Tunica, MS – Greg Jamison lost his job a few years ago.  That would normally be a "bad" thing.  But Mr. Jamison saw it as a unique opportunity to try something new.  He had grown up in the Midwest and played poker regularly in casinos in Davenport, Iowa as well as in the legendary Rockford charity poker games which ran in the western Chicago suburbs during the 1990s.  Mr. Jamison always did quite well.  The question was – did he have what it took to turn pro and play poker full-time for a living?

There was only one way to find out.  Last June, Mr. Jamison – now aged 39 – packed his bags and loved to Las Vegas.  During the last eight months, Mr. Jamison has been paying his dues inside the cardrooms of Las Vegas and travels regularly to major tournaments.  He circled early- to mid-January on his calendar and made plans to attend the World Series of Poker Circuit in Tunica, Mississippi.

The first major Omaha High-Low event of the new year attracted 214 entries.  Each entrant put up $500 at the WSOP Circuit event held at the Grand Casino-Resort in Tunica, Mississippi.  The large field generated a total prize pool of $103,790.  After 205 players were eliminated on Day One, nine finalists returned to the final table for Day Two.  The early chip leader was John "the Barber" Bouin.  Tied for second place was Greg Jamison.  The seating positions and starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:    Ted Brooks                         69,000
Seat 2:    Sean McMahon                    9,000
Seat 3:    Thomas Witherspoon        63,000
Seat 4:    Greg Jamison                    69,000    
Seat 5:    Suzanne Matzura               17,000
Seat 6:    John "the Barber" Bouin 100,000 
Seat 7:    Nathan Wiesner                 35,000
Seat 8:     Reuben Nixon                    35,000
Seat 9:    Jason Stern                           5,000

About 15 minutes into play, the first player was eliminated.  That turned out to be Nathan Wiesner, from Cincinnati, Ohio.  The 24-year-old poker pro collected $2,076 for ninth place.

The first female to make a final table appearance this year in Tunica was Suzanne Matzura, from Prescott, Arizona.  She was low on chips much of her time on Day Two.  However, the registered nurse survived for over an hour before finally busting out.  Eighth place paid $3,114.

It seemed that Ted Brooks might make a move and challenge for the chip lead.  But instead, Mr. Brooks ran card dead in the later stages of the tournament and ended up going out in seventh place.  The retired Texan, who has finished in the money at several major tournaments in the last two decades, received $4,152.

Sean McMahon showed that one can survive a long time on a short stack.  He arrived second-lowest in chips, which just 9,000.  He won enough key hands to stay in the game for nearly two hours.  But the odds finally caught up to the 31-year-old poker player from Tacoma, Washington.  Mr. McMahon ended up going out in sixth place – good for $5,190.

Reuben Nixon was the next player to be eliminated.  The 48-year-old poker player from Midland, Texas lost all of his chips and ended up in fifth place.  He collected $6,227.

Jason Stern might as well have been riding a roller coaster rather than playing in a poker tournament.  He arrived on Day Two with a paltry 5,000 in chips.  Incredibly, he managed to leap up six places on the pay scale.  Mr. Stern who has cashed big in previous major events (second at the Reno Hilton championship last year) added $7,265 to his money winnings for fourth place.  The San Jose, California based poker player will be someone to watch in future events.

Another player who has enjoyed success on the tournament trail has been Thomas Witherspoon, a dentist from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He made final tables at the World Poker Finals (Foxwoods, CT) and the Cherokee Classic (Tulsa, OK) last year.  In this tournament, Mr. Witherspoon finished in third place, which paid $9,341.

When heads-up play began, John "the Barber" Bouin enjoyed a slight chip lead over Greg Jaminson.  The two finalists dueled back and forth for 90 minutes before Mr. Bouin won a key pot that seemed to foreshadow the end of the tournament.  But Mr. Jamison won a number of key pots late in the tournament which reversed the chip lead. 

At that point, with the betting limits being a significant size of both players' stacks, all it took was a key hand or two for one player to be all-in which would end the tournament.  About five hours into play, the final hand of the night was dealt when Mr. Bouin moved all-in with his last chips holding K-J-5-2 versus Mr. Jamison's 10-8-7-4.  The final board showed 10-10-9-K-5 good for trip tens for the new poker champion.  Mr. Jamison's 10 matched the two tens on board as the winning hand. 

The runner up was John "the Barber" Bouin from Gladstone, Michigan.  The 65-year-old barber has been playing poker most of his life.  His cut of the prize money amounted to $18,267.

Meanwhile, this win was truly special for Greg Jamison as an aspiring poker professional.  "I really think (Stud) High-Low Split is my best game," he said.  "But I play a lot of Omaha High-Low, too…..I play live, in tournaments, and on the Internet."  

The $33,212 in prize money will certainly help Mr. Jamison to continue pursuing his career as a poker professional.  He also received a gold ring, which is presented to all World Series of Poker Circuit event winners in Tunica.  As it turns out, maybe losing his "real" job was a blessing in disguise.

by Nolan Dalla

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