Thomas Hoffman, a 45-year-old tool maker from Denton, Nebraska, had a fairly easy time of it as he built up a big lead and roared ahead to a win in the seventh event of the WSOP Circuit Tour at Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs, $300 limit hold'em. This was the only limit tournament in the line-up, and the final event before the start of the three-day, $5,000 buy-in championship that gets underway tomorrow.
Hoffman has been playing poker for 20 years, learning by "taking expensive lessons from the best players in Lincoln." Normally he plays no-limit cash games, but decided on a whim to take a short at this limit tournament. First place tonight brought him $14,520 and a handsome gold trophy ring.
Hoffman is married with two children, has a college education and his other hobby is classic cars.
Final table action started with 1,000-1,500 blinds and a full hour on the clock. With 45,000 chips, 50 percent more than anyone else, John Evans was the chip leader. 

Seats and chip counts

SEAT 1 Curt Aust  30,000 
SEAT 2 Tom Hoffman  32,500
SEAT 3 Duane Capes 20,500
SEAT 4 Brett Everson 22,500
SEAT 5 Paul Beveridge  23,000
SEAT 6 Gary Starrett 20,000
SEAT 7 Shawn NG           26,500
SEAT 8 John Beane  11,000
SEAT 9 John Evans  45,000

The first big action came on hand 15 when John Beane flopped a set of 7s, only to see Duane Capes make a set of queens on the turn.
First out, five hands later, was Paul Beveridge. Holding Q-9, he had a strong two pair when the board showed A-Q-4-9, but Duane Capes, with A-9, had made a stronger two pair.
Beveridge, 58, is a law school graduate from Omaha who has been playing poker for 40 years, starting out with high school friends. This is his first Circuit event. Beveridge, who earned $896 for finishing ninth, said his poker highlight previously was being a "bad-beat winner" at Prairie Meadows. He enjoys golf, fishing and hunting and says his retriever will not let him leave the house without him.
As the hour came down to the last hand, Shawn Ng looked down at pocket kings. Slowplaying, he let Hoffman, with pocket queens, do the betting. With a board of 10-9-2-6, Ng bet all-in blind. The last card (ugh!) was a queen, and the bad beat left Ng in eighth place.
Ng, originally from Malaysia, now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. This is his first Circuit try. He has a college education, enjoys chess, and tonight picked up $1,344 for eighth place.
On the 40th hand, limits went to 2,000 and 4,000. John Evans was the next player to bust out. He was all in on the button with K-J and couldn't catch up to Curt Aust's A-6. He finished seventh and took home $1,793 for his efforts.   
   Evans is a poker player age 43, originally from Ontario and now living in Olathe, Kansas. He's been playing for 10 years.
As action continued, an all-in John Beane survived when his pocket jacks stood up to Gary Starrett's pocket 9s.
This table started at 2 p.m., and at 4 p.m., a second final table, for the $1,500 no-limit event, got underway simultaneously. With two final tables playing at once, along with the Super Bowl eliciting cheers and screams from  poker players and spectators in the adjoining bar, things got hectic, to say the very least.
Just as the Super Bowl got underway, John Beane got tackled on the six-yard line, with sixth paying $2,241. He was all in from the small blind with just 7c-6c, and four players who smelled blood went after him. Two dropped out, and on the end, with a board of 8-4-2-10-A, Brett Everston, with A-8, made the kill with two pair. 
Beane, 59, is a retiree from Omaha, Nebraska. He's been playing poker for 2-1/2 years, and making this final table is his only real tournament accomplishment to date. His other main hobby is golf.
By this time, Hoffman had moved up into a comfortable lead, with about 120,000 of the 232,000 chips on the table.
Blinds now went to 3,000-6,000. Duane Capes, 53, is a business owner from Rochelle, Illinois. He went out in fifth place, which brought him $2,689. He flopped a set of 8s, but Hoffman, holding Ks-Js, caught him by making a flush on the river.
Capes has 35 years of poker experience under his belt, but has yet to win a Circuit event in three tries. His other hobbies include hunting and fishing.
Moving right along, Gary Starrett was next out, and once again Hoffman did the honors. He was down to one chip in the small blind with Q-3. Hoffman had an 8 in his hand, flopped another one, and that's all it took.
Starrett, 59, is a contractor from Negaunee, Michigan, who's been playing poker for 40 years. This is his second Circuit attempt. His biggest tournament cash-in by far came last year when he finished 45th in the WPT $25,0000 championship event at Bellagio's Five-Star World Poker Classic, which paid $58,585. He learned to play poker at home games, his other hobby is pool, and for finishing fourth he took home $3,585.
Brett Evertsen was next to depart when he was cut down by Hoffman's straight. By now, Hoffman had a very big lead and seemed unstoppable.
Evertsen, 42, is self-employed and lives in Elkhorn, Nebraska. He's been playing for 12 years, and the high point of his poker came when he won $9,800 for a royal flush bonus. For finishing third in this tournament he cashed out for $4,481.
Hoffman's final opponent was Aust, a 25-year-old accountant from Omaha. Aust hung on for a while, once doubling up when he was all in with Q-9 and flopped a 9 to outrun Hamilton's K-3. But he couldn't get close to Hamilton's chip total. He finally went out quietly holding 8h-4s. Hamilton was way ahead with Jd-10c. Aust pulled ahead briefly when the flop brought 7-7-4, but his paired 4s were beaten when a jack on the river gave Hamilton the higher pair.
Aust learned the game of poker 10 years ago from his grandfather. This is his first Circuit event. He enjoys golf and baseball and wants the ladies out there to know that he's "single, available and lonely."
He's also $7,618 richer after his second-place finish, so go get him, girls. He needs a dependent for an income tax write-off now.                              

—Max Shapiro

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World Series of Poker Commissioner – Jeffrey Pollack
Director of Poker Operations for Harrah's Entertainment – Jack Effel
World Series of Poker Circuit Tournament Director – Janis Sexton
Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs Poker Room Manager – Gary Margetson