When the championship event of the Harrah's WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Atlantic City got down to the final day, Alex Gomez owned 1,051,000 of the 2,370,000 chips in play and looked like a shoo-in. But after a 75-hand heads-up match that saw a number of chip-lead changes, Rick Rossetti, a 37-year-old roofing contractor, finally put his opponent away. Ironicaly, Rossetti took the lead for the first time when he tried a bluff, got called, and made an accidental inside straight on the river.

Victory in this $4,900 + $250 event brought Rossetti $368,096, a championship gold and diamond ring, plus a $10,000 seat in the 2007 WSOP main event and $1,000 expenses. He's from Linwood, New Jersey and has played poker for 20 years. He's had cashes in tournaments at the Taj and Foxwoods, and also likes high-limit stud and mixed games.

The day before, with about 22 players left, Gomez went on a seven-minute break, thinking it was for 37 minutes. He had a big and small blind and two rounds of antes  blinded off, returning with only 12,000 chips left. Undaunted, he proceeded to go on a rush, and accumulated his huge lead.

Day three action began with 6,000-12,000 blinds and 2,000 antes, 19 minutes left.

Seats and chip counts

SEAT 1 Tam Ly                  197,000
SEAT 2 Ken Goldin             101,000
SEAT 3 Drew Gliem            108,000
SEAT 4 Ray Lin                  198,000
SEAT 5 Michael Bernstein  130,000
SEAT 6 Alex Gomez        1,051,000
SEAT 7 Feming Chan          179,000
SEAT 8 Rick Rossetti          181,000
SEAT 9 John Racener        224,000

On hand three, Ken Goldin went all in for 107,000 with Ad-Kh. He was near elimination after Tam "Samurai" Ly, with Qh-10h, turned a 10, but Goldin doubled up with a river flush, while Ly lost over half his chips.

On hand eight, blinds became 8,000-16,000 with 2,000 antes, now playing 90-minute rounds. One hand later, Rossetti opened for 40,000 with As-9h. Ly raised for 98,000 more in the big blind holding Ad-7s, losing when the board came J-3-3-6-A. Ly, 30, is  from Vietnam and now lives in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, He is a senior engineer with a chemical engineering degree and started playing in high school, the past two years seriously. Ninth paid $23,006.

On the next hand, Drew "Drewsworld" Gliem moved in under the gun with pocket 6s for 70,000. a big dog when Michael "MJ" Bernstein came over the top with pocket kings...even bigger when another player said he had folded a 6. A board of 10-8-7-3-J changed nothing, and Gliem finished eighth, worth $34,509. Gliem, 45, is executive director of "Half-Measures, Inc.," a non-profit recovery home. He is  from Farmingdale, New Jersey, and has played poker 25 years, hold'em for five, learning at WPT Boot Camp. He holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and had his best poker cash-out beating a field of 1,125 at PokerStars. He's an outdoorsman enjoying surfing, fishing and golf.

Ray Lin left on hand 13.  Rossetti opened for 50,000 and Lin pushed in from the button for 190,000 more. He turned up Ac-Jc and was up against Rossetti's Ah-Ks. The board came 10-7-5-6-2, and Lin picked up $46,012 for seventh. Originally from Taiwan, Lin, 59, now lives in New York City.

With six players left, Gomez still was in front with 1,099,000, with Rossetti now in second place with 575,000.

Bernstein finished sixth for $57,515. After Feming Chan raised 50,000, both Bernstein and Gomez moved in. Gomez was a slight favorite with pocket 9s, which held up against Bernstein's K-J when neither helped. Bernstein is a 27-year-old pro from Chicago whose hobbies include fishing and spelunking. He's been written up in Bluff magazine, which called him a "rising star" and PokerPages.com, describing him as a "satellite whiz kid."

Goldin is a 41-year-old sports agent and marketer from Vorhees, New Jersey. He moved in from the small blind with Kh-9s and found himself against Chan's Ah-9h, finishing fifth when the board didn't help. Goldin, a poker player for two years, took home $69,018 richer for fifth. Goldin has numerous online tournament wins, the largest $33,000. He got his poker knowledge primarily online and insists he a "competition junkie, not a poker junkie."

With blinds of 10,000-20,000 and 3,000 antes at level 17, here were the counts: Gomez, 1,321,000; Chan, 322,000; Rossetti, 181,000; John Racener, 224,000.

As play proceeded, Racener relieved Gomez of 173,000 chips when his Ac-10c stood up against Gomez's Kc-Jc after the board came A-10-9-8-J.

Then, with 55 minutes left at this level, Gomez pushed in with As-10c and got an all-in call of 85,000 from Chan. The best hands had usually held up in all-in situations at this final table, and they did again here. Gomez, with As-10c, dominated Chan's Ad-3h. A board of Q-10-4-9-Q missed both players, and Chan was missing from the table, picking up $80,521 for fourth. Chan is a 26-year-old poker player from West Windsor, New Jersey who had previously been a day trader. He's been playing poker for eight years, learning his trade on the Internet. His biggest prior cash-out was $30,512 for 428th in this year's WSOP main event.

The count now was: Gomez, 1,325,000; Rossetti, 689,000; Racener, 363,000. With more than $670,000 at stake, play tightened with very little happening until the level ended and players went on dinner break nearly an hour later.  Returning from dinner, hosted by Harrah's at their Italian restaurant, the count hadn't changed much: 1,137,000 for Gomez,; 753,000 for Rossetti, 489,000 for Racenter. Blinds went to $15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes.

On the first hand, everything turned around. The flop showed 9s-7s-7h. Holding Qs-7s, Racener bet 155,000 on his flush draw. Holding only 8c-5c, Rossetti moved in. A Kh turned, and then a 6c on the river gave Rossetti a straight. Racenter was out in third place, getting $103,527, while Rossetti suddenly had the lead, 1,251,000 to 1,118,000. Racenter, a pro at age 21, describes himself as "young, single, with a bright future," is from Tampa, Florida. He learned poker at an early age from his father. His biggest payday was over $1 million for winning a PokerStars event.

For the next 15 hands, Rossetti turned super-aggressive, raising and getting Gomez to fold nearly every hand. Finally, Gomez took a stand, raising all in after Rossetti bet 200,000 into a flop of A4-3-3. "I thought I had a straight," Rosetti said sheepishly as he folded. Chips moved back and forth, with Gomez briefly regaining the lead, until the level ended, with Rossetti back in charge, 1,685,000 to 685,000.

Blinds moved up to 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes. Soon after, Gomez won a big pot when he made queens full with Q-8, and the field had leveled. 

Finally, Rossetti took command again in a huge pot that was raised $100,000 pre-flop. Another $100,000 was bet on the flop of 4-2-3. The turn was checked, and when a queen came on the river, Gomez bet 155,000, then folded when Rossetti raised another 445,000. He now led, 1,500,000 to 870,000. On the final hand, the flop came K-9-3. Rossetti bet 150,000 and Gomez moved in for 585,000 more. Gomez had pocket 10s, Rossetti K-7, and his paired king stood up to win the pot and the championship.

Gomez, 33, is from Brooklyn, New York, and took down $202,453 for second. He is a management consultant with an MBA in finance and has been playing poker for four years. He says he got to where he is in the game by "practice, practice, practice."

-- Max Shapiro

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Max Shapiro -- WSOP Media Director at (323) 356-3303
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World Series of Poker Commissioner – Jeffrey Pollack
Director of Poker Operations for Harrah's Entertainment – Jack Effel
Harrah's Atlantic City Poker Room Manager – John Arthur