Halfway Home

The 2009 Bayou Poker Challenge crossed the midway point today.  The 12th of twenty scheduled gold ring events was completed at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $500 buy-in Mixed Event (Half Pot-Limit Omaha and Half Pot Limit Omaha High/Low) tournament was the first of its kind in New Orleans.  The new event attracted a strong field of 99 entries for the two-day competition.

The tournament winner was John Tollefsen, a.k.a. “Texas Troll.”  He is a 39-year-old owner of his own high-tech business, which specializes in Internet faxing.  Oddly enough, his clever nickname has nothing to do with being an online troll, other than playing under that name at various online poker sites.  Tollefsen, who arrived in the U.S. as a teenager, has many relatives in his native Norway – where a “troll” is actually a mythological creature with surrounding folklore.  Tollefsen wrote his own fairytale ending in this tournament.   

Tollefsen, who lives in the Houston area, was one of the early chip leaders on day two, which included a final table dominated by Texans.  In fact, six of the nine finalists were from the Lone Star State.

The final hand of the tournament came when Tollefsen started off as a dog, but outflopped his opponent and won the last hand of the tournament.  Tollefsen was dealt 7-7-6-5 against Brent Keller’s A-A-J-9.  The final board showed K-5-4-5-9, giving Tollefsen trip fives and the victory.

This marked Tollefsen’s second major tournament victory.  He won a tournament at the Bellagio in Las Vegas two years ago.  This was also Tollefsen’s second time to cash at this series.  He took eighth place in the previous Pot-Limit Omaha tournament.  With this win, he now has nearly $100,000 in tournament winnings.

Tollefsen’s share of the prize pool amounted to $15,365.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

The top nine in-the-money finishers were as follows:

1st Place – John “Texas Troll” Tollefsen won his first gold ring.  He owns his own high-tech company and lives in Pearland, TX.

2nd Place – Brent Keller, from the Philadelphia area, was the runner up.  He came to the final table as the most accomplished tournament player, with $265,000 in career winnings, including a win last year at the U.S. Poker Championship.  This was Keller’s fourth time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  All of his previous in-the-money Circuit finishes occurred in Atlantic City.

3rd Place – Chad Burns from Houston made his second WSOP Circuit final table appearance, after finishing fourth in an event at Caesars Indiana held two years ago.  Burns also won a major event at the Coushatta Classic in 2007.  Burns, who used to be a golf pro and instructor, now plays poker professionally.  He took third place in this tournament.

4th Place – Birol Lermi has certainly been consistent when it comes to his tournament results in New Orleans.  He has cashed six times in major events – all of which took place during various WSOP Circuit events at Harrah’s New Orleans.  Lermi, a local poker player, took fourth place in this tournament, which was his highest finisher ever.

5th Place – David Nixon was impeached from the final table and finished in fifth place.  The rancher from Pleasanton, TX cashed for this first time in this tournament.

6th Place – George Guzman came close to becoming only the third multiple gold ring winner in New Orleans history.  Guzman, who won the $500 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha event a few days ago, ended up in sixth place.  This was Guzman’s third cash so far at this year’s series.  The former cable television company owner is originally from Argentina and now lives in Ft. Lauderdale.

7th Place – Don Harris, an attorney from Cedar Park, TX finished in seventh place.  This was his first time to cash in a major poker tournament.

8th Place – Jason “JJ” Brice finished in eighth place.  He is a 52-year-old property manager from Sugarland, TX.  Brice cashed three times last year at the Bayou Poker Challenge.  He has also previous cashed at the WSOP in Las Vegas.  Brice’s tournament winnings to date total more than $150,000.

9th Place – James K. Haley, an automobile dealer from Johnson City, TX was the first player to bust out.  This was his third time to cash in a major tournament.