The ninth of twenty scheduled gold ring events was completed today at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted a strong field of 172 players, who entered the two-day competition.

Six-handed No-Limit Hold’em first started as an online game.  It became popular in large part because some players prefer to play in short-handed games.  Since there are six players (instead of nine or ten) at the table, players generally play more hands and get in more confrontations.  Because the blinds and antes accelerate at a higher rate given the shorter orbits, players can’t be as patient in starting-hand requirements as at a full table.

Six-handed No-Limit Hold’em made its World Series of Poker debut in 2005.  It has since proven to be a popular schedule addition, not only at the WSOP and Circuit events, but at many other tournaments, as well.

The tournament winner was Michael Riamon.  He is a 37-year-old poker pro from Bradenton, FL.  Raimon also owns a chain of retail shoe stores called “Athlete’s Foot.”  He is originally from Massachusetts and played basketball while in college.  He is married with two children.         

Raimon started the final table ranked second in chips.  He seized the chip lead on a critical hand when he made a flush on the turn against John “the Dancer” Riola, who finished as the runner up.  Riola made two pair on the turn and had his adversary all-in.  But the turn card also gave Raimon a flush, which ended up scooping the largest pot of the tournament.  Some time later, Raimon took Riola’s last chips with a straight on what turned out to be the final hand of the event.

This was the fastest final table of any event play so far.  Clocking in at the rapid pace of one hour and 45 minutes, the six-handed finale breezed by in comparison to other finales which have last 4 to 6 hours, on average.

This marked Raimon’s first major tournament victory.  He previously cashed twice at the WSOP in Las Vegas.  However, prior to this event none of his numerous in-the-money tournament finishes was better than 15th.  Raimon usually plays poker at the Hard Rock Casino in Florida.

Raimon won first place prize money totaling $24,192.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

The six-handed final table finished in the following order:

1st Place – Michael Raimon, a 37-year-old retail store owner and poker pro, won his first major tournament after cashing seven times previous at other tournaments, including twice at the WSOP.

2nd Place – The runner up was John “the Dancer” Riola, a retired former professional ballroom dancer from Biloxi, MS.  Riola owned various dance studios and competed in top events.  His poker record now includes six tournament cashes, and several final tables at daily events held near his home in Biloxi, MS.  His official payout amounted to $15,016.

3rd Place – Brad Jones, a 28-year-old poker pro from Charleston, SC finished in third place.  The former small business owner plays mostly online.  He is now playing more live tournaments.  This marked his first time to make it to a final table.

4th Place – The fourth-place finisher was former WSOP Circuit event winner Timothy Miles, from New Orleans.  Miles won a gold ring here in 2007, cashing for $80,000.  Miles, a.k.a. “TimKrank,” was also the runner up in the 2008 Bayou Poker Challenge championship held last year.  This marked his fourth time to cash in New Orleans.

5th Place – Mike Anderson went out in fifth place.  He is self-employed and lives in Houston.

6th Place – Chris Morrison (a.k.a. “Dashaiert”) finished in sixth place.  The former medical salesman-turned-poker pro from Dallas works with an online poker site.  He cashed two times earlier this year at the WSOP Circuit event at Harrah’s Tunica.

Notable Players Who Finished In-the-Money – Mark Wilds (14th place) cashed for the second time at this series.  He’s won over $800,000 in his career, including 18 WSOP cashes, 9 WSOP Circuit cashes, and 62 in-the-money finishes overall.   Jeffrey Brown (18th place) finished fifth in the 2007 Bayou Poker Challenge championship event.