Valley Center, CA (February 18, 2007) – Jason Stern has certainly paid his dues in tournament poker.  He's been playing for a decade, and has a number of cashes and final tables on his resume.  Mr. Stern is perhaps best-known for a second place showing at the Reno Hilton last year which was shown on television.  He has won over $800,000 in tournaments – which was augmented by a $41,904 cash in this event at Harrah's Rincon Casino-Resort.

A modest-sized field of 80 players each paid the $1500 entry fee for Event #8 – in no-limit hold'em.  That meant only the final table would be paid prize money.  After 71 players were eliminated during 11 long hours of play on day one, the nine finalists returned to commence play on day two.  Seating and starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Richard Salzman             33,100   
Seat 2:  Paul Nichols                     22,500
Seat 3:  Gregory Mihaly                15,500
Seat 4:  Bryon Killilea                    21,900
Seat 5:  Derek Harrington             19,800
Seat 6:  Jason Stern                     46,500
Seat 7:  Brandon Fishman            44,300
Seat 8:  "Chimney" John Farrell    23,400
Seat 9:  Gregory Stein                 14,800

With Jason Stern holding a slight chip lead over Brandon Fishman, play began promptly at 4 pm.  Paul "Violator" Nichols lasted only a few hands.  He was trapped by Bryon Killilea for all of his chips on the turn.  Mr. Nichols was dealt K-J and flopped two pair.  But Mr. Killilea, holding Q-10, flopped a straight.  The final board showed K-J-9-3-6 which meant a ninth-place finish for Mr. Nichols.  The senior technology specialist from Ohio and former staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps is to be saluted for a payout totaling $3,492.

Mr. Killilea did not hold on to those chips for long.  He took a tough beat holding Q-Q, which lost to Derek Harrington's K-J (after both a king and jack flopped).  Then, about ten hands later, the rest of his chips vanished.  Mr. Killilea was killed off holding J-J which lost to "Chimney" John Farrells' A-Q – when an ace flopped.  Bryan Killilea, a student and poker player from San Mateo, CA, earned $4,656 for eighth place.

Gregory Stein was the next player to exit.  He moved all-in with A-7 and was called instantly by Jason Stern, holding A-A.  The pocket aces held up, putting Mr. Stein out of the tournament.  Gregory Stein has previously enjoyed success in WSOP-related events.  He finished 14th in an event at the Rio in Las Vegas last year.  He has also made it to final tables of other tournaments in southern California.  Seventh place paid $5,820.

Once again, the winner of a big pot was unable to hold the chips.  Jason Stern called an all-in bet by John Farrell as the flop came K-Q-7, with two diamonds.  Mr. Stern had the J-9 of diamonds for a flush and a straight draw.  But Mr. Farrell had 7-7 to match the 7 on board, for a set.  The board paired on the turn, giving Mr. Farrell a full-house and the chip lead for the first time.

Mr. Farrell increased his chip lead a short time later when he called an all-in bet by Gregory Mihaly with a straight draw.  In fact, both players had straight draws, and missed.  But Mr. Farrell had the higher two cards, which played.  That meant a sixth-place finish for Mr. Mihaly, who has cashed three times at this year's Rincon series.  The corporate attorney from Houston, TX collected $6,984 in prize money.

Derek Harrington doubled-up from being the low stack at the expense of Brandon Fishman.  That gave everyone a decent number of chips and made the tournament a wide-open contest.  Play continued at five-handed for over an hour.  Then, John Farrell (who had been chip leader) took a bad hit when he lost with A-K versus Derek Harrington's pocket 5s.  Things went from bad to worse.

Low on chips, John Farrell tried to steal the blinds with K-9, but his all-in bet was called by Richard Salzman, holding A-2.  An ace flopped, and "Chimney John" was swept away.  John Farrell, who is a fireplace store owner, collected $8,148 for fifth place.

With four players remaining, Richard Salzman had a slight chip lead.  Richard Salzman went out next when he moved all-in on a flush draw, but missed.  Jason Stern was there to take the chips with three queens, which meant Mr. Fishman ended up as the fourth place finisher.  The CEO of an Internet advertising agency, Richard Salzman collected a commission of $9,312 in prize money.     

A few hands later, Derek Harrington finally went out when he made top pair, but was outkicked by Jason Stern.  Mr. Harrington held Q-10 and flopped a queen, but Mr. Stern had K-Q.  Derek Harrington's bid to win his second WSOP Circuit gold bracelet came up short.  He previously won at Bally's Las Vegas.  This time, Mr. Harrington had to settle for third place, which paid $12,804.

It took only a few hands for Mr. Stern to steamroll over Richard Salzman in heads-up play.  Ahead by a 5 to 1 chip margin, Mr. Stern won the final hand of the tournament with K-10 over Mr. Salzman's A-9.  The final board showed Q-10-4-4-Q, giving Mr. Stern two pair (queens and tens). 

The second-place finisher was Richard Salzman, who has enjoyed his own share of poker tournament success.  He was fifth in the seven-card stud event at the WSOP and 17th in a hold'em event last year.  The sports bettor from Norwood, OH received $23,280 as his payout as the runner up in this tournament.

Jason Stern was thrilled with his first WSOP-related victory.  He received $41,904.  In the poker world, Mr. Stern is widely-recognized for wearing a collection of major league baseball jerseys (he says he owns over 150 of them and wears a different one each day).  He was decked out in the New York Mets jersey on this day.  On the previous day during the tournament, he wore a Tampa Bay Devil Ray's jersey.  Might that foretell of a Mets-Jays showdown on the World Series of Baseball next October?

by Nolan Dalla

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