Jerry Flannigan, We Salute You!
[Las Vegas, NV – Jerry Flannigan is a poker player just about everyone roots for.  Nice guy.  Good family man.  Great husband.  Devoted father.  Served his country in the military for nearly a quarter century.  Now retired.  Loves to play poker, and paid his dues playing in numerous tournaments in recent years.  Indeed, whether he holds good card or not, Jerry Flannigan is a winner.

Sometimes, good things happen to good people.  That is certainly the case in the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit event held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  Flannigan, a retired U.S. Army colonel won first place and $16,372 in prize money.  This was Flannigan’s first WSOP-related victory.  Afterward, he was presented with the coveted gold ring, the ultimate achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit event.

Flannigan, who now lives in Concord, NC has been traveling around the country the last few years playing poker.  He cashed in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em event last year in Las Vegas.  He was cheered on to victory in this tournament by his wife, Vivian, who sat near tableside for seven hours.  The Flannigans, who were high school sweethearts, have been married for 47 years.

The victory was as unforeseeable as it was stunning, particularly to those who watched the battle over two long days.  When play was down to about 30 players, Flannigan had only enough chips to post a round of blinds at one point.  He not only survived the all-in, he won four hands in a row and then made it into the money.  Hundreds of poker hands and 24 hours later, he overcame a 6 to 1 chip disadvantage in heads-up play and became the newest poker champion.

The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played on April 21st and 22nd.  The tournament attracted 232 players, which created a prize pool totaling $67,512.  The top 27 players collected prize money.  After 222 players were eliminated on Day One, the final table was held on Day Two.  
There was only one prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winner among the final nine players – Dante “the Inferno” Magtoto.  Phil Delaney arrived at the Final Table as chip leader.  Closest in chips when play began were Lirom Keden, Keith Hawkins, and Jeff Sluzinski, who were all within striking distance.  The remaining players were down by 2 to 1 or more.  During most of the six-hour finale, Jerry Flannigan was an average-sized stack.  But he made a big move when play went to heads-up and ended up with the victory.

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




Chip Count


Keith Hawkins

Middletonyas, UK



Jerry Flannigan

Charlotte, NC



Sean Westra

Laguna Beach, CA



Lirom Keden

Sunnyvale, CA



Jeff Sluzinski

Las Vegas, NV



Jack P. Biernacki

Franklin Park, IL



Mike “Juke” Jurich

Lynchburg, VA



Phil Delaney

Dearborn Heights, MI



Dante “the Inferno” Magtoto

Alexandria, VA



Final table play began at 2:00 pm and ended at 8:15 pm.  Players were “stung” in the following order:

Ninth Place:  An Englishman in Las Vegas
Keith Hawkins, who is visiting Las Vegas from England, was the first player to be eliminated when his AJ was crushed by a set of 8s.  Hawkins, who played in last year’s WSOP Europe Main Event and finished 11th and has won various poker championships in Europe, collected $1,688 in prize money.    

Eighth Place:  Mike “Juke” Jurich Becomes the Demolition Man
Mike “Juke” Jurich was the victim of one of the most astounding calls of the WSOP Circuit season.  Jurich and Dante Magtoto went to battle when the final board of the memorable hand showed      

With about 200,000 in the pot and a straight and flush both possible, Magtoto made a small river bet.  Jurich paused for a moment and then announced “all in.”  Faced with calling another 200,000 in chips, Magtoto went into the tank for five minutes, contemplating the call. 

Finally, the clock was called and Magtoto announced, “I call.”  Jurich showed   , which was essentially a stone-cold bluff. 

Incredibly, Magtoto turned up    for a pair of tens.  Several players gasped, and Magtoto raked in the biggest pot of the tournament up to that point, which catapulted him into the chip lead. 

Essentially, Jurich made a very good play with the   (representing the nut flush), but Magtoto made a jaw-dropping read and call, which made this hand one of the most memorable of the entire Circuit season.  And so, “Juke,” a poker pro from Lynchburg, VA, ended up with eighth place, an amazing story, and $2,194 in prize money.

Seventh Place:   Lirom Keden Dances Alone
Lirom Keden, who is originally from Jerusalem, Israel and now lives in Sunnyvale, CA took a bad beat on his final hand and went out in seventh place.  Keden flopped a pair of 8's, but lost when his opponent rivered a straight.  Keden received $2,700.

Sixth Place:  No Synchronicity for Jack Biernacki
Jack Biernacki, who works in export cargo sales at O’Hare Airport and lives in Franklin Park, IL, got pounded holding pocket kings on his final hand.  He moved all in and was called by two players – one with AK and another with pocket A's.  The pocket rockets held up, which shipped Biernacki off the final table.  Biernacki, who has several tournament cashes, including in-the-money finishes on the Heartland Poker Tour and other tournaments in the Midwest, collected $3,376 in prize money.

Fifth Place:  Dante, We Can’t Stand Losing You

Dante “The Inferno” Magtoto went out two hours after being the chip leader.  He was eliminated holding pocket Qs against Phil Delaney’s pocket Ks.  A king came which essentially eliminated Magtoto.  The IT consultant from Alexandria, VA previously won a WSOP Circuit gold ring at Harrah’s Atlantic City.  Fifth place paid $4,220.

Fourth Place:  Every Little Thing Westra Does Isn’t Magic
Sean Westra, from Laguna Beach, CA lasted nearly six hours before finally getting crushed on his final hand.  Westra was dealt AJ and moved all in after flopping two pair.  But chip leader Phil Delaney held pocket 7s and flopped a set.  Another 7 on the river gave Delaney quads, which raked in a huge pot.  Meanwhile, Westra had to settle for $5,232 in prize money.

Third Place:  Jeff Sluzinski Brings on the Night
Jeff Sluzinski, a sales manager-turned poker pro from Las Vegas, ran good for several hours but finally went card dead late in the tournament.  He tried to steal a round of blinds and antes with 87 on what turned out to be his final hand.  Phil Delaney called and tabled Q8, which dominated Sluzinski’s cards.  When a Q fell, Sluzinksi was knocked out and forced to accept a $6,414 consolation prize.  This was his third time to cash at Caesars Palace, after finishing in-the-money twice at last year’s Circuit series.

Second Place:   Phil Delaney Becomes the King of Pain
This tournament appeared to be Phil Delaney’s from start to finish.  He absolutely dominated play for most of the later rounds.  Delaney held a 6 to 1 chip lead when heads-up play began.  Indeed, many observers figured this was Delaney’s night, and his older rival would end up in second place.  

However, if poker is an unpredictable game, poker tournaments are a virtual whirlwind.  Fortunes and emotions reverse themselves with the turn of a single card.  Delaney found this out the hard way when he lost a succession of hands which ultimately resulted in a disappointing – and some would say shocking – end result.  Momentum seemed to shift when Jerry Flannigan caught river-river flush (actually making a higher flush) on one key hand, which led to Delaney’s downfall.  A few minutes later, it was doom for Delaney.

The last hand came when Jerry Flannigan was dealt   .  Phil Delaney was dealt   .  Delaney moved all in and Flannigan called.  The final board showed      , which meant the pocket 9s took down the last pot of the night.

Two key hands in the heads-up confrontation can be seen here:

Phil Delaney is a 27-year-old pro poker player from Dearborn Heights, MI.  He won a Heartland Poker Tour championship last year.  He also final tabled an event at this year’s Chicago Poker Classic held at Horseshoe Hammond.  Delaney was gunning for his first WSOP Circuit victory, but finished with the mix blessing of runner up.  He collected $10,127.

First Place:  Fields of Gold for Jerry Flannigan
Jerry Flannigan took first place and his first WSOP gold ring after playing in several poker tournaments over the past two years.  He received $16,372.  But far more meaningful to Flannigan was the victory and the opportunity to share the special moment with his wife.

A fun interview with Jerry Flannigan (with his wife Vivian) at tableside moments after the win can be seen here: