The 2009 Bayou Poker Challenge is nearing the finish line.  The 17th of twenty scheduled gold ring events was completed today at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $500 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted yet another big field totaling 375 entries for the two-day competition.

The tournament winner was Dave “Loveshack” Gafford.  He is a 39-year-old self-employed businessman from Denham Springs, LA.  Prior to starting the final table, Gafford stated that he wanted to win this tournament specifically for his family.

Indeed, Gafford’s victory was long overdue.  Three years ago to the day when he finished second to Bach “B” Vu in a 2006 WSOP Circuit event in New Orleans, Gafford finally broke the invisible barrier which separates many fine poker players from a milestone victory.  He managed to win $42K in that tournament held in May 2006.  But the “loss” had haunted him ever since.

  Gafford received his odd nickname from living in what he and his family call “the loveshack.”  Years ago Gafford lived in a tiny home – called “the love shack” -- with his family.  His family includes his wife and three children.  Gafford once described the 'the love shack” as a 700-quare foot wooden hut built on his land near Baton Rouge.  “We call it ‘the love shack' because there's got to be a lot of love to live in it and survive after all we have been through,” admitted Gafford three years ago – who has since moved on to a much more comfortable life.  Gafford and his family moved into a much larger home after he cashed in New Orleans, and things have been going well ever since.  Nonetheless, this was a breakthrough victory for Gafford.  

This time, Gafford won first place prize money totaling $43,650.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

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

1st Place – Dave “LoveShack” Gafford, from Denham Springs, LA won his first WSOP Circuit events and $43,650 in prize money.

2nd Place – The runner up was Michael Murphy, a 36-year-old poker player from Dumas, IN.  His payout amounted to $26,826 for second place.

3rd Place – Vlad “Ted” Ventsko, a 40-year-old Russian-born musician who now lives in San Francisco, finished third.  Ventsko had previous cashed in a few poker tournaments in St. Petersburg, Russia.

4th Place – Richard Estep took fourth place.  He is a 42-year-old account manager from Lake Charles, LA.  Estep made a final table here last year (6th place), as this was his second time to cash in New Orleans.  Estep was also proud of the fact he once hit a $66K bad beat jackpot.

5th Place – Fifth place went to Ben Thomas, who was born in Taiwan and now lives in Baton Rouge, LA.  This was his third time to cash in a major tournament, and first cash on the WSOP Circuit.

6th Place – Michael K. Nguyen from Houston went out in sixth place.  He is married and has two children.  This was Nguyen’s first recorded cash in a WSOP Circuit tournament.

7th Place – Richard Kirsch, from Ft. Lauderdale, FL arrived at the final table with the most impressive resume – including a WPT final table appearance (4th place) and four cashes at the WSOP in Las Vegas, including an in-the-money finish in the 2005 Main Event.  Kirsch went card dead late, which meant the information technology specialist ended up in seventh place.  Nonetheless, he now has close to $500,000 in career earnings.

8th Place – Ken Weidner, from Baltimore, MD came in eighth.  He has cashed at various tournaments in the past.  But this was his first time in-the-money in a WSOP-related event.

9th Place – Tony Taylor finished in ninth place.  He is a contractor from Miami, FL.  He also plays lead guitar for a popular local band in Florida called “Eclipse.”  This was Taylor’s second time to make it to a WSOP Circuit final table.  He matched today’s effort two years ago.

10th Place – Lewis Webb was eliminated in tenth place.  He is a programmer and former Vietnam vet who now lives in Birmingham, AL.  This was Webb’s first time to cash in a major tournament.

Notable In-the-Money Finishers – Will “Monkey” Souther (Biloxi, MS) finished in 16th place, which was his third cash at this series.  Manny Minaya (Houston, TX) cashed again (28th place).  He also finished third in Event #13 and has nearly $1 million in lifetime tournament earnings.