Tonight's event, the eighth in the WSOP Circuit tour at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, was $2,000 no-limit hold'em. When the tournament got heads-up, Feming Chan had a big lead with nearly 1.4 million chips to a little over 500,000 for Jack Schanbacher The two went off to talk deal and when they came back, they played six show hands as Chan kept committing big stacks, then folding when Schanbacher would move in. In six hands Chan was out. It was apparent the deal was for Chan to take most of the prize money and Schanbacher the title and gold-and-diamond trophy ring. But they went by the book, and Schanbacher was the legal winner.

   There were 157 entrants and a prize pool of $314,000. First place paid an official $101,736, while second was worth $53,380.

  Schanbacher, 26, is a pro from Pittsburgh who taught himself poker five years ago. He earned a bachelor's degree in marketing, but had been doing so well in home and casino games that he decided to make his living playing poker. He had close to $1 million in cashes going into today's event. His three big payouts were $342,000 and $128,940 for a first and second in Borgata Poker Open events and $197,975 for a win in the Borgata Winter Open

   He said he adapts his play to conditions at the table and likes to mix up his styles. Tonight, with Chan being the chip leader to his immediate left, he had to play fairly straightforward poker. He also had to make a comeback after he lost 40 percent of stack early at the final table when he folded when another player moved in on him. For the past six months, Schanbacher has been playing mostly cash games, up to $100-$200 no-limit, and has been doing well both in cash and tournament play.

   The final table was reached on day one, and the nine players remaining returned at 4 p.m. the next day. In the lead with 398,000 chips was James Arvesen, while at the other end, way at the bottom, were Dwyte Pilgrim and Al Riccobono with 23,000 and 31,000 respectively. Blinds were 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes and 4:42 left.


Here were the starting chip counts:


Seat 1. Feming Chan               383,000          

Seat 2  Tom Dobrilovic           197,000

Seat 3. James Arvesen            398,000

Seat 4. Nicholas Maimone      218,000

Seat 5. Al Riccobono              31,000

Seat 6. Dwyte Pilgrim             23,000

Seat 7.  Charlie Townsend      200,000

Seat 8.  Mike Santoro             114,000

Seat 9.  Jack Schanbacher       312,000


   Avoiding action, the two low stacks were still around when blinds went to 6.000-12,000 and 2,000 antes. Pilgrim was the first to go all in, holding 3d-2d from the big blind, but survived with a flush. Then Riccobono, in for his last chip with 10-8 against Kh-Jh, also got off with trip 8s. Halfway through the round, there was three-way action. Riccobono moved in with K-J, then "Karate" Mike Santoro pushed in with A-K, and  Chan called with K-Q. Chan won with two pair when the board came 8-K-7-8-Q as he knocked out two players. With the shorter stack, Riccobono finished ninth while Santoro got eighth.

   Riccobono, 41, is from Ossining, New York, in pharmaceutical sales and "makin' the transaction" to poker. He taught himself poker three years ago. His cashes include two in the WSOP main events in 2007 and 2008 and a 17th in the Aruba Poker Classic. For ninth, he won  $6,280.

   Santoro, collecting $9,420, is a 39-year-old pro/businessman from Egg Harbor, New Jersey, who used to be a martial arts instructor. He is a three-time World Point Karate champion. having won a bronze and a gold in the U.S. Open full-contact Tae Kwan Do events. (Be careful what you say to him.) Santoro has over $500,000 in poker cashes, his best prize being $69,840 when he won the CEO Poker Tour challenge main event.

   A hand later, Pilgrim, the other low stack, went out with A-K. Chan,.with Q-10, did the job again, a second time with two pair when a queen turned and a 10 hit the river. Pilgrim took $12,560 for seventh. Pilgrim, 26, originally from Guyana, is a loan officer from Brooklyn who learned poker seven years ago "the hard way." He has a 50th-place prior cash at a Borgata event.

   Players took a break, returning to blinds of 8,000-16,000 and 2,000 antes. Charlie Townsend went out when he re-raised all in with A-7 after Arvesen raised with A-2. The board came 4-4-5-10, and then a river trey gave Arvesen a gut-shot straight.  Townsend, collecting $15,700 for sixth, is 47, from Dagsboro, Delaware, and self-employed. He learned poker from his father in the 1990s/ His numerous cashes include $76,070 for winning a $1,000 event at the World Poker Challenge in Reno.

   Next to go was Tom Dobrilovic. He was all in with A-7 and got outdrawn by  Schanbacher, who challenged him with J-9 suited and made two pair when the board came J-Q-5-8-9. Fifth paid $18,840. Dobrilovic is a 30-year-old pro from West Nyack, New York who started playing in underground clubs three years ago. With 700,000 in earnings, he's had a lot of cashes, the top one being $99,550 for winning one of the two events he took down at the Bellagio Cup.

   Four-handed, Nicholas Maimone was by far the shortest stack. He escaped an all-in once when he made two pair with A-9 to beat Schanbacher's K-10. But a couple of hands later, he was all in again with A-8. Chan made his fourth kill when he called with J-9 and flopped two more jacks. Chan was now well in front with close to half the 1.9 million chips in play. Maimone is a 21-year-old former student from Brooklyn who's been playing two years after teaching himself. He got staked in this event, his second Circuit. His hobbies are basketball and soccer.

   A few hands later, Chan knocked out his fifth player. With the board showing 8-4-10-5, Chan, with 10-6 for a paired 10, bet 120,000 and Arvesen, with A-5 for a paired five, moved in. After a brief hesitation, Chan called. When a 7 on the river didn't help, Arvesen went out in third place for $31,400. Arvesen is a financial planner from Lebanon, New Jersey who's been playing four years, learning from Jesse May, poker's "voice" in Europe. He has some small daily tournament wins here, at Borgata and Caesars Las Vegas. His other hobby is farming, and he holds several patents.

    Heads-up, the two walked off to talk deal and returned to play their mandatory show hands. On the final one, Chan, down to three chips, had Q-10. Schanbacher had 8-5 and made trips when the board came A-4-4-5-3.

   Chan, 28, from West Windsor, New Jersey, playing for nine years, modestly wrote on his bio sheet that he has no poker highlights, when in fact his numerous cashes include   two final tables at Circuit main events here. He finished third in one for  $106,704 and a fourth in another for $80,521.