John Lively Livens Up the Game

New Orleans, LA – Once upon a time, Limit Texas Hold’em was king.  In cardrooms from coast to coast, Limit Hold’em games were spread everywhere.  Finding a No-Limit Hold’em game was next to impossible.  For many years at the World Series of Poker, Limit Hold’em events attracted more players than No-Limit Hold’em events.

Then in 2003, everything changed.  No-Limit Hold’em invaded America’s consciousness, conquered the booming poker market, and crushed everything in its path.  Today, finding a Limit Hold’em tournament is not easy.  In a nation now accustomed to the unpredictability and excitement of playing No-Limit Hold’em and watching the game on television, Limit Poker tournaments have become a rarity.  

Fortunately, many of the WSOP Circuits continue to offer what used to be the most popular form of cardroom poker.  The ninth event on the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge schedule concluded today as John Lively won the $500 buy-in Limit Hold’em competition.  This was the only Limit Hold’em event offered at this Circuit series.  The tournament was hosted by the Harrahs New Orleans Casino and Hotel.  First place paid $9,778.  Mr. Lively was also presented with a gold ring, awarded to all World Series of Poker Circuit winners here in New Orleans.

Proving suspicions that Limit Hold’em tournaments have declined in popularity, the Bayou event attracted a modest field of 56 players.  After seven initial hours of play, the final nine resumed competition with Ward Kay as the chip leader with 28,600.  Nirnay Sinha (a.k.a. “The Ha”) was the only player close in chips with 18,500.  The seven remaining players each had less than 14,000 – with Lively, the eventual winner in fifth place.  The precise starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Ward Kay   28,600 
Seat 2:  John Lively   10,700 
Seat 3:  Rich Richardson  8,400 
Seat 4:  Chuck Baker   8,400
Seat 5:  Jozef Pikula   12,400 
Seat 6:  Joe Holmes   8,000 
Seat 7:  R.S. MacPherson  13,300 
Seat 8:  Nirnay Sinha aka “The Ha” 18,500
Seat 9:  Thomas Witherspoon   3,700
Opening blinds were 300-600.  Betting limits were 600-1,200. 

9th Place – Just moments into play, Thomas Witherspoon had the shortest stack at the table and was eliminated.  The dentist from Baton Rouge, LA drilled into the prize pool for $815.  Note:  This was Witherspoon’s sixth time to cash on the WSOP Circuit.  He has in-the-money finishes at the Tunica Grand and here in New Orleans. 

8th Place – The second elimination was memorable, and yet horrifying for the unfortunate victim.  Jozef Pikula made a full house on his final hand, which lost to Rich Richardson’s quad-deuces.  Pikula expected to drag the 20,000 pot but instead was forced to stagger away just minutes into play.  The business owner from Atlanta collected $815 for ninth place.  Note:  This was Pikula’s second final table appearance.  He finished in third place in Event #2 at the Bayou Poker Challenge, held last week. 

7th Place – Chuck Baker went out next.  Nicknamed “Lucky Chucky,” he was low on chips and moved all-in with a small pocket pair.  He lost to a higher pocket pair.  The 40-year-old contractor from Birmingham, AL received $1,358 for seventh place.

6th Place – Two dozen hands passed before the next player was knocked out.  That moment came when Nirnay Sinha, a.k.a. “The Ha” ended up in sixth place.  The 34-year-old senior marketing manager collected $1,630 in prize money for sixth place.  Note:  This was “The Ha’s” first-ever tournament final table.  However, he managed to win a seat to the 2008 WSOP main event through his local home game.

5th Place – Ward Kay went out next, and accepted fifth place.  His payout amounted to $1,901.  Kay is a graduate student attending George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.  Note:  This was Kay’s first-ever final table appearance in a poker tournament. 

4th Place – Joe Holmes busted out in fourth place.  The longtime poker player from San Clemente, CA (Richard Nixon’s old hometown) accepted a payout totaling $2,173.  Note:  Holmes has many previous cashes.  He finished in-the-money at the 1997 WSOP, 2006 WSOP, and 2007 WSOP.  This was his sixth time to cash overall.

3rd Place – R.S. MacPherson went out next.  He ended up taking third place in the tournament and was paid $2,988.  Note:  MacPherson took sixth place in an event held at last year’s Bayou Poker Challenge. 
2nd Place – The runner up was Rich Richardson.  He is a 66-year-old retiree from Trenton, GA.  He now plays poker for a living.  Richardson has won over 100 daily tournaments around the country over the past 30 years.  He also enjoys the notoriety of having won the first poker tournament that was played in California, after state gaming laws were changed in the 1980s.  Richardson’s payout for second place in this event totaled $5,432.  Note:  Richardson’s only other WSOP-related final table took place in 1984.  He finished eighth in the Seven-Card Stud championship that year in Las Vegas.

1st Place – John Lively was formally with Caesars Palace (casinos), where he worked as a marketing representative for many years.  He has since become an independent casino representative in Houston, where he works on behalf of the many of the biggest resorts and casinos in the gaming industry.  Lively finished in third place in Event #4 at this year’s Bayou Poker Challenge.  He also finished in-the-money in an event at the 2006 WSOP in Las Vegas.  This was his first major tournament victory.   

“I don’t have a poker nickname,” the winner confided afterward when asked about his years of experience at the table and in the gaming industy.  “With a (last) name like ‘Lively,’ I don’t need one.”

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Harrah’s New Orleans Poker Room Manager – Rick Korte
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Jeffrey Pollack – Commissioner, WSOP
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