The second event of the WSOP Circuit stop at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, $500 no-limit hold;em, was loaded with drama. Perry Ernest who had won Circuit rings at Horseshoe Hammond in October, and again at Tunica in January, was looking to win his third ring in less than five months and thus tie the record of three held by Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. He looked like a cinch as he crippled and knocked out several players with river bad beats and built a dominant chip lead. His final opponent was Mike Sinnott, a cattle farmer who's been playing poker for only a year and never had any prior tournament cashes. Sinnott then turned the tables and put a river bad beat on Ernest by holding A-5 and catching a 5 on fifth street to outrun Ernest's A-J and leave him with 8,000 chips, which were gone on the next hand.
The win brought Sinnott $25,143 along with the traditional trophy ring. Sinnott, 42, nicknamed "Irish," works a 1,400-acre ranch with his father in Melrose, Iowa. Before that he owned a bar and grill. He doesn't play cash games, only home-game tournaments, and last year tried two Circuit events here without success. He said he plays semi-aggressively and tries not to leak off his chips. In this event he had close to the chip lead with 70 players left, was almost the leader when the final table assembled, and was never in trouble. With this big win under his belt, he plans to return here next week for more tries. He also expressed his thanks to the casino staff for putting on a "wonderful" event.
Players in this $500 event started with 7,000 chips, and when day two action began, Joseph Dinardo and Sinnott were in a close race for the lead with 246,500 and 242,500 respectively.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1. Eric Taplin 61,000
Seat 2. Joseph Dinardo 246,500
Seat 3. Greg Lessard 60,000
Seat 4. Tom Wessling 195,500
Seat 5. Jeff Doane 35,000
Seat 6. Mike Sinnott 242,500
Seat 7. Jacob Manley 64,500
Seat 8. Duane Gerleman 133,500
Seat 9. Perry Ernest 163,000
Play began with blinds of 3,000-6,000 and 500 antes and four minutes later went to 4,000-8,000 and 1,000 antes. Ten minutes into the new level brought three-way action. Jeff "Doanestyle" Doane moved in for 31,000, Jacob Manley called and then Eric Taplin also went all in for an additional 7,000. Doane turned up pocket treys, Manley pocket 10s and Taplin pocket queens. A board of 10-J-8-7-5 gave Manley a winning set as two players went out.
Doane collected $1,552 for ninth. He is a 55-year-old pro from Rockford, Illinois who before that owned a carpet store. He's been playing full time since 1986 and has racked up numerous cashes since then. They include a $43,766 win in a $500 Circuit event here in 2007, and a 68th-place finish in the WSOP Seniors championship in 2007. Doane was a drill instructor in the Marine Corps.
Taplin, with more chips, got eighth place, worth $2,328. He is a 23-year-old poker player/business student from Bettendorf, Iowa. He has a win at Binion's an 18th in a $300 Circuit event here last year.
As play progressed, Ernest moved in a couple of times. The second time he had Q-J and was called by Tom Wessling with A-K. The flop came 10-K-6, and then a river ace gave Perry a straight as he narrowly escaped and left Wessling short-chipped.with about 45,000.
All players were still around when blinds went to 6,000-12,000 with 2,000 antes. Perry kept moving in repeatedly and finally, after urging a call, he got one from Wessling. "Got a pair?" Ernest asked. "I've got you beat, I know that," Wessling replied, turning over pocket aces to Ernest's pocket 10s. When the board showed 2-3-7-4, it looked like pay-back time for the bad beat Ernest put on Wessling when he made a river straight. Instead, an even worse beat, as Ernest caught a two-outer 10 on the river, leaving Wessling in seventh place, which paid $3,104.
Wessling, 51, was born in Morocco, Africa and now lives in Denison, Iowa, where he works as a truck driver. He's been playing poker "most of his life" and once made a TV final table at a Heartland Poker Tour, finishing sixth for $15,500. He also has two "Fat Stack" wins at the Horseshoe here, along with other weekly event wins.
Showing he played no favorites as a giver of bad beats, Ernest incredibly pulled off another miracle on the next hand. After Greg Lessard moved in with A-Q, Ernest called with pocket jacks. This time Ernest was a small favorite, but he became a big dog when a flop of A-10-9 gave Lessard top pair. No problem. A king turned and a queen came on the river to give Ernest another straight, this time runner-runner. By now Perry had built a big chip lead.
Lessard, a 42-year-old pro from St. Cloud, Minnesota, collected 43,880 for sixth. He has three other final tables at the Heartland Poker Tour.
Taking his cue from Ernest, Duane Gerleman now used a bad beat to knock out another player. "I don't have much," he said, calling with 10-9 after Joseph "Cleveland Joe" Dinardo pushed in his last 40,000 with K-2. Dinardo was well ahead when a flop of K-10-7 gave him top pair, but then a river 10 gave Gerleman trips. To this point, draw-outs were responsible for every player knocked out.
Dinardo, taking out $4,656 for fifth, is a 38-year-old pro from Cleveland who before that was an antique dealer. He's been playing 10 years and finished 30th in the opening event here the day before. He has a number of top-ten tournament finishes, but is mainly a cash-game player.
Players took a break, returning to blinds of 10,000-20,000 with 3,000 antes. Ernest still held a commanding lead, with about 450,000 of the 1.1 million chips in play. About 20 minutes into the level, Perry claimed his next victim.. He had A-J against Gerleman, who was all in with A-9. A board of 3-8-8-5-K changed nothing, and Gerleman pocketed $6,208 for fourth. Gerleman, 53, is a farmer from Ridgeway, Iowa, who's been playing poker "forever." He has two final tables at Circuit events here in 2008..He also finished 23rd out of 2,200 players at the WSOP Seniors event that same year.
The next level brought blinds of 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes. Midway through, Sinnott pulled almost even by knocking out Jacob Manley, who tried an all-in move for 120,000 with just 10-3. Sinnott called with A-3, getting heads-up after the board came 4-Q-Q-7-8. For finishing third, Manley, who is 31, from St. Louis and owns an office interior construction company, earned $7,760. He's been playing four years and this is his first live tournament
The final match did not last long. On the key hand, Sinnott raised with Ah-5h, Ernest re-raised with A-J, and Sinnott moved in. It looked like Ernest had his third ring when the board showed 2-K-K-9. But then the river 5 turned everything around. (This reminded announcer Tom Sexton of the time when Johnny Chan was drawing virtually dead until a river 5 gave him a split pot, allowing him to go on and win his first world championship.)
Ernest's last chips went in the next hand. He had 5s-3s to Sinnott's A-K, and he ran out of miracles when the board came 9-Q-K-3-6. Ernest, 47, is a financial adviser from Naperville, Illinois who's been playing four years. His Circuit rings came from two $300 events. At Horseshoe Hammond in October he won the opener, beating a field of 1,187 players to win $79,597. His win at Tunica in January brought him $32,448.