Stateline, NV—Shawn Roberts, a 35-year-old former postal clerk who now works for the State of California, took down the opening event of the WSOP Circuit tour at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe after a four-way deal abruptly ended the action.
The key hand for him was the last one. On the flop, he checked his top pair, trapping an opponent into moving in.
The other player lost all his chips and checked out in fifth place. Roberts took the lead and the deal was made. First place officially paid $20,077, but Roberts actually collected $12,800 in the arrangement that wasn’t too far from an even chop.

   Stateline, Nevada is located on the east shore of Lake Tahoe in magnificent outdoor country. Harveys Lake Tahoe was the third stop on the 2009-2010 Circuit tour. A total of 250 players showed up on opening day, creating a prize pool of $72,750 for this $300 no-limit event.

   There were still 12 players left at the end of day one, and they returned the next day to play down to nine. The final table then started at level 19 with blinds of 4,000-8,000 and 1,000 antes 26 minutes left on the clock. Well in front with 410,000 chips was Les Spear. 

   9th place: Midway through the round, Mousa “Moose” Helo moved in from the small blind holding 9c-8c. Emilio “EP” Porcalla, starting shortest-chipped with just 45,500, called from the big blind with pocket treys. The flop came K-7-9, and the paired 9 was enough to knock out our first player. For finishing ninth, Porcalla earned $1,310. He is a 64-year-old retiree from Elk Grove, California who has played for 20 years, learning by working in a  club casino.

   Blinds were now 5,000-10,000. A TV hand came right down. Lawrence Chow opened for 26,000 and Rudy Sisson moved in for 80,000 more. After long though, Chow called. He had Ah-Jh, and Sisson had pocket kings. A flop of A-10-J gave Chow top two, but a queen on the turn gave Sisson a rescuing straight as he doubled up.

   8th place: On the next big hand, Sisson again looked at pocket kings. He raised, and Jason Stern came over the top all in with A-Q. The board of 7-7-9-2-2 missed both players as Stern went home with $1,819 for eighth. Stern, 37, is a pro from San Jose, California with a background as a poker dealer/floorman. He’s played 20 years, four professionally.

   7h place: Blinds were now 6,000-12,000 with 1,000 antes. In the big blind and short-stacked, Helo tried an all-in move with 10-2, the “Dole Brunson” hand.  That hand won Doyle two consecutive World Series championships, but it didn’t work as well for Helo.
Spear called with K-Q, the board of A-8-9-J-A changed nothing, and Helo walked off with $2,474.
Helo, 33, originally from Jordan, is a bio physicist now living in El Dorado Hills, California. He began playing seven years ago at Commerce Casino near Los Angeles. His poker highlight was taking second place in the $100,000 guaranteed Poker Cruise Challenge. He also won the Folsom Lake Bowl open.

   6th place: Next out was Chuck Hancock, who pushed in for about 85,000 with Ad-2d. Sisson called with pocket 9s. A raggedy board of 10-8-6-4-5 couldn’t help Hancock, and he went out sixth, paying $3,274. Hancock, 49, is semi-retired and lives in Sacramento, California. He’s played 35 years, starting with family games, and his poker highlights are two bad-beat jackpots.

   5th place: The five finalists returned from break and briefly discussed a deal. But after being cautioned that they would have to sign for the official amount corresponding to how they finished, they decided to continue playing, with blinds now at 8,000-16,000 and 2,000 antes.
As play went on, Spear retained his lead wtth 410,000, with three players in the 300,000 range, while Lothar Knierieman trailed with 95,000. He was next out. The flop came 7-K-3. Roberts checked his K-10. Knieriemen bit and moved in with A-8.  Knierieman couldn’t get his needed ace and went out fifth for $4,147 while Roberts moved into the lead.
Knieriemen is a 60-year-old business owner/real estate broker from South Lake Tahoe. He’s been playing three years, learning online, from books, videos and by playing at Harveys. One of his hobbies is animal rescue, and his poker highlight was making this final table and donating 10 percent of his win to animal and pet rescue.

Down to four, everybody had plenty of chips, and this time a deal was struck.
   4th place: Les Spear got fourth in the deal. It officially paid $5,602, but he pocketed $10,860. Spear is 60, from Zephyr Grove, Nevada, and is a real estate investor/broker. He began playing 45 years ago in home games and has a number of cashes in Circuit and other events. He is also a ski bum.

   3rd place: This spot went to Chow, who took home $11,018 instead of the official  $8,221. Chow, 24, is a poker player from San Francisco who began playing with friends nine years ago. His poker highlight is a $16,000 win at the Lucky Chances Casino Battle of the Bay.

   2nd place: Sisson took second, earning $11,300, a bit less than the listed prize of $12,077. Sisson, 35, is a real estate investor from Sacramento, California who started playing three years ago after being inspired by the film, “Rounders.” He also likes to skateboard.
   1st place: As previously noted, Roberts’ deal got him $12,800 instead of the official  $20,077. Roberts is from Roseville, California. His hobbies are bowling and family life.
--Max Shapiro