Stateline, NV (November 14, 2009) – In poker, sometimes the optimal decision is not to play.  That’s the conclusion reached jointly be the final two survivors in the latest WSOP Circuit tournament held at the Harvey’s Casino in glorious South Lake Tahoe.

Following a grueling Friday night heads-up battle that reached nearly three hours, Charlie Fiorella and Rip Fritzer came the sensible deduction that both players were pretty evenly matched and that to continue playing would have been too much of a gamble.

Hence, Fiorella and Fritzer agreed to chop up the prize money, with Fiorella taking the fame and glory of first place.

The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament (Event #14) attracted a strong field of 202 entries, generating $58,782 in prize money.  The top 27 finishers collected payouts.  All the action took place over a two-day period inside the Harvey’s Lake Tahoe poker room and special events area.  This is the only WSOP Circuit stop in Northern Nevada.

The tournament winner was Charlie Fiorella, who was officially paid $16,227.  He is retired and lives in Sunnyvale, CA.  Fiorella, now age 59, was formally an executive in the high tech industry who worked in Silicon Valley.  He has been playing poker seriously for about six years and calls himself a by-product of the Moneymaker boom.  Fiorella said he became interested in poker tournaments after watching the WSOP on television.

When heads-up play began, Charlie Fiorella was virtually tied with Rip Fritzer.  The two warriors battled back and forth for about two hours and forty minutes before discussion about a deal ensued.  The two survivors finally agreed to some numbers, with Fiorella taking the top prize.  This marked Fiorella’s first major tournament victory.

The runner up was Rip Fritzer, a 50-year-old real estate investor.

Fritzer has some impressive tournament results – including two cashes at the WSOP in Las Vegas, and three WSOP Circuit in-the-money finishes.  This was his highest tournament finish to date, following a third-place showing last year in an event at Harrah’s Rincon.  Second place officially paid $9,758.

Finishing in third place was J.R. Hamilton, from San Francisco, CA.  Hamilton was the grim reaper to at least three finalists, eliminating one-third of the final table.  But he also discovered what it was like to take a fall, when his pocket sevens were hammered by Charlie Fiorella’s pocket aces.  A life-saving seven failed to materialize, putting the Clinical Psychologist out in third place.

Hamilton has now made it to three final tables of the six total WSOP Circuit events he has entered, which gives him a 50 percent cash rate.  Any poker player on the planet would take those percentages.  Hamilton’s share of the prize pool came to $6,642.

The fourth-place finisher was David Robinson, from Black Mountain, NC.  He had a healthy-sized stack but suffered two blows which kicked him off the final table.  The first defeat occurred when Robinson’s pocket kings were clipped by Charlie Fiorella’s A-10, after an ace flopped.  Moments later, Robinson moved all-in with pocket eights, which were trumped by Rip Fritzer’s pocket jacks.  That meant Robinson, a former cryptologist with the National Security Agency, became the final table’s next MIA. 

Robinson, who finished second in a previous WSOP Circuit final table at Lake Tahoe, collected $4,526.

Neal Cooke, a professional saltwater fishing guide from Loveland CO, took fifth place.  Cooke was hooked and gutted by Rip Fritzer’s pocket threes, which ended up flopping a set. 
This marked Cooke’s fifth WSOP Circuit final table appearance. 
He had a serious shot to win last year’s Lake Tahoe championship, but lost a huge pot to Michael Binger, who ended up winning the tournament. Cooke, who also owns a fresh fish market in Colorado, ended up filleted in fifth place, good for $3,351.