Take two parts math, two parts gut instinct and add a dash of playfulness. What you will get is Maurice Hawkins, winner of event #1 of the 2009 World Series of Poker Circuit at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.   

Having earned a degree in biology from St. Thomas University, Hawkins decided not to, at least not now, apply his smarts to concepts such as green technology, but instead to the green felt. This, along with having what he says is a strong gut instinct makes up his self-coined “hybrid” poker style.

It was this style of play that helped him best the field of 157 entrants in the inaugural event of the 2009 World Series of Poker Circuit at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The $1,000 buy-in-two-day tournament, which began on Saturday, generated a $152,290 prize pool of which the top 18 players collected payouts.  

All of the action took place over a two-day period inside Caesars Palace’s iconic 15,000 square foot poker room and included poker figureheads such as Men “The Master” Nguyen, Marcel Luske, and Lee Watkinson to name a few.

Also included in the field was 2009 Rincon Main Event Champion, Dwyte Pilgrim, who without skipping a beat, continued his successful run all the way to the final table which began at 2:00 p.m. with ten players: 

10th Place – With Maurice Hawkins and the amiable Bryan Devonshire sitting next to each other in the 9th and 10th seats, their joking and lightheartedness created a very jovial atmosphere at the table as play commenced. “This is gonna be lots of fun!” beamed Devonshire.

It was more fun for some than others however as Jonathan Letson, the short stack, went all-in early with J-A, running them into Dwyte Pilgrim’s pocket Aces. The board was meaningless, sending the professional landscaper from Atlanta, GA home with $3,427.

9th Place – In contrast to the easygoing attitudes of some of his opponents to the left, Pilgrim had a more serious tone to his demeanor. While enjoying the spoils of a champion, he acknowledged some of the pressure that comes with the package. “I have to make my presence felt,” the former loan officer from Brooklyn, NY said. “This is my own storybook and it starts today.”

However, everyone knows that any good story has its downturns and Pilgrim’s was no exception as he re-raised Craig Crivello’s 30k chip bet all-in on a turn of 4d after a 6c 5h Kd flop. Crivello showed Ks As which dominated Pilgrim’s Kc Js. An 8h on the river busted Pilgrim out at 9th place and $4,188.

8th Place – Another short stack, Richard McGraw, waited for his time to move all-in. He did so with A 10 and was called by Crivello’s pocket 6’s. The board improved neither player’s hand and the New York native with a 9 handicap in golf went home in 8th place which paid $4,949.

7th Place – Soon after the first break of the evening, Bryan Devonshire found himself in a race situation with Maurice Hawkins. All-in pre-flop, Devonshire turned over Ac 6s while Hawkins showed Kc Qs. On the flop was a queen giving Hawkins the lead. Though a 6 appeared on the turn, the river showed a harmless 4h which put the poker pro and Poker Road Radio personality out in 7th place with $6,092.

6th Place – After some pre-flop raising and re-raising, Johnny “JJ” Johnson moved all-in for his remaining 65k in chips. Crivello called, turning over Ah 10d. Johnson showed pocket deuces. Aces on the flop and turn sent Johnson to the rail. The owner of a construction company in Burleson, TX, Johnson is a self proclaimed “lover of life” and his bust-out in 6th had no effect on his outlook as he took home $7,615.

5th Place – Motoyuki “Moto” Mabuchi was the next to be eliminated. A professional poker player from Osaka, Japan, Mabuchi played what can be best described as a very disciplined style of play. While his tablemates kept up conversation, discussing everything from bowling to bears, Mabuchi kept his dialog strictly to his notepad, taking notes in Japanese which he says he records for himself and for fellow poker players in Japan who follow his journal.

Commanding a very healthy chip lead through most of his final table bid, Mabuchi caught a bad break after flopping top-pair on a Qd 9h 3h flop heads-up against Allie Prescott. After a series of raising and re-raising, Allie went all-in with 4h 5h while Mabuchi called with Ks 10s. A heart on the turn gave Prescott the flush, decimating Mabuchi’s chip stack.

A few hands later, Mabuchi could only go all-in with A 7, running them into no other than Prescott who showed A J. The board improved neither player’s hand sending Mabuchi to the rails in 5th place and a $9,518 payout.

4th Place – Michael Bridwell, an attorney from Beaumont, TX was next to bust out. Shoving all his chips in with A Q, he was called by Maurice Hawkins who turned over pocket Kings. The board failed to produce an Ace or any other improvement for Bridwell who pocketed $12,183 for his fourth place finish.

3rd Place – Allie Prescott played a very patient and calculated game, showing nothing but optimal hands the entire final table. In what was the bad beat of the night, Allie, a real estate agent from Memphis, TN, re-raised Crivello’s raise of 36,000 to 72,000 pre-flop. After a flop of 4h Qs 9s, Allie fired out 106k in chips which Crivello re-raised all-in. Allie quickly called turning over pocket aces. Crivello realized he was far behind with As Qh, but a Queen on the turn gave cracked Prescott’s Aces. Crivello picked up a massive 465k pot and left a shocked Prescott with the short stack.

A few hands later Allie went all-in with A 8 against Crivello’s J Q. On the flop came a Queen. A harmless turn and river put Prescott out in 3rd place which paid $15,610.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Craig Crivello, a real-estate agent from Las Vegas Nevada, held a 5-1 chip lead over Maurice Hawkins. Hawkins however, was undaunted. “I just wanted to play,” said Hawkins regarding his huge chip disadvantage. “Heads-up is where men are made.”

With just 244k left in chips, Hawkins went all-in after a flop of Ac 10h As. Crivello called showing his trip Aces. The flop was even better for Hawkins as he turned over Ad 10c for a full boat and 488k in chips. After a few hands, the final two were about even.

The final hand had Hawkins and Crivello all-in pre-flop with Crivello holding Ad 9s and Hawkins with Qc Qd. The flop came 10s 5s 7s giving Crivello a flush draw. A 3d turn and 5c river capped what was an impressive comeback for Hawkins, leaving Crivello with 2nd place and a $24,366 payday.  

1st Place – This was Maurice Hawkins’ second circuit event 1st place finish, having won a circuit event in Atlantic City this past December. Hawkins says poker is definitely about math, but that he implements a psychological element to his game as well. Just call me “Hybrid Hawkins,” he declared.

With one event now completed at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, the tournament has now attracted more than 157 total entries and has awarded in excess of $152,290.00 in total prize money.  Still to come are 21 more events and XX nightly (single-day) tournaments which begin at 4 pm.  The WSOP Circuit at Caesars Palace Las Vegas continues through April 30.