Mark Stephen Edwards Victorious at Bayou Poker Challenge

New Orleans, LA – The fourth event on the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge schedule was completed today as Mark Stephen Edwards won the $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament was hosted by the Harrahs New Orleans Casino and Resort.  First place paid $30,957.  Edwards was also presented with a gold ring, awarded to all World Series of Poker Circuit winners here in New Orleans.

Edwards began play at the final table with the chip lead and was the dominant force throughout the six-hour finale.  However, his primary adversary, Will “the Monkey” Souther made things quite interesting both from a poker perspective as well as serving as the tournament’s carnival sideshow.  Edwards’ convincing victory was nearly overshadowed by “Monkey’s” zoo-like antics.  The runner up consistently bantered with the large crowd, jumped up and down, and slide wildly across the Harrahs theatre stage as though he was performing in Cirque Du Soleil.  But “Monkey’s: unconventional behavior was not enough to overcome a commanding final table performance by the 25-year-old victor.   

After 187 players were eliminated on day one, the final ten players began play with Edwards holding the chip lead with 108,300.  Nicolas Wilbur was in second place with 85,500.  This began as a table of “haves” versus “have nots.”  The remaining eight players each had less than 60,000 in chips.  The exact starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1: James Dunning   17,900 
Seat 2: Chris Land    12,400 
Seat 3: John Lively    40,400 
Seat 4: Nicholas Wilbur   85,500
Seat 5: Lionel DeAgano   12,400 
Seat 6: Mark Stephen Edwards  108,300 
Seat 7: Dexter Brown    16,300 
Seat 8: Will “The Monkey” Souther  58,200
Seat 9: David Joseph    30,000
Seat 10: Rodney Barkis   19,100 
Opening blinds were 800-1,600 with 200 antes. 

10th Place – On the third hand of play, Chris Land moved his last 12,000 into the pot with A-K.  Will “the Money” Souther called with 7-7.  Land failed to land a pair, which meant a quick tenth-place finish.  The poker pro from Alpharetta, GA was making his first-ever final table appearance at a major tournament.  Land, age 23, had a positive outlook about his tourney experience and outcome.  He noted that he was once involved in bad traffic accident and now considers every day to be a blessing.  Land collected $1,529 in prize money.

9th Place – James Dunning managed to double up to 40,000 at the expense of Nicholas Wilbur, as pocket aces held up.  Then, David Joseph was eliminated on hand 18 when his pocket jacks faced A-K.  In the typical hold’em confrontation, a pair facing two overcards, the big cards prevailed as a king flopped.  Joseph failed to improve and had to settle for a ninth-place finish.  The New Orleans local received a payout totaling $1,911.

8th Place – The next major development involved Nicholas Wilbur, who doubled up another player.  John Lively had A-K and topped Wilbur’s A-9 when an ace flopped.  That left Wilbur down to about 25,000 while Lively rocketed up into second place in chips.  Then Dexter Brown doubled through “Monkey,” increasing his stack to about 40,000.   Meanwhile, Mark Stephen Edwards was delighted to watch the ongoing battles, while he retained his decisive chip lead.    

Wilbur’s misery continued.  He moved all-in with pocket sixes, which confronted Edwards’ A-K.  An ace flopped, creating a disappointing eight-place finish for the 21-year-old student from Massachusetts.  This was Wilbur’s first in-the-money finish in a live poker tournament.  He collected $2,866.

7th Place – With blinds at 2,000-4,000 and a 500 ante, Dexter Brown went out next when his A-9 lost to Edwards’ Q-10.  Brown was all-in after a flop of 10-9-6, good for a pair of nines.  But Edwards’ pair of tens held up, meaning a seventh-place showing for the 61-year-old retiree from Tunica, MS.  Brown earned $3,822 for a fine effort.  Note:  This was Brown’s second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  He made it into the money at the 2006 Tunica Grand series.

6th Place – Nearly three hours into play, Lionel DeAgano was desperately low on chips.  With blinds and antes racing around the table at a cost of 9,000 per orbit, he was forced to play a weak hand, which ended up losing to “Monkey”s” pocket fours.  The poker dealer and New Orleans local received a cash payout totaling $4,777.  Note:  This was DeAgano’s first time ever to cash in a WSOP-related event.  He stated that he played in the 2007 WSOP main event in Las Vegas and busted out just six minutes into the tournament. 

5th Place – On hand number 78, Rodney Barkis took his shot to double up when he re-raised all-in pre-flop holding pocket eights.  “Monkey” called another 11,000 with A-J.  The final board showed J-7-2-3-9, giving “Monkey” a higher pair (with jacks).  Barkis, a carpenter who lives in San Angelo, TX nailed down fifth place, worth $5,733 in prize money.  Note:  Barkis previously finished in 3rd place in an event at the 2007 Bayou Poker Challenge, resulting in a payout of $17,900.

4th Place – A few hands later, James Dunning suffered a tough blow when his A-10 was flattened by John Lively’s A-A.  Dunning made two pair, aces and tens.  But Lively made trip aces and scooped the 70,000 pot.  The final board showed Q-10-5-A-x which put Lively up close to 100,000 in chips.  Edwards retained his chip lead with about 190,000.  “Monkey” stood at about 110,000.  Meanwhile, Dunning was out in fourth place.  The Floridian works as a specialist in the design and opening of bars and nightclubs.  His cut of the prize pool came to $7,644.  Note:  This was Dunning’s second time to cash in the Bayou Poker Challenge.  He also won the Canadian-American Poker Championship tournament (held in upstate New York) in 2006.
3rd Place – The chip leader finally took his first beat of the day when he had John Lively all-in.  Both Edwards and Lively had three-of-a-kind on the turn when the board showed 9-6-6-4.  Edwards had 7-6.  Lively had K-6.  The better kicker prevailed and Lively won the 200,000 pot and took the chip lead for the first time.

The trio traded chips back and forth for 20 hands or so before the next major confrontation.  That occurred as Edwards dished out some revenge to Lively when he moved all-in with A-K which bested Lively’s A-J.  That gave Edwards the chip lead again, with about 275,000. 

Four hours into the final table, John Lively took a bad beat when his A-Q got crushed by “Monkey’s” A-10.  The final board showed J-9-9-10-3, giving “Monkey” a pair of tens to go with the communal nines.  Lively ended up acccepting a third-place finish, which was worth $9,555 in prize money.  Livley is an independent casino representative in Houston, marketing to gamblers throughout Texas.  Note:  Lively also cashed in a no-limit hold’em tournament at the 2006 WSOP in Las Vegas.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Mark Stephen Edwards enjoyed a slight 3 to 2 chip lead over Will “the Monkey” Souther.  Play was tight for two dozen hands, as Edwards gradually increased his advantage.  Edwards was able to play more aggressively, putting his opponent on the defensive.  Then, everything nearly changed on hand number 116 of the finale.  Edwards was up about 3 to 1 in chips.  Edwards was dealt 7-7 against “Monkey’s” 5-6 suited.  “Monkey” was all in after the flop came 8-4-2, which gave him a double gutshot straight draw.  A queen on the turn meant Edwards was just a card away from victory.  Then, a seven on the river made a set of sevens for Edwards, but completed the 8-high straight for “Monkey.” 

“Monkey” appeared to have momentum, but Edwards did not seem the least bit fazed by the tough beat.  On hand number 127, the tournament ended in dramatic fashion.  “Monkey” was dealt 9-9.  Edwards was dealt 9-7.  The flop came J-10-8.  “Monkey” moved all-in with a pair and a straight-draw and Edwards called with his made-straight.  The players were close to even in chips and the outcome of the tournament rested upon the outcome.  “Monkey” failed to improve, ending the tournament.  Will “the Monkey” Souther collected $16,243 for second place.  Note:  “Monkey” had the most extensive poker tournament resume of anyone at the final table.  In fact, he had more career cashes than all the other nine players combined.  This was Monkey’s 26th in-the-money finish, which includes an impressive 10 cashes in WSOP Circuit events.  This was his best finish.

1st Place – This was Mark Stephen Edwards’ first major tournament victory.  He is the owner of “Marco’s Italiano Restaurant,” in Rochester, PA.  Prior to opening his restaurant with a business partner, Edwards attended and graduated from Florida State University.  He earned a degree in business management.  In the last few years, Edwards has focused more time and attention on playing poker.  He now lives in Las Vegas.  He also travels to many events and is starting to play regularly on the tournament circuit.  This was his eighth time to cash in a major event and marked his best poker achievement, to date.

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Harrah’s New Orleans Poker Room Manager – Rick Korte
Bayou Poker Challenge Tournament Director – Raymond Gasser

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