Elizabeth, IN — We're rolling on the river again, the Ohio river. After a highly successful 2006-2007 WSOP Circuit event in October, action returned here at Caesars Indiana, the world's largest riverboat casino. Event #1, $300 no-limit hold'em, attracted an over-capacity crowd of 714 players generating a prize pool of $219,050.
The winner was Bill Latta, a 37-year-old industrial manager from Mt. Zion, Illinois, whose only prior tournament cash-in of any note was a second-chance seventh-place finish in a Circuit event at Tunica. First place tonight paid him $54,708, a handsome gold and diamond trophy ring and a seat in the $5,000 championship event.
Latta is married with two children, has been playing poker for 20 years, learning from his father, and likes football, auto racing and heavy-metal music. He favors tournaments, but also likes $1-$2 and $2-$5 no-limit cash games. He describes his play as "selective-aggressive," and said when it got down to 24 players his strategy was to take down pots while avoiding confrontations. He also said he had a good take on the final table, whose players he felt had a wide range in abilities, and was able to predict who would be the final two or three opponents he ended up facing.
The key hand for him came with four players left. There was four-way action after a 28,000 raise. On the flop, he and Brad Sturgeon both were chasing flushes Sturgeon moved in with the higher draw, but lost and was knocked out when Latta paired a 7. After that, Lattta had about 600,000 of the million-plus chips in play and was unstoppable.
This tournament, which runs from March 26 through April 6, was opened by World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who welcomed the players to "the best poker room in the Midwest." He praised table games VP Joe Barnett, marketing VP Marc Oppenheimer, and lauded Jimmie Allen as one of the best and most enthusiastic poker room managers in the business. He also informed the players that Harrah's Entertainment will be launching WSOP Europe, starting on Sept. 6 at three locations in London.
Caesars Indiana is the final stop in the current 11-event Circuit tour, which makes the excitement of World Series action available not only to top pros, but also to local players around the country. Along with the Circuit events, each day also features 3 p.m. cash tournaments.
Action went so fast on day one that there was no day two. By 11:30 p.m. we were down to nine players, and the event was played through. Starting as chip leader at the final table was Latta with 231,500, closely followed by Michael Egy with 220,500, with a number of chip-lead changes to come.
Here were the starting chip counts:
SEAT 1 Brad Sturgeon 59,000
SEAT 2 Bill Hagan 106,500
SEAT 3 Steve Symsick 97,000
SEAT 4 Michael Egy 220,500
SEAT 5 Charlie Dawson 133,000
SEAT 6 Geoffrey Boes 99,500
SEAT 7 Dwight Gurtz 105,500
SEAT 8 Brent Phillips 33,000
SEAT 9 Bill Latta 231,500
Play started with 3,000-6,000 blinds and 500 antes. In comparison to the earlier swift action, play began much more cautiously, with only one flop and one uncalled all-in in the first 14 hands.
First out, on the next hand, was Bill "Hillbilly Bill" Hagan. In the small blind, he waved his arms to signal all in for 85,000. His A-10 was dominated by Charlie Dawson's A-K, and Hagan's pleas for a 10 went unheeded as he took home $4,052 for ninth.
Hagan, 70, is from Henderson, Kentucky, owns a liquor store and has been has been playing for 50 years, He's married, this is his highest poker achievement, and the one thing he wants everyone to know is that he's a "better player than Phil Hellmuth."
Two hands later, Brent "Bee Train" Phillips, who started lowest in chips, cashed out eighth for $6,079. He moved in for his last few chips, warning his opponents that up to then he had only lost one pot he was involved in, when his pocket kings were beaten by a 3-2. Well, he suffered his second and final loss when his A-J was beaten by Michael Egy's A-Q. Phillips, 41, is a college grad from Evansville, Indiana, working in electrical supply sales. He likes to ride motorcycles and work out, has been playing for 25 years, and his highlight was winning the Southern Indiana Poker Open in 1998.
Soon after, Dwight "Diesel-Man" Gurtz, a mechanic from Milltown, Indiana, moved in on the button for 65,000 with K-10. Dawson picked him off with Ac-5c after a flop of 10-8-6-8-2 changed nothing. Gurtz, 51, is married with three children, has been playing only three years and had no prior poker accomplishments on his bio sheet. He collected $8,105 for seventh.
Dawson now took over the lead with about 275,000. On hand 31, Steve Symsick pushed in his last 24,000 on a flop of K-6-2. He turned up a K-10, overtaking Dawson's A-2. "Send it!" he cried. The dealer sent it — to Dawson — after an ace turned.
Symsick, 39, is a contractor from Mansfield, Ohio, playing in his first WSOP event. He learned poker playing with family. Engaged, he enjoys golf and spending time with his four kids. His sixth-place finish tonight was worth $10,131.
As play continued, Dawson dropped down in chips, then lost his lead by making what he called "a bad read on my part." With the board showing 8-5-3-5, he moved in with K-J, losing a 180,000 pot when Geoffrey Boes called and turned up pocket 8s for a full house.
Blinds now went to 6,000-12,000 with 2,000 antes. A few hands later, Geoffrey Boes busted out in fifth place when he moved in for 100,000 with K-9, losing when he couldn't catch up to Egy's A-10.
Boes, 35, lives in Louisville and delivers pizza. He is married with one child and learned poker from his mother. This is his third WSOP Circuit attempt, and finishing fifth tonight was worth $12,157.
Hand 48 was the turning point. Latta opened for 28,000 and everybody called. The flop came 8s-6d-2s. Holding Ks-10s, Sturgeon moved in for about 90,000. Latta, with a smaller flush draw holding of Js-7s, called and won by accident when a 7 turned. He now had most of the chips in play as Sturgeon took $14,184 for fourth place.
Sturgeon, whose nickname is "Castor Troy," is a taxidermist who hails from Taylorville, Kentucky. He's been playing poker 40 years and said he never had to learn how because he "always could." He's married with three children, and his hobbies are fishing and hunting.
Seven hands later we got heads-up as Latta's lucky 7s did the trick for him again. He re-raised Egy with pocket 7s. Egy called with Q-8 and moved in when a flop of Q-7-5 gave him top pair, almost totally useless against Latta's set of 7s.
Egy, 53 is a headhunter (recruiter, not cannibal) from Terre Haute, Indiana, who's been playing poker for two years, learning from his mother. He's married with two children and his hobbies include fishing, art and sculpture. His poker highlight was winning his first tournament here last year. He is also proud of his tattooed body. Third place paid $16,210.
Heads-up, Latta enjoyed a better than 6-1 chip lead over Dawson. But it wasn't over yet, because the contest would continue for another 43 hands. Very little happened for the first 42 hands, with both opponents playing very cautiously, making only occasional small raises. When blinds rose to 8,000-16,000 with 2,000 antes, Dawson had close to doubled through after maki