Stateline, NV (November 16, 2009) – When Matt Keikoan won his first gold bracelet at the 2008 World Series of Poker, he instantly knew the victory was a major breakthrough. Not only did Keikoan manage to outlast a huge field of 1,593 entrants, he also won a whopping $550,601 in prize money.
His win, which occurred in the $2,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event, was a relief for a popular player who paid his dues for four seemingly long years playing on the poker tournament circuit. The financial windfall and confidence builder also gave Keikoan the option of playing in even more future events.
Yet Keikoan insists that his half-a-million dollar win 18 months ago was not life-changing. As a player with financial backers as well as the responsibilities of being a father to a 7-year-old daughter, he felt compelled to try even harder, by entering even more tournaments and sustaining his momentum on the circuit. That translated into the rather obligatory decision to attend the biggest annual tournament series in Northern Nevada, held at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe, which is relatively close to his home in San Rafael, CA.
Keikoan won the latest WSOP Circuit championship, which took place the Harvey’s Resort and Casino. The 41-year-old poker pro collected $106,435 for his victory. He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit championship. This victory now gives Keikoan nearly $1.2 in career winnings in WSOP-related tournaments.
“I live only about three hours away from here,” Keikoan said following his victory.
“I used to come here all the time on vacation when I was a kid. I really love it here at Lake Tahoe.”
This year’s Main Event championship (Event #18) at Harvey’s attracted a modest-sized field of 64 players, generating $299,400 in prize money. The top nine finishers, which meant only the final table participants, collected payouts. All the No-Limit Hold’em action took place over a two-day period inside the poker room and special events area, which was packed with players and spectators.
Keikoan did not start out as the favorite. When final table play began, the chip leader was poker pro and fellow former WSOP Gold bracelet winner David Woo. But the top two finishers, including Keikoan, came from among the shorter stacks, starting off in 6th and 7th places, respectively. Woo did not fare well, ultimately finishing in seventh place. Also present was two-time WSOP Circuit gold ring winner Ari Engel – who came in fourth.
The top ten finalists, with their chips counts when the final table began play at 6 pm on a Monday night on the shores of South Lake Tahoe, were as follows:
SEAT 1: Tim Davey 80,000 in chips
SEAT 2: Roger Sippl 125,000 in chips
SEAT 3: John Goodger 130,000 in chips
SEAT 4: John McNeilly 84,000 in chips
SEAT 5: Tommy Vedes 186,000 in chips
SEAT 6: Matt Keikoan 117,000 in chips
SEAT 7: David Woo 286,000 in chips
SEAT 8: Justin Hallstrom 89,000 in chips
SEAT 9: Ari Engel 118,000 in chips
SEAT 10: Steve Kujubu 86,000 in chips
It took over eight hours to play down to the final two, which ended up being Matt Keikoan versus Justin Hallstrom. Keikoan enjoyed about a 5 to 1 chip advantage when the duel began. The action lasted another hour before the final hand was dealt out at about 3 am. Hallstrom, sensing he had to make a bold move and try to double up, moved all-in with A-5. Keikoan looked down and saw A-K and snap-called. A king on the flop all but ended Hallstrom’s shot of a comeback. Keikoan ended up scooping the final pot of the tournament with a pair of kings.
“I’m really excited to win, but I’m also really tired,” Keikoan said.
“There were some good players here. But I always feel comfortable playing at Lake Tahoe because I have come here to the Circuit each year it’s been held. It’s kind of a home field advantage for me, I believe.”
The runner up was Justin Hallstrom, a 33-year-old police officer from Lodi, CA. Hallstrom played marvelously throughout the long ordeal. But he was never quite able to catch the key hand which might have enabled him to overtake the determined former WSOP winner. Hallstrom, who previously won a major event held at North Lake Tahoe back in 2006, collected a nice payout totaling $56,886.
Finishing in third place was John Goodger, an English-born author and residential developer now living in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Goodger was a force throughout the tournament, but finally went out holding top pair, which lost to Matt Keikoan’s two pair. Goodger moved all-in after flopping a pair of kings. But Keikoan managed to hit bottom two pair on the flop, which made for Goodger’s worst nightmare.
Goodger, the author of the novel “The Druperman Tapes,” which is an action-adventure story set in Las Vegas, earned a nice tournament royalty amounting to $39,820.
The fourth-place finisher was Ari Engel, an online poker pro from Las Vegas, NV. Engel had a wonderful opportunity to double up late when his K-8 connected for a pair of kings on the flop. Matt Keikoan sat sour faced with pocket fives and barely had Engel covered in chips, with two cards still to come.
Keikoan was down to just two outs (fives) when the river card was dealt.
It was Engel’s worst nightmare, a five – making trips for Keikoan. That hand was arguably the biggest of the tournament and propelled Keikoan on to victory. Engel stood up and graciously shook the hand of Keikoan, who suddenly realized he was now much closer to the finish line with the checkered flag. Engel, the winner of previous WSOP Circuit events held at Caesars Atlantic City and Caesars Palace Las Vegas, had to settle for fourth place, which paid $28,144.
Tommy Vedes, a.k.a. “The Mad Cyprian,” finished in fifth place after taking two beats. First, he took a tough hit when John Goodger drew out with the inferior hand, by catching a flush on the river. That ripped away 75 percent of Vedes’ stack. The remaining chips were ditched to Ari Engel. Vedes moved all-in with 6-5 suited, hoping to steal a round of blinds and antes. Engel had pocket jacks, and naturally called.
There was no deck magic left for Vedes, who ended up taking home $21,557 in prize money. The self-described poker grinder from Las Vegas has been hot lately. In addition to making this final table, Vedes also won a major World Poker Tour event held a few weeks ago.
The sixth-place finisher was Roger Sippl, a retired part-time poker player from Woodside, CA who goes by the nickname “Crazy Old Man.” Sippl seemed to do the sane thing when he moved all-in with pocket fours. But his underpair was ultimately steamrolled by Tommy Vedes, who made an obligatory call holding pocket queens. Sippl failed to improve his hand, which resulted in a $17,066 payday.
Former WSOP gold bracelet winner David Woo took a horrible beat and finished in seventh place. Woo was the early chip leader but lost his momentum a few hours into play. On his final hand, Woo set his opponent up beautifully. Ari Engel had three-bet pre-flop several times from the button, each time forcing an increasingly annoyed Woo to lay down his hand. But Woo trapped Engel the final time, when he opened up with a raise and Engel re-raised all-in. Woo instantly called, tabling pocket queens. Engel winced and showed A-9. The flop didn’t help Engel. But he caught a nine on the turn and picked up a flush draw, which suddenly made things interesting.
Then, distracter struck for Woo.
Wham! An ace rained down on the river, giving Engel two pair. Woo was punch drunk and staggered away from the final table with a disappointing seventh place finish, worth $13,174 – the equivalent of getting an all-you-can-eat coupon for free salad at an expensive steakhouse.
Tim Davey, a contractor from Morgan Hill, CA nailed down eighth place. He arrived with the lowest stack and was eliminated trying to semi-bluff with K-8 when the flop came with all low cards. But chip leader David Woo was slow playing pocket queens and made an easy call with his huge stack. Davey failed to connect on the turn and river and went out with $9,581 in prize money. Davey has previous cashes at both the WSOP in Las Vegas and WSOP Circuit at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.
The ninth-place finisher was John McNeilly, from Sonoma, CA. He moved all-in on what turned out to be his final hand holding pocket nines. Matt Keikoan woke up with pocket kings and reflex-called the large raise. McNeilly failed to improve and became the first official casualty of the final nine. McNeilly -- a sports coach, wine connoisseur, and part-time poker player -- received a payout totaling $6,737.
The tenth-place position ended up as the bubble finisher, which is the worst place to finish in any poker tournament. This is due to the fact the player spends the most time playing without actually collecting a payout. It was Steve Kujubu, from Sacramento, CA, who ended up with nothing but some extra tournament experience for a noble tenth place finish. Then, there were 54 others player who do not receive the notoriety of being mentioned, but shall be seen perhaps another time, at future final tables – both real and imagined.
With all 18 events now completed at this year’s WSOP Circuit at Harvey’s, the world most prestigious tournament series attracted a grand total of 2,664 entries and has awarded $1,109,768 in prize money. Last year’s similar WSOP Circuit at Lake Tahoe attracted 2,163 entrants, although there were fewer events. Still, the total number of tournament entries increased by 23 percent over last year’s series. Harvey’s Lake Tahoe is one of only two venues which hosted a WSOP Circuit event in all six seasons; the other being Harrah’s Atlantic City.
This was the third stop of the 2009-2010 WSOP Circuit season – following successful events already completed in Chicago and Southern Indiana. The next WSOP Circuit stop takes place at Harrah’s Atlantic City and runs December 4th through 20th. There will also be a WSOP Satellite series taking place at Harrah’s New Orleans next month, from December 8th through 20th.