The last tournament before the start of the 2009 World Series of Poker Circuit Championship Main Event concluded today at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  The winner was Jeremiah DeGreef, from Salt Lake City, UT.  He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring ever plus a whopping cash prize of $69,890, one of the biggest payouts so far at this year’s tournament series.

DeGreef is a 27-year-old disabled veteran.  He served three years in the U.S. Army.  DeGreef, who has a prodigal talent for learning new languages, served as an Arabic translator.  Despite his disability and departure from the armed forced in 2007, DeGreef discovered a passion for poker, which has begun paying big rewards.  Indeed, poker talent seems to run in the DeGreef family.  Earlier this week, Jeremiah’s brother Anthony finished second in a Caesars Circuit event.  Not content with just making it to the final table, Jeremiah DeGreef outlasted a formable lineup which included four-time gold ring, and five-time gold bracelet winner Men ‘the Master” Nguyen.  He also beat the star of the Caesars’ series thus far, James Lopushinsky, who has won two events within the past two weeks.  DeGreef also vanquished another tough competitor, Vinny Pahuja, who has been one of the most highly-ranked tournament players in the last 18 months.

The $2,000 buy-in two-day tournament attracted 134 entries, which generated $259,960 in prize money.  The top 18 finishers collected payouts.  All the action took place inside Caesars Palace Las Vegas poker tournament room.

After Mike Beasley from Hollywood, FL busted out in tenth place, the top nine finishers were as follows:

9th Place – A few minutes into the final table, Brian Taylor lost a race and was eliminated.  His A-Q lost to pocket tens, which led to a ninth-place finish.  Taylor, from Macon, GA pocketed $7,149.

8th Place – Wayne Boich went out next.  The 70-year-old retiree from Las Vegas was low on chips and ended up with $8,449 for two-days of poker playing.

7th Place – The next big hand knocked out two players.  Vinny Pahuja had A-K and had both of his opponents covered – including Bernie Lubitz’s A-J and Soheil Shamseddin’s A-9  the flop came A-9 temporarily putting Shamseddin in the lead.  But a king on the turn gave Pahuja top two pair and ended the tournament for Shamseddin and Lubitz.  Bernie Lubitz, an IT director from Florida received $10,398 for seventh place.

6th Place – Soheil Shamseddin is often one of the animated players at any final table.  He was the early chip leader but ended up going out in sixth place.  Shamseddin, who has made numerous WSOP and WPT final tables in the past, collected $12,998 for sixth place.

5th Place – Jon “Sketchy1” Eaton went out next.  It was a disappointing finish for the Henderson, NV poker pro, who had arrived at the final table ranked second in chips.  Eaton received $12,998.

4th Place – James Lopushinsky came close to becoming the first player to ever win three gold rings at any Circuit event.  The Canadian poker player who won events #2 and #7 cashed for the fourth time, and ended up taking fourth place.  Lopushinsky collected $20,797.  With his four cashes, he earned more than $80,000 the past two weeks.

3rd Place – Men “the Master” Nguyen was making his third WSOP Circuit final table at Caesars.  The all-time gold ring winner (with four career victories) came up just short of number five when he lost a late race with pocket queens against Jeremiah DeGreef’s A-K.  Nguyen’s payout amounted to $26,646 for third place.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Jeremiah DeGreef enjoyed about a 4 to 1 chip lead over Vinny Pahuja.  The matchup promised to be an interesting face off given the impressive backgrounds of both players.  Pahuja won $700,000 last year playing in major tournaments.  He made ten final tables at major events.  By contrast, DeGreef enjoyed virtually all of his tournament success online.  This was his first time to appear at the final table in a live event as the chip leader.  Pahuja ended up finishing as the runner up.  The investor and poker player from New York City collected $41,594. 

1st Place – This victory marked Jeremiah DeGreef’s first recorded tournament win ever in a live event.  Previously, DeGreef has enjoyed much success playing online.  In fact, he has made it to more than 100 final tables in various online tournaments in the past two years and has close to $1 million in earnings.  The poker world has likely not seen the last of Jeremiah DeGreef.

With 21 of 22 events now completed at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, the tournament has attracted more than 3,000 total entries and has awarded over $3 million in total prize money.  The WSOP Circuit continues this week and concludes on April 30th.