David Avera Wins First Poker Tournament He Plays

New Orleans, LA – The sixth event on the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge schedule was completed today as David Avera won the $300 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  The tournament was hosted by the Harrahs New Orleans Hotel and Casino.  First place paid $35,453.  Avera was also presented with a gold ring, presented to all World Series of Poker Circuit winners here in the Crescent City.  Avera made it look almost too easy.  He held the chip lead during the entire later stages of the tournament and was never in serious danger of elimination. 

The champion Avera is 33-year-old supervisor for a cable television contractor.  He lives in Putney, Georgia.  Incredibly, Avera had never entered a poker tournament of any kind prior to this event, either in a casino nor online.  “I play in a home poker game.  Does that count?” Avera joked afterward.     

Avera’s victory was not a case of beginner’s luck.  After 383 players were eliminated on day one, the final ten players began play with Avera as the chip leader with 94,600 in his stack.  Given the wide chip distribution, it seemed to be anyone’s tournament to win.  Jim Mink was in second place with 89,400.  Dennis Booze was close behind in third place with 86,000 in chips.  The exact starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Dennis Booze  86,000 
Seat 2:  Tony Hatley  49,300 
Seat 3:  Ben Mintz  80,400
Seat 4:  Lou Crispino  21,000
Seat 5:  David Avera  94,600 
Seat 6:  Barry Cuisimano 73,700 
Seat 7:  Bill Hobbs  39,400 
Seat 8:  Frank Folino  38,400
Seat 9:  Patrick Ballard 17,300 
Seat 10: Jim Mink  89,400

Opening blinds were 2,000-4,000 with 500 antes. 

10th Place – After 16 rather conservative hands of play, the next three hands eliminated three successive players.  First, Patrick Ballard was short-stacked and moved all-in pre-flop with 10-9 suited, in a feeble attempt to steal a round of blinds and antes.  Ben Mintz called with A-5.  The final board showed J-5-3-K-7, giving Mintz a pair of fives.  Patrick Ballard, a 23-year-old aspiring poker pro collected $1,372 for tenth place.  Note:  This was Ballard’s first entry into a major tournament.

9th Place – Next, Lou Crispino was low on chips.  Hoping to double up, he was all-in with J-6 and made two pair (jacks and sixes) on a board showing 6-5-5-J-Q.  Unfortunately, the chip leader David Avera had a queen in his hand and made a higher two pair -- queens and fives.  It was a real horror show for the business owner from Amityville, NY.  Crispino was forced to settle for ninth place, which paid $2,787.

8th Place – The previous bust-out catapulted Avera to over 150,000 in chips.  Moments later, Barry Cusimano was dealt J-J.  He moved all-in with his big pocket pair.  Avera called and this time showed K-Q.  It came all too easy for Avera as the final board showed A-3-2-Q-K, giving the chip leader two pair and over 200,000 in his stack.  He had every player at the table covered by more than 2 to 1.  Meanwhile, Cusimano accepted eighth place and $3,431.  Note:  Cusimano has been playing tournament poker for more than a decade.  He won the “Southern Poker Classic” in 1998.  He also cashed here in New Orleans two years ago.

7th Place – About an hour into play, Bill Hobbs took two tough beats in a row and was eliminated.  The marketing manager from New Iberia, LA initially lost much of his stack when his pocket jacks were cracked.  A few hands later, Hobbs got crushed when his A-5 lost to the chip leader’s A-7.  Both players caught an ace, but the seven also connected with a pair, busting Hobbs from the tournament.  Hobbs collected seventh lace prize money totaling $4,475.  Note:  This was Hobbs’ third time to cash since 2005 at the Bayou Poker Challenge.  He has only entered six events.  His best finish was third place at a final table last year.

6th Place – Jim Mink, a.k.a. “Jimmy the Mink” gambled and lost when his pocket nines were hammered in a race against Dennis Booze’s two overcards.  Booze called the raise with A-Q and flopped a queen, which took down the 70,000 pot.  Mink, who works as an oil field consultant in Houston, had his palm greased with $5,718 in prize money.  Note:  This was Mink’s fourth WSOP Circuit cash.  He previously finished in-the-money at The Tunica Grand, Caesars Indiana, and Harrahs New Orleans. 

5th Place – What Dennis Booze won on the previous hand was soon ripped away by the beastly chip leader.  Booze moved all-in with A-2 after flopping two pair.  Avera called with A-10.  Booze appeared to be in a great position to double up.  Then, a ten on the turn shattered Booze’s hopes of staging a comeback and ultimately paved his road to a fifth-place finish.  The final board showed A-8-2-10-4 – which allowed Avera to scoop the 150,000 pot.  Dennis Booze, who coached basketball before become a poker pro, was bounced off the final table and was paid $6,862 in prize money.  He is expected to rebound.  Note:  Booze has now made it to three WSOP Circuit final tables.  Each previous time, he finished in fifth place.

4th Place – Tony Hatley did not win any hand of significance during his 90-minute stay at the final table.  “I could not catch a single hand,” he said afterward.  Given that he leaped up to fourth place prize money with such a low stack throughout play, Hatley was somewhat satisfied given the circumstances.  “I couldn’t be happier,” he confided.  “Of course, I always want to win.  But I never had a hand worth playing the whole time.”  Hatley finally busted out with Q-10 which was steamrolled by Ben Mintz’s A-10.  The 60-year-old gambler from Mobile, AL raked in $8,005 for fourth place.  Note:  Hatley now has over $70,000 in career tournament winnings.  He has taken fifth place in two previous WSOP Circuit events, both in 2006. 
3rd Place – When played became three-handed, the two smaller stacks went to war when Frank Folina took his Q-10 up against Ben Mintz’ K-5.  Neither player made a pair, so the king-high played.  That meant Mintz won the pot and Folina took third place prize money totaling $9,149.  Note:  This was Folino’s second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event and best cash in a major poker tournament ever.   

2nd Place – Heads-up play began with David Avera holding a better than 2 to 1 chip lead over Ben Mintz – 419,500 to 170,000.  Players battled back and forth for half an hour before hand number 65 of the finale was dealt, which ended the tournament.  Avera was dealt 10-4.  He moved all-in after the flop came 10-8-7.  Top pair is normally a strong hand in heads-up play.  But this time, Avera was holding a monster.  He called and tabled pocket aces, for an overpair.  Any hope of Mintz drawing out and making a comeback was rudely destroyed when an ace fell on the turn, which left Mintz drawing dead.  Nevertheless, Ben Mintz was reasonably happy with his play and accepted the runner up payout totaling $18,298.  Note:  This was Mintz’s fourth tournament cash.  He finished in-the-money three times at the Tunica Grand earlier this year. 

1st Place – David Avera prevailed in the largest tournament field of the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge thus far, as 393 players signed up.  He then put on a wire-to-wire performance at the final table.  Given his dominance in this tournament, one must ask:  David Avera, where have you been all these years?

For more information, please contact: 
Nolan Dalla -- WSOP Media Director at (702) 358-4642
Or visit our official website:  www.worldseriesofpoker.com

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

Jeffrey Pollack – Commissioner, WSOP
Ty Stewart – Director, Sponsorship and Licensing, WSOP
Craig Abrahams – Director, Broadcasting and New Media, WSOP
Seth Palansky – Director of Communications, WSOP