Long Wait Finally Over for Everett Carlton
Las Vegas, NV – If anyone has “paid his dues” in tournament poker, it’s Everett Carlton.  The 55-year-old owner of an insurance agency who once gambled for high-stakes on the golf course finally won his first major tournament victory tonight at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  Carlton has been playing in poker tournaments for the past five years.  But until now, he had never won a major, despite coming close many times with 30 in-the-money finishes and several final table appearances.

Carlton was visibly thrilled with his victory, which came after many years of struggle and disappointment.  He topped a tough field of 166 players in the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit event and collected $21,336 for first place.  But far more meaningful than the money for Carlton was the WSOP gold ring he won, symbolizing a well-deserved and long-overdue personal triumph.

“I’ve been out there grinding for years,” Carlton said following his victory.  “I came here to Caesars hoping to finally break through and win.  I can’t express how happy I am.”

Carlton lives in St. Paul, MN, but travels frequently to major poker tournaments throughout the United States.  Prior to playing poker much of the time, he gambled for big money on the golf course.  However in 2003, Carlton was diagnosed with skin cancer, the result of spending many hours in the sun out on golf courses. 

He managed to beat cancer, but also realized he had to make some life changes.  To satisfy his love of action and high-stakes gambling, Carlton decided to refocus his energy on a safer game played indoors – poker -- rather than golf.

If chasing a little white ball around a course was a challenge, achieving success in tournament poker was in many ways ever more difficult for Carlton.  Despite a fierce desire to compete and win, and his obvious talent and discipline to succeed, Carlton entered numerous tournaments held throughout the country, but never managed to win – up until now.     

“Tournament poker is tough.  You almost have to be a masochist to play this game,” Carlton confided.  “I mean, this is my first big win and I have been playing five years.  So that means every other tournament I go out disappointed.  It’s crazy, and it’s brutal.  But you just have to keep believing in yourself and keep going.  But this (gold ring) is big.”

Even more remarkable for Carlton was his ability to come back in this tournament and win, after seemingly being down and out at one point, destined for a third-place finish. 

In fact, when play was at three-handed, Carlton admittedly made a wrong decision, and lost most of his stack.  He was down to just a few rounds of blinds – with about 35,000 in chips out of 1,700,000 total chips in play.  Then, mustering whatever energy and desire he lacked in previous tournaments, Carlton managed to win the next three big hands, doubled up several times, and drew back to even with his two adversaries.  Later, Carlton overcame a 3 to 1 margin in heads-up play to seize the victory.  Hence, in many ways this win was doubly satisfying.

This was the third gold ring event (out of 14 total) on this year’s WSOP Circuit schedule at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  The $500 (+50) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during April 16th and 17th.  The tournament attracted 166 entries.  The top 18 finishers divided a prize pool totaling $80,510.  After 156 players were eliminated on the first day, final table play began on a Saturday afternoon.  There were no prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners among the final nine players, which guaranteed a first-time champion.

Carlton arrived at the Final Table with a slight chip advantage over Tommy Tran and Matthew Maley.  But the wide distribution of chips and low blinds and antes meant everyone was within striking distance of the chip lead.

When Final Table play began at 2:00 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:




Chip Count


Blake Dennison

New Smyrna Beach, FL



Cesar Flores

McAllen, TX



Mike Putaansuu

Mission, TX



Matthew Maley

Phoenix, AZ



Everett Carlton

St. Paul, MN



Russell Rimer

Edmonton, Alberta



Tommy Tran

Las Vegas, NV



Mike Ashar

Vermillion, OH



Mark Byczkiw

Hamilton, Ontario


Final Table play lasted less than four hours and ended at 6:00 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Mike Ashar Goes Out Ninth

Mike Ashar, a 62-year-old attorney from Vermillion, OH, went out quickly and ended up with $2,214 in prize money.  This marked his sixth time to cash this year on the WSOP Circuit.  It was also his third final table appearance, following second- and fourth-place finishes at Harrah’s Tunica in January.  Ashar is a retired colonel in the Army Reserves.  He also owns a stable of show horses.

Eighth Place:  Mark Byczkiw Finishes Eighth

Mark Byczkiw, an English-born business owner now living in Hamilton, Ontario (Canada), was the eighth-place finisher.  This marked his first time to cash in a WSOP Circuit tournament.  His share of the prize pool amounted to $2,617.

Seventh Place:  Russell Rimer Takes Seventh  
Russell Rimer missed his airline flight back to Canada in order to play at this final table.  He had originally planned to return home to Edmonton, Alberta but those plans were pleasantly interrupted by a final table commitment.  Unfortunately, Rimer lasted only about an hour but revealed to everyone that he had a great time and was pleased to collect $3,220 in prize money.  He started playing poker only about two years ago, and this was his first time to cash in a major poker tournament.

Sixth Place:  Blake Dennison is Sixth  

Blake Dennison, from New Smyrna Beach, FL, cashed for the third consecutive year in a WSOP Circuit tournament at Caesars Palace.  Following a 16th-place finish in 2008, and a 6th-place finish in 2009, Dennison again took sixth place.  This time, he earned $4,026 for a fine effort.

Fifth Place:  Mike Putaansuu Ends Up Fifth  
Mike Putaansuu, a 60-year-old retiree originally from Massachusetts, but now living in Mission, TX, was the fifth-place finisher.  He is a retired major who served proudly in the U.S. Air Force.  Putaansuu received a payout totaling $5,032.

Fourth Place:  Tommy Tran Finishes Fourth

Tommy Tran, a 34-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, busted out in fourth place.  He has several previous tournament accomplishments, including wins at the Wynn Poker Classic and a preliminary event in the North American Poker Tour tournament at the Venetian.  In fact, this was his 28th time to cash in a live tournament, all of which have taken place within the past four years.  Tran, who has accumulated nearly $300,000 in career earnings, added $6,441 to his poker bankroll.

Third Place:  Matthew Maley Takes Third Place
Matthew Maley wanted to win, perhaps more than any other player.  Immediately following his elimination, which took place when he lost with top pair (aces) to a set of fives, Maley stood up and shouted, “I wanted the ring, man!  I didn’t care about the money.  All I wanted was the ring!” 

It was not meant to be.  Maley, a part-time poker player from Phoenix, AZ who works for Wells Fargo, collected $8,252 in prize money.  An interesting side note about Maley:  He was home schooled and graduated from Arizona State University at the age of 18.

Second Place:  Cesar Flores is Runner Up  
When heads-up play began, Cesar Flores enjoyed slightly more than a 3 to 1 chip lead over Everett Carlton.  About ten minutes into the duel, Carlton won a big hand and doubled up with AJ versus AT.  The hand put the two finalists close to even in chips.  Flores and Carlton battled back and forth for over an hour, during which Carlton took command and gradually wore down his opponent with more aggressive play.  Flores remarked that he went card dead late and simply could not call Carlton’s bets and raises, since he held bad cards.

Flores finally decided he’d had enough and decided to make his final stand when he was down by about a 3 to 1 margin.  Flores was dealt Kh Jh.  He raised all-in before the flop.  Carlton called and tabled Ac 7c.  Neither player caught a pair, which meant Carlton’s ace-high played after the final board showed:  8d 5d 2c 2d Th

The final hand of the tournament can be seen here:  http://www.twitvid.com/PUEPW

The runner up was Cesar Flores, a 41-year-old teacher from McAllen, TX.  Flores, who was born in Mexico, hopes to become a full-time professional poker player someday.  He has previously cashed in three WSOP events in Las Vegas.  This was his best major tournament finish, to date.  Flores earned $12,882 in prize money for his outstanding effort.  Note:  Flores was the second player from McAllen (Texas) in consecutive days to finish in the top three.  His friend Ronnie Rodriguez, Jr. (also from McAllen) finished in third place the previous day.

First Place:  Everett Carlton Wins First Major!   
Longtime poker tournament touring pro Everett Carlton finally reached a personal milestone with his first major championship victory.  Carlton, who owns an insurance agency in his hometown of St. Paul, MN won $21,336 and his first gold ring at the most recent WSOP Circuit tournament held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  Carlton says his next goal is to win a WSOP gold bracelet.  But he also has plans to play more WSOP Circuit events, and perhaps win another gold ring.

An interview with Everett Carlton at tableside, moments after his win can be seen here:  http://www.twitvid.com/9DEZE