Melon On the Bayou

The 2009 Bayou Poker Challenge has now reached the midway point.  The tenth of twenty scheduled gold ring events was completed today at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $300 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted a strong field of 263 entries, who played the two-day competition.

The tournament winner was John Lallo, a.k.a. “the Melon.”  He is a 45-year-old restaurant owner from Ft. Meyers. FL.  Lallo is originally from Ohio.  He was cheered to victory by his wife, who sat at tableside during the long tournament marathon.

Lallo started the final table with an average-sized stack.  He took the chip lead late and defeated Alex Wood in heads-up play.  It was the longest tournament of any event completed so far.  Day one lasted until 3 am.  Day two and the final table was played until midnight.  But the long wait was worth it for Lallo, who earned his first major tournament victory.  This was his third time to cash in a major tournament and second in-the-money finish at a WSOP Circuit event.  Lallo previously cashed at Caesars Indiana.

Lallo owns and operates a family business he shares with several other family members.  His restaurant is “Pete’s Time Out,” located in Ft. Meyers Beach, FL.

Lallo won first place prize money officially totaling $18,560.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.


The top ten finishers were as follows:


1st Place – John “the Melon” Lallo, a restaurant owner from Ft. Meyers, FL won is first major poker tournament in what was the longest of any event played in New Orleans, this year. 

2nd Place – The runner up was Alex Wood, from New Orleans.  The former retailer-turned-poker pro came close to victory but could not overcome Lallo’s chip advantage in heads-up play.  Wood, age 22, mostly plays online.  This was his first cash in a live poker tournament.  Second place paid a very respectable $11,479.

3rd Place – Scott Frost was frozen out of the top two and ended up finishing in third place.  The business owner from Houston cashed for the first time, worth an official payout of $7,270.

4th Place – Aaron J. Cole was the fourth-place finisher.  The Mandeville, LA poker player had one cash previously, which took place at the 2007 WSOP in Las Vegas.

5th Place – Michael Hallen, a poker dealer from the Houston suburb of Katy, TX went out in fifth place.  This marked his first time to cash in a major poker tournament.

6th Place – Chris Hildebrandt was playing in his first poker tournament ever and managed to outlast 257 players and make it all the way to sixth place.  Hildebrandt, an LSU student studying biochemistry, had previously visited a casino only once, on a visit to Las Vegas with his parents when he was a teenager.  So, his first actual visit to a casino here in New Orleans was memorable indeed, as he collected $3,826 in winnings.  Note:  The final six players reportedly made a deal, but the financial terms were not disclosed.

7th Place – Philip Sparta’s bid to become the first-ever three-time gold ring winner in Bayou Poker Challenge history fell six-places short.  Sparta, who won both of his WSOP Circuit rings at Harrah’s New Orleans in 2007, ended up as the seventh-place finisher.  The Fairfax, VA-based poker player now has 33 career cashes – 11 of which have taken place at various Circuit events around the country.

8th Place – Curtis Terry, who is self-employed and lives in Metairie, LA finished eighth.  This was Terry’s third time to cash in New Orleans, and second visit to the final table.  His two previous cashes came at the WSOP Circuit event played here in 2007.

9th Place – Geoff Bouvier ended up as the ninth-place finisher.  The writer from Iowa City, IA won an event in California last year.  But this was his first WSOP Circuit in-the-money finish.

10th Place – Kris Smithson, an office manager from Arlington, TX enjoyed his first cash in a major poker tournament with his tenth-place showing.


Notable Players Who Finished In-the-Money – Larry Vance (16th place) cashed for the 64th time in a major tournament, since 2001.  He now has close to a half-million dollars in career winnings.,  The 20th-place finisher Kai Landry won the WSOC Circuit championship at Harrah’s Tunica in February.  The22nd-place finisher Ali Jafari made two previous final tables at this series, finishing seventh and eighth.  The 26th-place finisher Timothy Martin won a gold ring at the WSOP Circuit in New Orleans two years ago.