The seventh of twenty scheduled gold ring events was completed today at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 156 players, who entered the two-day competition. 

The tournament winner was Joseph “J-Money” Phelps.  He is a 53-year-old casino executive who works at the Hollywood Casino in Bay St. Louis, MS.  Phelps lives in Diamond Head, MS.  He has been in the casino industry for nearly 30 years.  He started out working for Harrah’s as a dealer back in 1980.  He was also married at Harrah’s Las Vegas.

To say Phelps’ tournament strategy was unconventional would be an understatement.  He won two late critical hands in heads-up play, both as the underdog, resulting in a stunning upset victory.  The first of those two bizarre hands took place when Phelps was all-in with K-8 against Steven Faillaci, who ended up finishing second.  Faillaci had A-7 and held a pair of sevens with one card still to come.  But a miracle eight on the river gave Phelps a higher pair, and put him about even in chips when the final hand was dealt moments later. 

Phelps later stated that he wanted to go to dinner and did not want to get involved in a long duel with his final adversary.  Thinking that K-6 was as good as any other hand, Phelps moved all-in pre-flop and was called by Faillaci instantly, holding A-J.  Kaboom!  A six flopped and it was all over.  Phelps stumbled across the finish line as the tournament winner, while Faillaci was left mumbling expletives to himself after what had happened.        

This marked Phelps’ first major tournament victory.  He previously made the final table at the Bayou Poker Classic last year.  But this was his best poker finish.  

Phelps won first place prize money totaling $24,513.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

The top finishers were as follows:

1st Place – Joseph Phelps, a.k.a. “J-Money” won a major poker tournament for the first time.  He works as a casino executive in Mississippi.

2nd Place – The runner up was Steven Faillaci, who came about as close to victory (one card away) as possible without taking first place.  The 39-year-old engineer from Austin, TX was making his first cash at a major poker tournament.  Fallaci’s official payout amounted to $12,862.

3rd Place – Third place went to Christian Mascagni, a defense attorney from Louisville, KY.  He calls himself a recreational poker player.  However, Mascagni has now cashed twice in WSOP Circuit events, with his previous showing at the Tunica Grand WSOP Circuit stop back in 2005.

4th Place – Brian Delatte, an operations specialist from New Orleans, ended up as the fourth-place finisher.  Delatte has one previous cash on his resume – third place last month as the Spring Break Poker Classic held in Mississippi.

5th Place – After the last five players at the final table made a deal (financial terms were not disclosed) Chris Lang went out in fifth place.  He is a bartender from Baltimore, MD.  This was his first recorded cash in a major tournament.

6th Place – Sue Whigham became the third female to make a final table appearance so far at Harrah’s New Orleans.  She hoped to become the second lady champion after Nancy Birnbaum’s win a few days ago.  Instead, Whigham settled for sixth place.  She has previously cashed in a few online tournaments, but this was her first time to make a final table at a live poker event.  She works as a hair stylist from Austin, TX.

7th Place – Ali Jafari made his second final table at this year’s Bayou series.  He previously finished in eighth-place in Event #4.  This time Jafari improved by one place with a seventh-place finish.  This marked the Houston realtor and part-time poker player’s 12th major cash.

8th Place – Scott Weinberg, a restaurant owner from Gulfport, MS went out in eighth place.  He previously cashed five times, made three final table, and won an event held elsewhere.

9th Place – Lance Cone, who works for a chemical company as a branch manager, ended up as the ninth-place finisher.  The recreational poker player from Tallula, LA made his first tournament cash.

10th Place – Dean Robilhaux, who owns his own small business in Houma, LA, busted out in tenth place.  This was his first time to cash in a major tournament.

Notable Players Who Finished In-the-Money – Kevin Cooper, who finished in 11th place, won an event at the Winter Bayou Poker Challenge last December.