Thelen and Dealin
The 18th event of the WSOP Circuit at Horseshoe Council Bluffs ended in a four-way deal. It had become a one-day tournament, and with the time approaching 2:30 a.m., the remaining players decided to call it a night. Holding the most chips and declared the winner was John Thelen, a restaurant owner from Meridew, Kansas who is mostly a cash game player, but will once in a while try a tournament when it's held here. Last November he won a "Fat Stacked" tournament at Council Bluffs.
First place in this $300 no-limit event paid an official $7,752. Thelen, who is 44, has been playing poker 20 years.
Final table action began with blinds of 1,500-3,000 and 400 antes. With 80,000 chips, Joel Merwick had a very big lead.

Here were the starting chip counts:

Seat 1. John Thelen                 32,000
Seat 2.  Drew Woodke           38,400
Seat 3. Joel Merwick               80,000
Seat 4. Brian French               30,000
Seat 5. Matt Ferguson             8,700
Seat 6. Wallace Dawkins        7,600
Seat 7.Jason Vargas                20,200
Seat 8. Bob Treffert                31,200
Seat 9. Jonas Wexler               44,000

Ninth Place
, $646. Brian "Frenchie" French was first out when he moved in with A-7.  Wallace "Dawk" Dawkins called with J-10 and flopped a winning jack. French is 29 and owns a soccer store in Omaha. He's played seriously for eight years and is a consistent winner in cash games.

Eighth Place
, $861. Next to go was Dawkins when his A-Q couldn't catch Jonas "Plumber" Wexler's pocket kings. Dawkins, 26, is a media account executive from Lincoln,, Nebraska.

Seventh Place
, $1,077 With blinds now at 3,000-6,000, the plumber drained another player, this time Bob Treffert. Treffert, 27, is a bartender from Racine, Wisconsin who's only played two or three years

Sixth Place
, $1,292. Soon after, John "The Bomb" Vargas got bombed out in sixth place when Joel "Tango" Merwick bombed him with a set of deuces. Vargas, 37, is a project manager from Omaha who started playing seven years ago.
Fifth Place, $1,507, "Tango" Merwick had his last dance and went out fifth when, short-chipped, he was all in with 9-2 and lost to Drew Woodke's A-10.. Merwick is 28 and an entrepreneur from Lincoln, NE. He has a $40,000 cash in the 2005 WSOP main event, finishing 189th out of 5,600 players.

After negotiating for a while, the four finalists made their deal, and this event was over. Here's how the other three ended up:

Fourth Place
, $1,723. Matt Ferguson took fourth. Ferguson, playing four years, is a teacher from Omaha. He's won two tournaments at Council Bluffs, along with four seconds and three thirds.

Third Place
, $2,369. Third went to Woodke, a real estate agent from Omaha who started playing 10 years ago.

Second Place
, $4,307. And Wexler got second. Wexler is 30, a plumber, and lives in Philadelphia. He's been playing five years and his poker highlight is one time hitting a two-outer.