Garden Party: 12 Qualifiers from the Gardens Casino head to Choctaw after Winning Satellite Spectacular

By Sean Chaffin This WPT Choctaw event becomes the second event at Choctaw Casino & Resort on the WPT schedule in Season XVII, and players from across the country will be hoping to take a big chunk of that $1 million guarantee and add their names to the Champions Cup. As Season XVII nears its conclusion, 12…

Matt Clark
May 17, 2019

By Sean Chaffin

This WPT Choctaw event becomes the second event at Choctaw Casino & Resort on the WPT schedule in Season XVII, and players from across the country will be hoping to take a big chunk of that $1 million guarantee and add their names to the Champions Cup.

As Season XVII nears its conclusion, 12 players in the field share something in common. They’re all part of the Gardens Casino’s qualifier crew after winning an all-expenses-paid trip to the tournament.

The Gardens runs a promotion solely for tournament players, dubbed the WPT Satellite Spectacular. This is the third installment of the event, and players qualify by playing in daily tournaments. A $20 buy-in satellite tournament is then held with players’ chips determined by how much they play.

The top-12 finishers earned a complete WPT Choctaw package: six nights’ stay at the hotel; travel expenses; buy-in for the event; and a VIP meet and greet. The property also ran Satellite Spectaculars or the WPT Gardens Poker Championship and WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio.

As a WPT branded property, the Gardens features WPT logos and graphics throughout the 200,000-square foot, two-story facility. The Choctaw qualifiers come from all walks of life and here’s a look at a few hitting the tables this week.

Head Games

Linda Stockstill
Players might not be advised to reveal too much to Linda Stockstill. The psychoanalyst from Anaheim, California, has some deep insight when it comes to the human mind. Her knowledge may come in handy at the poker table.

“I think that with that kind of an education, you learn certain skills that will help you be calm and patient,” she says. “You can watch people and if they’re on tilt, you’ll know that. At times maybe you can exploit them a little. I think it helps.”

The 68-year-old part-time player is at the Gardens tournament tables about three times a week and plays in some cash games as well. When the Satellite Spectacular cranked up, Stockstill knew she’d have her work cut out.

“I didn’t have very many chips to start,” she says. “There are a lot of people who play five to 10 tournaments a week, and sometimes I’m in only two or three tournaments a week. So I had to be very patient and wait. I got a couple lucky hands and a couple flips.”

For Stockstill, jumping in the action here at the Choctaw was a huge accomplishment and she was looking to make her hot streak continue.

“I was so excited because poker is a sport that you play by yourself,” she says. “You can study or read a book or watch videos, but when you’re sitting at the table it’s all you. That was what was so important to me. I felt like this was an accomplishment I did. I’ve had a lot of support along the way, but at that moment I knew that this was something I did.”

Stockstill began playing at age 17 and then took some time off after having two sons. The last six years she began getting back into poker more and loves playing at the Gardens.

What would it be like to make the final table and head to Las Vegas?

“I think that would be the most fun,” she says. “I would be so excited.”

The Builder

Jim Johnson

As a retired carpenter, Jim Johnson knows a thing or two about building. His job involved working in high-rise construction projects – from floor to ceiling in projects throughout California.

Now as Day 1a begins, Johnson’s hoping to construct a nice chip stack and make his nice run continue. He began playing poker several years ago after watching the WPT and Chris Moneymaker’s run in the WSOP.

As a carpenter, the native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, is also pretty good with numbers. He now plays about once a week at the Gardens in events ranging from $40 to $500.

“I just play for fun,” says Johnson, 58. “If I win, then I’ve got money to give away. If you enjoy the game, it’s fun – it’s not really work. I’m not doing it for a living and I just play the games I can afford. I only play with money I can afford to lose. I’m not playing with the rent or bill money.”

When not playing poker, Johnson enjoys spending time with family. He’s not married and doesn’t have children, but loves hanging out with nieces and nephews. Just before the Choctaw, he was in Fairbanks, Alaska, at his nephew’s graduation. The trip included a trip to the Chena Hot Springs and some moose watching.

“I only spent a couple days up there,” he says. “I cut it short because of this tournament. I actually had the trip scheduled before the tournament, not knowing I qualified.”

The WPT Choctaw is the largest event he’s ever played, but he previously won a $5,000 seat to the Legends of Poker at the Bicycle Casino. He sold that seat however, and used the cash to play other preliminary events.

With only $20 invested to qualify, this time Johnson decided to give it a shot. Earning the seat wasn’t easy. As only an occasional player, he started with just above the minimum chip stack, which was 2,000. He began with 3,000, but others had as much as 25,000.

“I got lucky when I needed to get lucky,” he says. “And my hands held when I needed them to hold.”

He’s hoping that continues here on the Red River plains. Building something large takes time: one nail at a time, one board at a time – one pot at a time.

Short Stack to Choctaw Trip

Lan Ly
Leaving his job as a veterinary assistant has left Lan Ly with much more time on his hands. He’s still not sure what line of work he’d like to pursue and while he looks for another job, Ly’s been spending a lot more time playing poker.

The 31-year-old from Long Beach, California, plays up to five days a week at the Gardens.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a full-time player, but I’m there a lot,” he says. “I’m playing well enough to pay the bills, but not well enough to be making any extravagant purchases.”

How did the Satellite Spectacular turn out? It was anything but smooth. After beginning with a big stack of chips, he was quickly down to about 20 percent of that.

“At that point, part of me gave up,” he says. “I was like, ‘I’m running bad. This isn’t my day, and I’m not going to win.’ Then my luck changed just like that. On the short stack was when I started getting lucky and running good. I turned it around, but was surprised that I made it that far after starting horribly.”

This is his first WPT event and the biggest tournament he’s ever played. Ly admitted to being a little anxious and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“It’s poker: same chips, same rules,” he adds. “In terms of the competition, that’s what I’m not sure of.”

A nice score here in Oklahoma might put that job search off a little longer.

High Hopes

This is the largest crew the Gardens has sent to an event, and the property’s tournament manager Cavin Quintanilla is excited to see the Satellite Spectacular promotion adding more and more players to WPT fields.

He also has big hopes for his Spectacular Crew.

“It’s been a really good group experience,” he says. “We figure there are 12 here and one in eight cash, so one of them should cash. Then we’ve just got to get them to that next level.”

He adds with a laugh: “There are 12 of them, so we’re looking to get six of them to the final table in Vegas. That would be awesome.”

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.

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