Nick Coukos Wins WSOP Circuit Gold Ring at Caesars Palace
Las Vegas, NV – Nick Coukos’ first love may be horse racing.  But following tonight’s latest World Series of Poker Circuit tournament, he is well on his way to becoming a poker aficionado. 
The 53-year-old executive who works at a Canadian racetrack just won his first Circuit gold ring ever, triumphing over 194 players at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  This was Coukos’ biggest tournament win yet, worth $15,037 in prize money.  But money was the last thing on Coukos’ mind as he cradled the coveted gold ring, symbolizing a great moment of personal pride.

“I don’t do this for a living, although I love playing poker,” Coukos said moments after his victory. 
“Back in Canada, I run a quarterhorse track.  I’ve also been in the thoroughbred industry for a long time.  So, winning something like this is really so special to me.  It’s special to my family.  My kids kept on texting me (tonight) to ‘bring back the ring,’ and I wanted to bring it back for the family.  It’s something no one can take away from me for as long as I live.”

Indeed, Coukos is a manager at Ajax Downs, a quarterhorse racetrack located near Toronto.  He lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  Coukos, the proud father of two boys, called one of his sons afterward.

“I called my son at home, and I said, ‘I got the ring, I’m bringing it home,” Coukos stated, beaming with delight.

This was the second gold ring event on this year’s WSOP Circuit schedule at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during April 15th and 16th.  The tournament attracted 195 entries. 
The top 18 finishers split up a prize pool containing $56,745.  After 186 players were eliminated on the first day, Final Table play began on a Friday afternoon.  There were no prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners among the final nine players, which guaranteed a first-time champion.  The composition of money winners was unusual for a field of this size, as representatives from five different nations cashed – including Canada, Brazil, Sweden, France, and the United States.

Mohammad Eshaghi arrived at the Final Table with a decisive chip advantage over the remaining players.  He enjoyed better than a 2 to 1 lead over his closest rivals, Eugene Liu and Nick Coukos.  The remaining players were down by 3 to 1 margins or more. 
During most of the finale, Anthony Ditomaso – who ended up finishing in second place -- sat with a low to average-sized stack.  He made a big move when play became three-handed and had the chip lead when play was heads-up.  But Nick Coukos won all the late decisive hands and earned the victory.

When Final Table play began at 2:15 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:




Chip Count


Nick Coukos

Richmond Hill, Canada



Eugene Liu

Atlanta, GA



Robbie Betancourt

Humble, TX



Kelvin “CK the Great” Goode

Farmington, CT



Anthony Ditomaso

San Diego, CA



Mohammad Eshaghi

Las Vegas, NV



Ronnie Rodriguez, Jr.

McAllen, TX



Craig Luedemann

Minneapolis, MN



Richard Yelland

Las Vegas, NV



Final Table play lasted for nearly eight hours and ended at 10:00 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Richard Yelland Cashes Again
Richard Yelland does not enter many poker tournaments, but when he does, he often cashes.  The 74-year-old retiree from Las Vegas has now finished in-the-money in four of the last five major tournaments he has played.  Yelland made it to the final table at an event held last month at Harrah’s Rincon (San Diego), and repeated that feat again here at Caesars Palace with a ninth-place showing in this tournament.  Yelland now has four cashes this year in WSOP Circuit events.  Ninth place paid $1,560.

Eighth Place:  Luedemann Takes Eighth
Craig Luedemann, from Minneapolis, MN ended up as the eighth-place finisher.  He had previously cashed in seven other tournaments, but this was his first in-the-money finish in a WSOP-related event.  Luedemann collected $1,844 in prize money.

Seventh Place:  “CK the Great” Makes Another Final Table  
“CK the Great,” a.k.a. Kelvin Goode from Farmington, CT, made his second final table in a month, finishing in seventh place here at Caesars Palace.  He took ninth-place in an event held at Harrah’s Rincon, as well as 12th place last week in the WSOP Circuit event held at Harrah’s St. Louis. 

Unfortunately, Goode has not been able to go deep at a final table yet, due to some brutal bad beats late in the tournament.  Nonetheless, Goode is having a very good year in tournament poker.  This marked his sixth time to cash at a major event in 2010.  Seventh place paid $2,270.

Sixth Place:  Early Chip Leader Eshaghi Ends Up Sixth   
Mohammad Eshaghi held onto his chip advantage for about three hours before losing a few big pots and exiting in sixth place.  After Eshaghi lost much of his stack with AQ against AA midway through the finale, he went out a few minutes later with mixed feelings about his finish.  Eshaghi, a Las Vegas taxi driver, received a payout worth $2,837.

Fifth Place:  Texan Takes Fifth
Robbie Betancourt, a poker pro from the Houston area finished in fifth place.  He was eliminated with A9 against AQ.  Betancourt flopped an ace, but was outkicked and lost the hand.  This marked his second final table appearance in a WSOP Circuit event.  Betancourt took eighth place two years ago in a Circuit tournament at Harrah’s New Orleans.  For this finish, he collected $3,547.

Fourth Place:  First WSOP Tournament Yields Fourth-Place Finish for Liu

Eugene Liu entered a WSOP Circuit event for the first time and defied expectations with an impressive fourth-place finish.  He had a decent-sized stack much of the way, but busted late with AT against QQ.  Liu, who lives in Atlanta, had previously played a few events in Las Vegas.  But this was his best tournament finish ever.  Liu received a nice payout totaling $4,550.

Third Place:  Rodriguez Finishes Third

Ronnie Rodriguez, Jr., a 26-year-old poker pro from McAllen, TX played well, but went out in third place when he lost a race with 33 against A8.  An 8 flopped, eliminating Rodriguez.  Nevertheless, he could certainly be proud of his accomplishment, which netted a payout worth $5,816.  This was Rodriguez’ second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  He took eighth place in a tournament held at Bally’s Las Vegas during the WSOP Circuit first season back in 2005.  Rodriguez also noted that his father passed away recently, but encouraged his son to pursue his dream as an aspiring poker pro.

Second Place:  Ditomaso Agrees to Second Place

When heads-up play began, Anthony Ditomaso held onto a slight chip lead, with about 850,000 in chips against Nick Coukos with about 600,000.  But Coukos could do no wrong in the final matchup, which ended about 20 minutes after the duel began.  Coukos won every key pot and agreed to a deal with his final adversary.  Both players agreed Coukos would be credited with the victory.  At the time the deal was made, Coukos enjoyed a huge chip lead, holding about a 12 to 1 margin over Ditomaso.  There was no official final hand and Coukos was declared the winner.

The runner up was Ditomaso, a semi-pro poker player from San Diego, CA.  In some way, he was the biggest winner overall, since he began Day Two with the second-lowest stack.  Ditomaso outlasted all but one player en route to a very nice payday.  This was his third time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  He finished 12th in an event held last month at Harrah’s Rincon.  Ditomaso also cashed in last year’s WSOP in Las Vegas.  His official payout amounted to $9,079.

First Place:  Coukos Wins Victory Down the Homestretch  

Nick Coukos was declared the winner following a tough final table which lasted more than eight hours.  He later described the experience as the toughest final table he had ever played.  

“The last five players at the final table were all fantastic players,” he said.  “(They were the) best players I have ever played against at a final table….”  

Coukos absolutely dominated play late and reached a deal resulting in an official payout totaling $15,037.  This was Couko’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related event and marked his first gold ring victory.

An interview with Nick Coukos at tableside, just moments after his win can be seen here: