defeated Jamie Gold heads-up to win his first WSOP Circuit ring in March 2016. (Image: WSOP.com)

Here’s a look at some of 2016’s biggest event winners, and a recap of the most exciting non-WSOP tournament moments from January through June this past year.

Holz Kicks Things Off with January Win

The Triton Super High Roller Series $200K Cali Cup, which took place during the World Poker Tour National Philippines, drew 40 unique players and 12 re-entries. Fedor Holz, 22, kicked off his remarkable year by winning the tournament for $3.4 million, which came just a few weeks after winning a WPT Alpha8 High Roller for more than $1.5 million.

One week later, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) kicked off. Winners included Nick Maimone ($25k High Roller for $996,480), Steve O’Dwyer ($50k Single-Day High Roller for $945,495), Bryn Kenney ($100k Super High Roller for $1,687,800), and Mike Watson ($5,300 Main Event for $728,325).

Esfandiari and the Pee CA

The PCA was also the scene of Antonio Esfandiari’s lunge prop bet. Esfandiari infamously took things too far when he relieved himself in a bottle underneath the table. He was disqualified from the Main Event and donated the $50k he won from the bet to charity.

Then at the end of January, Ari Engel bested 732 players to win the 2016 Aussie Millions for $1,120,110, the biggest score of his career.

Actor James Woods Among February Winners

In February, politically conservative Hollywood actor James Woods won Event #37: $1,100 Omaha/8 at the L.A. Poker Classic for $20,065. Around the world, the EPT Dublin played out and saw Dzmitry Urbanovich win that Main Event for €561,900. Others Dublin winners included Sam Panzica (€10,300 High Roller for €375,770), Charlie Carrel (€10,200 Single-Day High Roller for €145,938), and Mustapha Kanit (€25,750 High Roller for €501,640).

Schillhabel & Esfandiari Win in March

In March, Stefan Schillhabel beat out 752 other players to win the WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star for $1.298 million. At the same stop, 2015 WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehan won the $25k High Roller for $156,966.

Esfandiari defeated 2006 WSOP champ Jamie Gold in heads-up play to win the WSOP Circuit Bicycle Casino, a tournament that drew 756 entrants. Esfandiari took home $226,785 for the win, while Gold was awarded a $139,820 consolation prize.

Yachou Wins WPT TOC

In April, Chino Rheem bested a 342-player field to win the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Finale for $705,885. It marked his third WPT title and put him in the exclusive company of Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, and Anthony Zinno.

The first-ever WPT Tournament of Champions drew 64 former winners and saw Farid Yachou, who qualified by winning the WPT Season XIV Amsterdam, finish as the “last man standing” to capture a $381,600 first-place prize.

Maurice Hawkins became the first player in WSOP Circuit history to win back-to-back Main Events. He won at Horseshoe Council Bluffs and Harrah’s Cherokee for $113,152 and $279,722 respectively.

EPT Grand Final Winners

In May, the EPT Grand Final saw a trio of notable winners including Ole Schemion (€100k Super High Roller for €1,597,800), Fabian Quoss (€50k Single-Day SHR for €849,059), and Jan Bendik (€5,300 Main Event for €961,800). Interestingly, Schemion finished runner-up to Quoss for an additional €857,241.

Kempe & Holz Win Big in June

The $300,000 buy-in ARIA Super High Roller Bowl 2016 drew 49 players and saw Rainer Kempe defeat Holz to win a $5 million first-place prize. Holz took home $3.5 million for finishing runner-up, and four days later won $637,392 after taking down a $50k event at ARIA. Over the next two weeks, he’d win two $25k ARIA High Roller events for $393,120 and $276,012 respectively.

Chad Holloway
Written by
Chad Holloway
Splitting his time between his native Wisconsin and Las Vegas, Chad Holloway gave up a potential law career to follow his passion and play and write about poker. His background includes a long stint as a senior writer for a major poker news site. Long well-known throughout the poker community for his incisive and in-depth commentary and reporting, we are proud to have Chad on board as part of our CardsChat writing team, where he will be covering everything from the World Series of Poker to interviews, features, and more.

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