ST. LOUIS, MO. – Jeff Roper, a corporate attorney from St. Louis, cemented himself in history late Thursday as the first-ever WSOP Circuit Main Event champion at Harrah’s St. Louis. Roper was the chip leader heading into the final table of the $5,000 (+190) buy-in, No-Limit Hold’em tournament.

The Championship Event drew a field of 129 players, generating a total prize pool of $625,650.

The concluding event of Harrah’s St. Louis’ inaugural WSOP Circuit series attracted a list of notable players, including 2008 WSOP Main Event third place finisher, Dennis Phillips, 2008 WSOP bracelet winners, brothers Blair and Grant Hinkle, 2006 WSOP Main Event runner- up and reigning Harrah’s Tunica champion, Paul Wasicka, WPT Foxwoods World Poker Finals runner-up, Soheil Shamseddin, 2009 Bayou Classic Champion, Allen Kessler and multi-platinum recording artist Nelly.

Other notable participants included “Captain” Tom Franklin, poker pro Jason Potter, 2008 EPT Copenhagen Champion Tim Vance and poker pro and co-host of ESPN’s Inside Deal, Bernard Lee. Lee made a deep run in the event and barely missed making the final table, finishing in 11th place, worth $14,077.

Heading into the final table, Roper’s following of friends and family made their presence among the sizable crowd that gathered to watch history unfold Thursday afternoon. Also on hand to cheer the St. Louis attorney on were regulars at the $25-$50 Pot Limit Omaha game here at Harrah’s St. Louis with whom Roper plays with. Their motivations were more self-serving however, as they openly expressed their desire for Roper to bring some of his winnings to the poker room just a few feet away.
 
Chip counts were as follows heading into the final table:

Seat 1   Matt Schwarmann, Orlando, FL   409,000
Seat 2   Joel Casper, Chicago, IL              193,000
Seat 3   Gregory Headrick, St. Louis, MO 111,000
Seat 4   Gary Bolden, St. Louis, MO         66,500
Seat 5   Jeff Roper, St. Louis, MO            592,200
Seat 6   Jordan Portell, St. Louis, MO      116,000
Seat 7   Gary Lambert, Quincy, IL            188,500
Seat 8   Michael Sortino, Omaha, NE        70,000
Seat 9   Jason Mo, St. Louis, MO            184,000
 
Final table introductions began at 2:00 pm after which cards were in the air with blinds and antes at 2,500/5,000/500. The first elimination of the day happened on the very first hand when Michael Sortino was all-in with    . Lambert made the call with a dominating    .
 
His tournament on the line, Sortino fell even farther behind after a flop of      .  A   on the turn left Sortino drawing dead before a   hit the river. Sortino is a 50-year-old retiree from Omaha, NE. Earlier this year, he made the final table of the WSOP Circuit Championship Event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. Sortino’s second main event final table of 2010 earned him $16,017.

Coming off of a $60,000 second place cash finish during the Wynn Classic, Gary Bolden was looking to build on his recent success at Harrah’s St. Louis. The short stack of the final table, Bolden hoped to chip up quick after moving all-in from late position with pocket deuces.

Unfortunately for the tournament pro from St. Louis, Roper was sitting on pocket queens and quickly made the call. The       flop was no help to either player. The   showed on the turn before the   hit the river to send Bolden to rail in eighth. He took home $18,957 for his three-day effort.

Matt Schwarmann took a hit to his stack after doubling Joel Casper, increasing Roper’s dominance as the overall chip leader with about a 2-1 advantage over his nearest opponent, Gary Lambert.

Blinds were now at 3,000/6,000/1,000. Gregory Headrick chipped up some after moving his stack all-in to take a number of pots. Back up to about 60,000, Headrick was all-in with pocket tens and was called by Lambert, who showed    . The flop was harmless enough -      . After a   on the turn, however, it looked like Headrick would be back in business, but a   abruptly ended Headrick’s ascent.

Headrick is a St. Louis poker pro. His seventh place finish at the Championship Event capped a phenomenal run at the WSOP Circuit Event at St. Louis. This was Headrick’s third final table of the series. He finished 4th out of 675 players in Event #1 and 3rd in Event #10, the $1,590 NLH buy-in event. Final table #3 earned Headrick $23,337.

After being dealt pocket aces, one could imagine Casper’s delight after Roper made it 100,000 to go pre-flop. Casper quickly moved all-in and Roper made the call, turning over pocket jacks. The flop was a benign      .

The turn however, was another story -  . The   on the river left Casper reeling as he exited the tournament area.

Casper is a 30-year-old poker pro from Chicago, IL. His previous poker accomplishments include the 2006 Heartland Poker Tour Championship and first at the WSOPC Pot Limit Omaha event at Horseshoe Hammond in 2008. Sixth place paid $35,036.

Jordan Portell had top pair aces with a nine-high kicker after a flop of       and was all-in against Lambert, who tabled     for the flopped flush. Portell was left looking for running cards to complete a boat to stay alive. Unfortunately, Portell’s ship never came after blanks on the turn and river, eliminating him in fifth place.

Portell is a 33-year-old physical education teacher from St. Louis, MO. He says that he earned his seat to the WSOP Circuit Main Event at Harrah’s St. Louis through a local makeshift poker series league. Whatever the name of this organiztion, it now has a strong ambassador by the name of Jordan Portell, who takes home $46,673

With blinds now at 4,000/8,000/1,000, Matt Schwarmann was the short stack with four players remaining:

All-in for 140,000, Schwarmann found himself out-kicked with     vs. Mo, who called with    . The two saw a flop of      .

Schwarmann was looking for a six or for the board to at least double pair after a second jack hit the turn, but the river came   to end his run.

Schwarmann cashed in the 2009 WSOP Main Event and finished second in an event at the Venetian Deep Stack earlier this month. The 23-year-old former student from Orlando, FL earned $58,373 for his fourth place finish.

With blinds and antes at 4,000/8,000/1,000, Roper had a massive chip lead over his remaining two opponents:

Roper – 1,040,000
Lambert – 294,000
Mo – 607,000

Lambert was the aggressor for much of the day. He would take pots from his opponents without showing hands and when he did, he often had the nuts. Down to three, Lambert got involved in one of those hands where he did not intend to show his cards. Heads up vs. Roper, Lambert fired out 100k on a flop of       with     in the hole.

Roper smooth called and the two saw the turn come  . Lambert moved all-in, hoping to move Roper off the hand but the timing was horrible.

Roper snap-called, tabling     for the flush. Drawing dead, Lambert shook his opponent’s hand and headed to the payout table as a 10 hit the river.

Lambert is a 44-year-old chiropractor from Quincy, IL. He is a former member of the USA National Ruby Team and once played in the World Cup. In addition to chiropractics, Dr. Lambert has patented various hunting products which he sells online. Lambert’s third place finished earned him $81,710.

Heads up play began at 6:47 pm and lasted two hours. Roper had more than a 2-1 chip lead over Mo when play resumed. After an hour, the two players took a 45-minute dinner break. After play resumed, Mo crept up in chips against Roper and at one point, had taken the chip lead, but after a hand where Mo had top pair aces to Roper’s two pair, aces and sixes, Mo was nearly back to square one.

In the final hand of the night, Mo made it 67,000 to go pre-flop with     before Roper re-raised to 175,000. Mo moved all-in and Roper called instantly.

The crowed erupted as Roper slammed pocket aces onto the felt. The final board of the series played out           to give Roper the win, worth $170,814, a $10,000 seat to the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event and the coveted diamond-encrusted WSOP Circuit gold ring.  Jason Mo, a 23-year-old online pro from St. Louis, took home $122,502 for an impressive second place showing.

“This means a lot to me, being the first ever Main Event champion here at Harrah’s St. Louis,” said Roper who will now look to follow fellow November Niner Dennis Phillips in the 2010 WSOP Main Event at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

“This tournament was the biggest ever in the state of Missouri and there are a lot of great players here in St. Louis.”

“I’m busy with work, but I play about two or three circuits a year, and am looking forward to coming out to the WSOP this summer for two or three weeks and see what happens.”

This concludes the 12-event WSOP Circuit Series at Harrah’s St. Louis. An overall success, the two-week long tournament attracted a total of 3,217 players, generating $1,958,527 in total prize money.