Comeback for JJ

Picture this:  You’re sitting at a WSOP Circuit final table playing for five figures in prize money, plus a gold ring.  You sit down with the chip lead against eight opponents.  Then, two hours go by and you’re no longer the chip leader.  Victory seems to be slipping away.  Midway through the competition, there are five players left and you are ranked fourth.  Do you still like your chances?

Faced with adversity, many poker players give up.  They mentally surrender.  They make bad decisions, accelerating their elimination from the tournament.  Then, they bust out on some dumb mistake, hastened by earlier misfortune.  It happens all the time.

But it didn’t happen that way in the latest WSOP Circuit tournament held at the Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort.  Jeremy Jennings could very well have self-destructed like many poker players do when things start going badly.  Instead, Jennings continued to focus on playing well and was ultimately rewarded for his perseverance with his first major poker tournament victory.  Jennings won $14,911 in prize money, plus the coveted gold ring awarded to all event winners at this year’s WSOP Circuit series at Rincon.   

The $300 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament won by Jennings attracted 205 entries, generating $59,655 in prize money.  The top 27 players collected payouts.  All the action took place over a two-day period inside Rincon Pavilion Showroom.

After 196 players were eliminated on the first day, nine survivors took their seats at the final table, played to conclusion on day two.  When play started, Jennings held a slight chip lead over Cary Shultz.  But several players had decent stack sizes which prophesized an uncertain outcome.  In the end after a three-hour struggle during which the chip lead changes several times, Jennings prevailed as the latest WSOP Circuit poker champion.  The top nine finishers were as follows:

9th Place – Severely short-stacked Jeff Pfister managed to double up a few times early on.  But he ultimately got rivered with a bad beat and was the first player to be eliminated.  Pfister had about 70,000 in chips.  He moved all-in with A-8.  Steve Damicus called the modest raise and showed A-J.  Pfister flopped and eight and momentarily took the lead.  But a jack on the river gave Damicus a higher pair and the nearly 200,000 pot.  Pfister, a yacht salesman from San Diego, sailed away with $1,790 in prize money.

8th Place – Players battled for 45 minutes before the next bust out.  That came when two players got into a battle of the blinds.  Paul Tartaglio (with J-10) moved all-win from the small blind, hoping to steal a round of antes.  Cary Shultz (with Q-J) called.  A queen on the flop all but ended Tartaglio’s hope of staging a comeback victory.  He was eliminated in eighth place.  The 23-year-old poker dealer, who finished high at two other tournaments recently including the California State Poker Championship and Larry Flynt’s Grand Slam Shootout, collected a payout totaling $2,088.

7th Place – Cary Shultz seemed very likely to make a deep run in the finale.  But Shultz ran into major trouble when he moved all-in holding pocket jacks, which was called instantly by Srihari Mupparaju, who showed pocket aces.  The pocket rockets held up and blasted Shultz off the table in seventh place.  The poker player from Maryland collected $2,386.

6th Place – Steve “Donkey” Damicus was anything but his namesake for the way he played in this tournament.  He called an all-in bet with the best hand and it appeared he would double up when there was still one card to come.  Damicus held A-K against Bryan Connole’s Q-10.  Four rags were on board, which meant Damicus had ace-high, which was the best hand.  But Connole caught a ten on the river to make a pair, which knocked out Damicus.  The poker player from Denver, CO received $2,684.  A side note:  Damicus is quite an inspiration.  He suffered a severe brain injury years ago and had to learn how to walk and speak all over again.  He made a full recovery and is now playing excellent poker.

5th Place – With five players still remaining, the final table appeared destined to play out for a few more hours.  Then in a stunning series of events, the tournament was over in just ten minutes.  Two back-to-back three-way hands did most of the carnage. 

Srihari Mupparaju, a database administrator from San Diego was disconnected when he got involved in a three-way pot (with A-J).  Jeremy Jennings (who had lost the chip lead by this point and was ranked fourth in chips with five players left) had A-9.  Bryan Connole had 7-7.  The final board showed K-5-3-Q-9, which gave Jennings the main pot with a pair of nines.  Connole dragged the side pot with a pair of sevens.  And Mupparaju was paid $2,983 for finishing in fifth place.   

4th Place – The next hand, Jeremy Jennings made a raise with A-9 suited (diamonds).  Cody Mashore sensed weakness and re-raised all-in from the button holding Q-10.  The short-stacked Bryan Connole decided to make the call from the blind, holding A-6.  After Jennings called the re-raise, the final board came 10-9-2 with two diamonds.  Mashore flopped top pair, but Jennings had a flush draw.  The queen of diamonds on the turn gave Mashore two pair, but also completed Jennings’ flush.  A blank on the river gave Jennings the huge pot and eliminated two players.

Finishing in fourth place was Cody Mashore, a 73-year-old self-described cowboy from Amarillo, TX.  The old poker veteran saddled up and rode away with $3,281 in prize money.

3rd Place – The big hand also resulted in the elimination of Bryan Connole.  The poker floor supervisor from Beaumont, CA – who cashed twice in the 2006 WSOP in Las Vegas – earned a payout totaling $4,772.

2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Jeremy Jennings had a 6 to 1 chip lead over Dana Katzenmeier.  It took just one hand for the tournament to end.  Jennings moved all-in with J-8 suited.  Katzenmeier called instantly and tabled A-7 suited.  The flop was a mixed bag for both players, coming 7-5-4.  Katzenmeier flopped top pair, but Jennings picked up more outs with an inside-straight draw.  The turn and river were the final two mails in Katzenmeier’s coffin, sealing the victory for Jennings.  First came a jack, good for a higher pair.  Next came a 6, good for a straight.  Bam!  Bam!  Katzenmeier was dead.  Jennings was the winner.    

Dana Katzenmeier, a retired financial advisor from San Diego finished as the runner up.  Second place paid $86,50.

1st Place – The winner was Jeremy Jennings.  He is 33-years-old and lives in Oceanside, CA.  This marked his first time to ever cash in a major poker tournament.  Jennings owns two small companies which both specialize in direct marketing – specifically mail order and Internet search engine optimization.  They can be found at: and  But following his impressive comeback win in a WSOP Circuit tournament, work was the last thing on his mind.

With six gold ring events now completed at Harrah’s Rincon, the tournament has now attracted more than 3,000 total entries and has awarded nearly $700,000 in prize money.  Still to come are seven more events and three nightly (single-day) tournaments which begin at 4 pm.  The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon continues through April 1st.