Marty Derbyshire thunder valley

A California online poker legend made a triumphant return to live poker after a two-year break from the game. Stockton’s Hafiz Khan won the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln last week.

Khan once dominated the global online poker scene, winning more than $3 million under various online poker screen names, including “hafizzle.”

On Jan. 22, Khan got the best of a 599-entry field to win the $1,675 WSOP Circuit Main Event for $188,686 at Thunder Valley. It was Khan’s first WSOP Circuit win.

Online poker legend passes on the 9-to-5

Khan, 43, holds an IT degree. He spent the past two years mired in a self-described “mid-life, spiritual consciousness change,” spending time with friends and considering a return to the tech field. In the end, he decided he couldn’t stomach a nine-to-five job.

He made his return to poker, booking two scores in WSOP Circuit event prelims at Thunder Valley earlier this month. This included a third-place finish for $35,543 in the $365 WSOP Circuit opening event on Jan. 11.

Khan grabbed the chip lead in the Main Event’s second starting flight and held onto it for most of the tournament’s second day. He returned for the event’s third and final day coming into the final table third in chips. Khan managed to ladder up and eventually booked the win. It came with a WSOP Circuit ring and a seat in the 2018 Global Casino Championship.

The Global Casino Championship is an invitation-only tournament held at the end of the WSOP Circuit season. The prize pool includes $1 million added by WSOP.

Between now and then, Khan told WSOP staff he will likely make a few more trips to WSOP Circuit events.

“I missed the game, so I finally decided I’m a poker player,” he said. “That’s what I’m good at. I’m back.”

$2.7 million from the Bahamas to Thunder Valley

The win brought Khan’s total live tournament earnings up to $2,752,574. The largest score of his live tournament career also happens to be the first one he recorded.

Khan won $1,094,976 finishing second to Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier in the 2008 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Of course, Khan won entry into that event through an online poker satellite.

His most recent victory wrapped up the WSOP Circuit’s second trip to Thunder Valley. In all, players won 12 WSOP Circuit rings over a period of 12 days.

Idaho’s Ron Brown captured two of the rings, earning $32,087 and the Casino Championship race at Thunder Valley. Casino Championship winners also earn free entry into the Global Championship.

Thunder Valley Casino Resort

Thunder Valley Casino Resort is owned and operated by the United Auburn Indian Community.

Station Casinos ran the property from the time it opened in 2003 to 2010. At that time, Station Casinos’ contract expired, and the United Auburn Indian Community decided to manage the property on its own.

The casino offers over 3,000 slots, 125 table games, and a live poker room that can seat 160 players. Live tournament poker has increased in popularity at the venue over the past five years. The World Poker Tour, Heartland Poker Tour, Ante Up Poker Tour, Poker Night in America, WPTDeepStacks, and WSOP Circuit have all made numerous stops there.

Marty Derbyshire
Marty Derbyshire - Martin Derbyshire is a veteran of the world of poker and gambling, having worked as a reporter, producer, and editor in the industry for more than a decade. He has traveled the globe interviewing high-profile personalities and contributes to a number of publications, including,, and