Pot-Limit Heaven at Harrah’s New Orleans

Some poker purists believe Pot-Limit Hold’em is a game suited to more skilled poker players.  Reason is, Pot-Limit (as opposed to No-Limit) amplifies the effects of post-flop play, which requires more know-how.  While many No-Limit tournaments have become “shove-fests,” meaning that players tend to shove all-in pre-flop and often gamble on coin-flip scenarios, Pot-limit Hold’em games usually involve more decisions during the hand, the consequences of which become magnified as the pot grows larger.

However, Pot-Limit Hold’em is becoming increasingly rare on the tournament circuit.  This is an unfortunate by-product of No-Limit’s exploding popularity.  The game has managed to consume other forms of poker.  By one estimate, there are no more than about 20 major Pot-Limit Hold’em tournaments held every year in the United States.  Half of those take place at the World Series of Poker and WSOP Circuits. 

The 2009 Bayou Poker Challenge included one of the most generous allotments of Pot-Limit games anywhere in the world.  Six Pot-Limit tournaments are this year’s schedule, including a Pot-Limit Hold’em competition (a mixed tournament of Pot-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha will take place on May 13th).  A modest-sized field of 75 players turned out and paid the $300 entry fee, generating a prize pool totaling $21,825.

The tournament winner was Pat Peercy.  He is an aspiring poker professional from Fortville, IN.  Peercy, who used to sell cars, started playing poker full-time about a year ago.  He has already amassed more than $150,000 in tournament winnings, all since June 2008.

Peercy started the final table on day two with an average-sized stack.  The key hand of the tournament took place late when Peercy was playing heads-up against Preston Derden, from Houston.  Derden made trip aces on the hand.  But Peercy made a flush on the river, which scooped the biggest pot of the tournament.

The final hand came when Peercy’s A-Q bested Derden’s K-Q when the higher cards played.  This win marked Peercy’s third major career tournament victory.  He had wins at the “Deep Stack” series at the Venetian in Las Vegas and the Legends of Poker event in Los Angeles – both last year.  This marked Peercy’s first WSOP-related victory.  However, he previously came close to victory by cashing four times at WSOP Circuit tournaments at Caesars Indiana and twice at last year’s Bayou Winter Poker Challenge.  Overall, Peercy now has 15 cashes and 10 final table appearances – an impressive feat for any player within such a short time frame.  

Peercy won first place prize money totaling $7,857.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

The top nine finishers were as follows: 

1st Place – Pat Peercy, a poker pro originally from Indianapolis who now lives in Fortville, IN.  This was Peercy’s first WSOP Circuit win and third major tournament victory.

2nd Place – Preston Derden, a 62-year-old retiree from Houston, TX was the runner up.  Derden has numerous tournament cashes, including in-the-money finishes at WSOP Circuit events in Tunica, Lake Tahoe, and New Orleans.  He has also cashed at the WSOP in Las Vegas.  Derden joked afterward that he once won 820,000 for first place at a poker tournament held in Budapest, Hungary.  However, the currency exchange rate made the win worth $4,100 American dollars.  Derden did better than that here in New Orleans, taking home 4,365.

3rd Place – The third-place finisher was Corrie Wunstel, a.k.a. “Slim,” from Baton Rouge, LA.  This marked Wunstel’s fourth time to cash at Harrah’s New Orleans.  It was his highest tournament finish to date.

4th Place – Joe Nieten, a software architect from San Antonio, TX finished in fourth place.  This was Nieten’s first time to cash in a major poker tournament.

5th Place – Fifth place went to Danny Grassi, a 24-year-old poker dealer from Houston, TX.  This was his first time to play in a WSOP-related tournament, which makes his final table appearance all the more impressive.

6th Place – Wayne LeBlanc finished in sixth place.  The insurance agent from Belle Chasse, LA has now cashed at Harrah’s New Orleans four times in WSOP Circuit events.

7th Place – Elliott D. Howze ended up in seventh place, and departed the final table with a bad beat story.  He was all-in pre-flop with pocket aces against pocket kings – a great situation.  Incredibly, the board came with two kings, giving his opponent four-of-a-kind.  Howze, who won the Winter Bayou Poker Challenge last December here at Harrah’s New Orleans, is a master plumber from Pine Grove, LA.

8th Place – Ali Jafari, a realtor and poker player from Houston, rocketed away as the eighth-place finisher.  Jafari has about a dozen previous tournament cashes.  But this was his first WSOP Circuit final table appearance. 

9th Place – Thomas “Eddy” Pullens was the shortest stack at the final table and was the first to bust out in ninth place.  The part-time poker dealer and semi-pro player now has nearly $100,000 in career tournament earnings.  He won an event at the Southern Poker Championship held earlier this year.