"Demolition Man" Demolishes the Competition
Lou Esposito Also Makes the Final Table for Third Consecutive Year in Harrahs New Orleans WSOP Circuit Championship

New Orleans, LA
– The final extravaganza of the 2007-2008 World Series of Poker Circuit season concluded today at the Harrahs New Orleans Casino and Hotel.  The No-Limit Hold’em championship was won by Nick Ceci from Peachtree City, Georgia.  Ceci (pronounced “CC”) is a 38-year-old demolition contractor.  That’s right – he tears down buildings for a living.  Ceci did his best work in this tournament, demolishing the hopes of more than a few hundred competitors.  It was a smashing victory, indeed.   

The Bayou Poker Challenge was the final tournament on the last stop of the nine-month WSOP Circuit schedule, which began last summer and visited 12 different Harrahs’ properties.  The fourth WSOP Circuit season was widely popular once again, attracting more than 30,000 entries nationwide.  More than $25 million in prize money was awarded to winners. 

The Harrahs New Orleans’ $5,000 buy-in main event attracted 249 entries.  The prize pool totaled $1,196,650.  This year’s competition attracted several poker pros, including former WSOP gold bracelet winners Josh Arieh, Steve Billirakis, T.J. Cloutier, and Bill Edler.  Other famous players included Gavin Smith, Steve Dannenmann, Chris Bell, Allie Prescott, Allen Kessler, Young Phan, and Matthew Stout.  Former Bayou Poker Challenge winners Lou Esposito, Peter Feldman, and Walter Chambers also participated.  Also worth noting was the entry of WSOP Circuit “unofficial MVP,” Doug Carli, from Alliance, Ohio.  Carli has more cashes and final table appearances than any other player in the WSOP Circuit’s four-year history (with 34 and 19, respectively). 

World-renowned chef and restaurateur Paul Prudhomme also played in the main event.  Prudhomme opened this year’s tournament as the honorary emcee.  The owner of K-Paul’s restaurant in the famous French Quarter is a regular player inside the Harrahs New Orleans Poker Room.  He was one of the Day One survivors but finished just short of the prize money.  Only the top 27 players were paid.

After 240 players were eliminated, the nine survivors assembled around the final table on the grand stage of the Harrahs Theatre.  T.K. Miles started play in the lead with 687,000 in chips.  Jeff Tims was the closest threat to the big stack, with 345,000.  The final table also included Lou Esposito, making his third consecutive final table appearance in a Bayou championship.  During the previous two main events, Esposito took first and ninth place.  The exact starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1 Floyd Vanderford 65,000
SEAT 2 Check Kelley  142,000
SEAT 3 Lou Esposito  116,000
SEAT 4 T.K. Miles  687,000
SEAT 5 Jeff Tims  345,000
SEAT 6 Ed Jatho  406,000
SEAT 7  Marc Fratter  311,000
SEAT 8 Gabe Costner  166,000
SEAT 9 Nick Ceci  256,000

Opening blinds were 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes.  From the very first hand, the action was frantic.  In fact, two players busted out on hand number one. 

9th Place – Marc Fratter, Ed Jatho, and T.K. Miles got it all-in with three monster hands just moments after the “shuffle up and deal” announcement.  Jatho was dealt J-J and moved all-in.  Fratter was dealt Q-Q and called.  It was a dream come true for the chip leader, as T.K. Miles glanced at his hole cards and saw A-A.  He called instantly.  With 1.2 million in chips at risk, the board cards all blanked.  The final board consisting of 6-6-2-5-6 gave Miles the highest full house of the three players, which catapulted him up to 1.5 million in chips, more than 4 to 1 over his closest rival.  Meanwhile, Marc Fratter settled for ninth place, which was determined by his lower chip count versus Mr. Jatho.  For Fratter, a 36-year-old attorney from Murphy, Texas, was his third time to cash in a major poker tournament.  He accepted $23,933 in prize money.

8th Place – Ed Jatho ended up in eighth place.  The former U.S. Marine from Abita Springs, Louisiana (where Abita Beer is brewed) received a payout totaling $35,900.  Jatho’s unconventional playing style kept his opponents off guard during much of the tournament.  It’s unfortunate for both Jatho and Fratter that they could not have enjoyed poker’s center stage just a while longer.  Nonetheless, Jatho profited nicely from his three-day tournament experience.

7th Place – Blinds increased to 6,000-12,000 with a 2,000 ante.  After Floyd Vanderford doubled up twice, another player went out on the 26th hand of play. Chuck Kelley (with A-8) bet 80,000 pre-flop while attempting to steal a round of blinds and antes.  Nick Ceci re-raised 77,000 more (with 8-7) in an apparent isolation move.  Kelley was pot-committed and called with what turned out to be the dominant hand.  However, a seven on the flop left Kelley drawing slim.  The real estate manager from Staunton, Virginia ended up collecting a $47,866 commission for seventh place.  He now has over $1 million in lifetime tournament earnings.

6th Place – Over the next hour, Miles took several hits from just about everyone at the final table.  He eventually lost the chip lead to Nick Ceci on the next key hand.  Meanwhile, there would be no second gold ring for Lou Esposito.  The defending champion from last year’s Bayou Poker Challenge was low on chips throughout play.  About two hours into the competition, Esposito had a very low stack.  Adding to the humiliation, Esposito ended up losing on his final hand while holding a full house.  He was dealt 9-5 and was delighted when the final board showed A-9-5-9-5.  But Nick Ceci had pocket aces, good for a higher full house.  T.K. Miles was also involved on the hand with Q-Q.  Ceci dragged the 1.2 million pot, seizing the chip lead for the first time.  Lou Esposito, nicknamed “The Big Easy” due to his prior success in New Orleans, collected $59,833 for sixth place.  This was Esposito’s fourth WSOP Circuit main event final table appearance.  The Howard Beach, New York poker pro now has over $1 million in career poker tournament winnings.

5th Place – Jeff Tims’ bid to be the Bayou Poker Challenge’s only two-event winner this year fell four spots short.  The winner of the $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event held last week was eliminated from the main event when his K-J was cracked by Gabe Costner’s 7-7.  On what turned out to be his final hand, Tims made a bold move by moving all-in after the flop came Q-9-4 (holding an inside straight draw).  Costner must have sensed his opponent’s weakness.  He called and tabled pocket sevens.  Tims still had many outs.  But he failed to catch a king, jack, or ten and busted out.  The aspiring poker pro and small business owner from Houston, Texas collected $71,799 for coming in fifth place.

4th Place – The final hand for poker professional Gabe Costner was an absolute nightmare.  The 31-year-old former stockbroker was dealt 7-4 and was thrilled to see the flop come J-4-4.  Costner got all his chips in with what he expected to be the best hand, holding trip fours.  Unfortunately, Nick Ceci had A-4 which gave him the edge with the better kicker.  Ceci’s trip fours (with an ace) held up, which eliminated the cash game specialist from coastal Mississippi.  Costner took $83,766 from the prize pool for fourth place, adding to his poker bankroll.

3rd Place – Floyd Vanderford played magnificently, especially when taking into account that this was his first major poker tournament.  Vanderford, who lives in New Orleans, qualified to play in the main event by winning a double satellite qualifier held in the Harrahs Poker Room last month, which cost just $50 to enter.  Ultimately, Vanderford turned fifty bucks in a payout totaling $107,699.  He went out when short-stacked with Q-8 against Miles’ K-J.  Miles caught a king, ending Vanderford’s Cinderella story in-the-making. 

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Nick Ceci enjoyed a slight advantage over rival T.K. Miles – with 1.2 million to 840,000 in chips.  Then on hand number 74, one of the final table’s most exciting moments took place.  Ceci had K-K.  Miles was dealt the A-9 of diamonds.  After the flop came J-6-2 with two diamonds, Miles shoved all-in on his nut-flush draw.  Ceci called and tabled his overpair kings.  The king of diamonds on the turn gave Miles his nut flush, but also made a set of kings for Ceci.  He desperately needed the board to pair and was but one card away from victory.  But the river blanked, which meant Miles had regained the chip lead.

After blinds increased to 8,000-16,000 with a 2,000 ante, the players battled for nearly two hours, with no significant action.  Miles maintained a slight chip lead after several small confrontations.  This became a tournament in two parts – the first few hours during which seven players were knocked out, and the last few hours of heads-up play between two fierce competitors.

The most critical hand of the tournament came on hand number 101 when Miles was dealt A-Q against Ceci’s 4-3.  After the flop came Q-4-4, Ceci was all-in with his trip fours.  Miles called with his pair of queens, and an ace kicker.  With a 2.3 million pot at stake, Ceci ended up dragging the chips and regained the chip lead.  In fact, he was up by an 11 to 1 margin.   

The tournament ended on hand number 109 when Miles was dealt Q-4 and tried to steal the blinds and antes.  Ceci called with J-7.  Miles did not have the best hand for long, as the flop came J-9-7 giving Ceci two pair.  Ceci’s hand held up, which meant a second-place finish for the gambler from Tallahassee, Florida.  As the runner up, T.K. Miles was paid $210,610.

1st Place – Nick Ceci collected $382,928 for first prize.  He also received the coveted WSOP Circuit gold ring presented to all WSOP Circuit champions.  Ceci was also awarded an entry into the 2008 World Series of Poker main event, which will take place in Las Vegas in July.  This was Ceci’s second final table appearance at this year’s Bayou Poker Challenge series.  He finished eighth in the $1,000 buy-in event held last week.  As expected, Ceci was much more satisfied with this first-place finish.

“I’m very excited to win,” Ceci said afterward in a post-tournament interview.  “It was a tough final table, especially during the heads-up part.  I think I played my best and I was very fortunate to win it.”  

Note:  Former Bayou Poker Challenge Champions:
2007 (winter) – Andy Philachack
2007 (spring) – Lou Esposito
2006 – Peter Feldman
2005 – Walter Chambers
2004 – Boulos Estafanous

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