"I want a ring," Veronica Heath said playfully as she wrapped up her win in the eighth event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Caesars Indiana, the $200 no-limit Ladies Only championship. Well, why not? The petite 23-year-old rising superstar already has two championship pendants, having earned her first two years ago here. (And she also finished fourth in this event last October.) Tonight she built up a massive lead midway through the final table and scored an impressive victory.
Heath has been working as a licensed dental hygienist while also studying for her bachelor's degree to go with her associate degree. But last April she left her job to explore the possibility of turning full-time pro. So far, she said, things have gone well for her and she's been living off her poker winnings.
Today, she said, she got off to a fantastic start, making quads twice in early going, then flopping a set and filling up to beat trip aces.
Heath, single, lives in Louisville, and was taught poker by a friend 2-1/2 years ago. Her victory tonight was worth $13,748.
This event was played through in one day, and once the ladies got to the final table, it took only 37 hands to play it out. The women did not play timidly. It was slam-bang action all the way, with runner-up Carla Keding betting and raising the most frantically.
Action started with 1,500-3,000 blinds, and 10 minutes later went to 2,000-4,000, playing 30-minute rounds, and never getting to the point where they increased. Alma Egnew was chip leader with 74,000.
Here were the starting chip counts:
It took only 12 hands to send the first lady to the sidelines. Sheila McInerney had pocket aces under the gun. Keding was in the big blind with 7-4, and hit two pair on a flop of 8-7-4.
McInerney, 31, is from Northbook, Illinois, and works in real estate title insurance. She is single, goes by the nickname of "Irish Girl," enjoys shopping and tennis, and was taught poker three years ago by her friend "Classy Ploppy." She describes herself as "spunky," and tonight earned $859 for ninth place.
Tasting blood, Keding now went after her second kill. Her next hunt did not go well as she let Jessica Dawley get away. Keding only had Q-J, and Dawley, all in with A-K, easily escaped by making two pair. But on the next hand, Keding, with pocket 9s, made sure she did not lose her prey. She flopped a set, while Melinda "Rey" Meyer, with As-7s, did not stand a chance.
Meyer, 36, is a registered nurse from Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. She's married with three children, is currently working on her master's in nursing, and learned poker from her husband two years. "Here I come!" she wrote on her bio sheet. Her payout for eighth was $1,289.
Hand 20 was a key one in this tournament, putting Heath on the road to victory. Holding A-J, Nancy Aguinaga moved in for 46,500, and Heath, barely having her covered in chips, made a tough but ultimately correct call with pocket treys. The board came K-Q-9-Q-6, and Heath now had a lead which she held onto the rest of the way.
Aguinaga, 40, is a professor living in Boonville, Indiana. She's single, learned poker from her dad three years ago, and this is her second Circuit try. Seventh paid $1,718.
A few hands later blinds went to 3,000-6,000. Keding, still very dangerous, challenged Heath by moving in for 68,500. Heath pondered at length until another player cried out, "Deal or No Deal." Heath waited for a better chance and folded.
On hand 31, Alma J. Egnew pushed in for 40,000 in late position with K-J. Lisa Gray called from the small blind with pocket 4s, which held up when the board came 7-2-2-10-7.
Egnew, 53, is from Ewing, Kentucky. She is retired as a promoter for Country Music Park. Agnew, nicknamed "A.J," is married, with one child, and her hobby is raising a collection of farm animals with her husband. ("The animals need this money," she said.) Egnew learned poker 15 years ago when she was in Texas working as marketing director for a company called Casino Concepts. She won a $10,000 seat into the WSOP championship in a mega satellite at the Rio in 2005, the same year she finished 52nd in a seniors event. Tonight she earned $2,148 for her animals.
The action now got frenzied. On the next hand, Gray went out on an ugly beat. Holding K-10 she had a seemingly excellent flop of 10-5-4. But Heath, with 5-4, had two pair. Heath made a small trap bet of 10,000, Gray raised 10,000, and Heath moved her in. A king and 7 came, and Gray was out in fifth place, which paid $2,578.
Gray, 35, from Wayland, Michigan, is another registered nurse. Her hobbies are "golf and drinking." She learned poker two years ago from her brother, "who thought he could beat me." Fifth paid $2,578.
Heath now had a commanding lead with 220,000 of the 372,000 chips in play.
But Keding was still chasing her. On the very next hand Keding had only 9-3, up against Renee Shepherd's pocket 6s. Not to be denied, Keding flopped a 9, her pair held up, and now three were left.
Shepherd, 43, is from Paris, Kentucky, married with three children, and works as a sales rep. Her hobbies are softball and dancing. She learned poker from her husband a year ago, and this is her first Circuit try. Her poker highlight was calling a 7,000 raise with pocket 10s and winning. "I love my kids immensely," she added.
Incredibly, a third player would now be knocked out on the third straight hand.
This time, Jessica Dawley was all in with a dominant A-9 against Keding's anemic 8-2. But she underestimated her opponent. Dawley flopped a 9...but two 8s also flopped. "Oh, my gosh!" Dawley exclaimed in dismay. When a 5 and jack came, nothing changed, and Dawley was out in third place, which was worth $3,867.
Dawley, 24, is from Jeffersonville, IN. She has a degree in marketing and management and is self-employed. She learned poker from her uncle 19 years ago.. This is her first Circuit entry, and her biggest poker thrill was holding quad 6s and being raised all in.
Heads-up, Heath still enjoyed a lead of 206,000 to 167 for Keding. The match-up would only last two hands. Keding moved in with Qd-10c and found herself a huge underdog when Heath called and turned up Kc-Qs. A queen flopped, a king hit the turn, and Keding was drawing dead. Her second-place finish paid her $7,561.
Keding, 42, is from Paris, Kentucky, and owns both a chiropractor business and a mini storage facility. Married with two children, she is a college grad who said she learned poker in high school 20 years ago. (They teach poker in high school?), and her other hobby is "drinkin." This is her first Circuit event, which a friend told her about. — Max Shapiro
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Max Shapiro -- WSOP Media Director at (323) 356-3303
Or visit our official website: www.worldseriesofpoker.com
World Series of Poker Commissioner - Jeffrey Pollack
World Series of Poker Tournament Director -- Jack Effel
Caesars Indiana Poker Room Manager - Jimmie Allen
Caesars Indiana Tournament Directors -- Craig Carman and Lee Bratcher Caesars Indiana Assistant General Manager -- Neil Walkoff