Pro player Drazen Ilich had been sticking pretty much to cash-games until last year when he started playing tournaments because of the bigger pay-outs. He's done pretty well in that short time, having already placed third at the Horseshoe Poker Classic last year, and taking second in the first event of the WSOP Circuit tour here at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. And now he topped those two by winning the sixth eventin this series, $1,000 no-limit hold'em. His victory was worth $32,825, accompanied by the prized trophy ring. Even so, he still prefers cash games, $2-$5 and $5-$10 no-limit, because he finds tournaments too much of a grind.
Ilich, 29, was born in Bosnia and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He's been playing poker 15 years, eight seriously and was mainly a five-card draw player until Chris Moneymaker made hold'em the national anthem of poker. In this event he said he was in good shape throughout. He describes his style as selective/aggressive. He found the final table fairly easy to read because players were largely sitting back waiting for big hands, which allowed him to play more aggressively.
Final-table action in this event began with blinds of 2,000-4,000 and 500 antes, 28 minutes left. In front with 175,500 chips was Brian Falcone.
Here were the starting chip counts:
Seat 1 Leroy Patitz 66,000
Seat 2 Brian Falcone 175,500
Seat 3 Mark Samich 89,000
Seat 4 Jovan Sudar 79,000
Seat 5 Brandon Mifsud 139,000
Seat 6 Jeff Reimer 91,500
Seat 7 Drazen Ilich 119,500
Seat 8 Charles Casavant 87,000
Seat 9 Ben Smith 96,000
Charles Casavant was first out. He called with pocket jacks after Brandon Mifsud moved in with pocket kings and couldn't catch up when the board came 10-10-9-Q-3. Ninth paid $2,738. Casavant, 42, is from Avilla, Indiana and owns a True Value hardware store. He's played 10 years and has multi final-table cashes at different Circuits. His largest was $15,223 for a fourth in a $500 event at Caesars Indiana in 2007.
Next to leave was Ben Smith, who is a gunsmith from Viola, Wisconsin and a member of the Wisconsin Trapshooting Hall of Fame. He warned on his bio sheet that he'd be taking aim at the final table. However, his aim wasn't that good today because he got gunned down in eighth place. After Falcone raised to 10,000, Ilich moved in with pocket 9s, and Smith called all in with pocket 8s. Ilich hit the bulls-eye by flopping a set, and Smith departed with a $3,647 pay-out. Smith has been playing four years and this is his first tournament.
Blinds inched up to 3,000-6,000. Immediately, Mark :"Sammy" Samich went out on a double draw-out. He had A-J to Falcone's A-K. He took the lead with two pair on a flop of A-J-7, only to see Falcone spike a king on the river for a bigger two pair. Seventh paid $4,559. Samich is 50, from Topeka and is a registered nurse who started playing knee-high with his dad. He is married with two kids.
Leroy Patitz went out next after he moved in with pocket treys and was called by Jovan Sudar with A-J. Sudar won easily by flopping an ace and hitting a jack on the river and Patitz cashed sixth for $5,471. Patitz, 72, is a control room operator at a power plant from Hastings, Nebraska who's a 60-year poker veteran. He says he loves to play here, and this is his third year of Circuit play at this casino. He has a 15th at a second-chance event here two years ago. Patitz's family includes four kids and 12 grandchildren.
Sudar was next out. He was all in with A-10 against Jeff Reimer;s As-Qs. Reimer made a flush on the river, and Sudar took home $6,383 for fifth. Sudar, 26, is a leasing agent/poker player originally from Yugoslavia now living in Omaha. He's played eight years and has a cash in a $2,000 event at the 2008 WSOP along with a sixth in a $1,500 Circuit event here, also last year. He likes to play high-stakes, $25-$50 and $50-$100 no-limit cash games at the Bellagio.
Finishing fourth was Falcone. He had Kc-Jc against Brandon Mifsud's pocket treys. The flop gave Falcone a flush draw, but he couldn't hit and settled for $7,294. Falcone is 37, from Omaha and owns a luxury home building company. He's been playing eight years and this is his first final table. He is married with two sons
This match got heads-up after Reimer went out, taking $10.030 for third.. He was in the lead with A-J against Mifsud's K-9 until a king flopped to put him away. Reimer, 34, is from Spring Grove, Illinois where he owns a technology distribution company. He's been playing 13 years and this is his first Circuit final table.
The final match-up lasted only a few hands. On the final deal, Mifsud was all in with pocket treys against Ilich's pocket 6s. The bigger pair prevailed when the board came J-J-8-5-5, and Ilich was the winner of event number six.
Mifsud, who took home $18,236 for second, is a 23-year-old pro from Gilbert, Arizona, formerly a student, who's been playing about four years. He's mostly a cash-game player, and this is his first live tournament final table.