2010-2011 World Series of Poker Circuit
Horseshoe Council Bluffs
August 27-28
Ring Event # 8 (Event #23)
No-Limit Hold’em
Buy-In: $300+$45
Number of Entries: 276
Total Prize Money: $77,888

Council Bluffs, IA—Robert “Rob” Georato, 41, a former high school math teacher in Wisconsin, and now a semi-pro poker player from Naples, Florida, won the 8th ring event at the WSOP Circuit tour at Council Bluffs. $300 No Limit Hold’em. His victory earned him $18,694 and a diamond-encrusted gold ring and also vaulted him into the lead into the Casino Champion points race for a seat in a $1 million event in Las Vegas in May. With two previous cashes in ring events, a third and a 14th, he now has 90 points, just enough to slip past the prior leader, Jeffrey Epstein, who has 87.5. There is one more points event left, not counting the Main Event, where the winner gets an automatic seat.

Georato described his victory as a “roller coaster ride.” Two key hands for him came when players attempted bluffs while he was holding big hands, once when he had pocket kings, another time when he had flopped a set of cowboys. He was involved in a lot of all-in pots, but each time he had more chips and could not be busted. In general, though, with his big chip lead, players tried to avoid tangling with him. He said that once two unpredictable players were knocked out he could play straightforward poker.

Georato began playing poker with neighborhood gangs in his teens. He has a half dozen or so Circuit cashes. His biggest payday was $38,600 for finishing 195th at the WSOP Main Event in 2008. His hobby is traveling.

This event had 276 players with a $77,888 prize pool. When we got to the final table, blinds were 4,000-8,000 with 1,000 antes and 22:51 left at level 22. Well in front with 705,000 chips was Joel Marneau.

Here were the starting chip counts:

1. Kyle Jensen  375,000
2. Joel Merwick 101,000
3. Danny Walker 420,000
4. Kirk McKenzie 200,000
5. Joel Morneau 705,000
6. Jose Mendoza 281,000
7. Dale Hinson 169,00
8. Rob Georato 313,000
9. Nick Slavik  194,000

Ninth Place,1,715: There were two all-in survivals and after a break play resumed with blinds of 5,000-10,000 and 2,000 antes. First to leave was Danny Walker. After Kyle Jensen raised with pocket 10s, Walker came over the top all in with A-2. The board came 8-2-7-K-8, and Walker’s paired deuce wasn’t enough to save him. Walker is a 28-year-old gambler from Omaha playing seven years, making his second final table here. He has a first ($34,000), second ($19,000) and third ($8,000) in prior Circuit events, along with a $27,000 Bellagio win. His hobby is sports betting.

Eighth Place, $2,150: Kyle Jensen went out after blinds became 6,000-12,000. He pushed in for 140,000 with pocket 5s, losing when a flop of 2-2-8 gave a higher two pair to Rob Georato, who had called with    . Jensen, 24, is a graphic designer from Lincoln, Nebraska who’s been playing five years and has some cashes in Vegas and online.

Seventh Place, $2,735: Next out was Nick “Slav” Slavik, who was all in with Q-10. Jose Mendoza was way ahead with A-10, and was even more ahead when a board of 9-J-7-A paired his ace. Slavik was still alive to an open-end straight draw, but missed when a deuce rivered. Slavik 31, is a sales manager from Kansas City, Kansas who learned the game five years ago from his father-in-law.

Sixth Place, $3,535: With 8,000-16,000 limits, Dale Hinson found himself all in from the small blind with    , covered by Georato’s pocket treys. When a trey on the river gave Georato trips, Hinson was drawing dead. Hinson, “coached by Bad Hat Piel,” is 63, from Byhalia, Minnesota, where is self-employed in “horse stuff.” His best poker finish was an $8,035 win at the Gold Strike World Poker Open in Tunica this year.

Fifth Place, $4,638: The two chip leaders now went up against each other after binds went to 10,000-20,000. On the button, Joel Morneau moved in with pocket 7s and was covered by Georato, calling with pocket kings. A board of A-3-2-6-6 didn’t change anything, and Morneau went out sixth. Morneau, 40, is from Candia, New Hampshire working in customer service. He’s played six years and biggest cash by far was $168,564 for fourth in a WSOP $2,000 no-limit event last year.

Georato now had a massive lead, with about 1.8 million of the 2.76 million in play. The next level brought blinds of 12,000-24,000 and 4,000 antes.

Fourth Place, $6,184: Jose Mendoza was nearly finished when he moved in with A-8 and found himself up against Merwick’s pocket aces. The best he could do was pair his 8 when the board came 9-3-8-J-7, and he left in fourth place. Mendoza, 38, was born in Mexico and now lives in Omaha, where he is self-employed. He’s played four years, and his ambition is to someday be at a TV final table.

Third Place, $8,382: Blinds were now 15,000-30,000 with 4,000 antes. Merwick found himself short-chipped after losing with A-10 against McKenzie’s Q-9. Soon after he moved in with pocket deuces. McKenzie called, turned up pocket 10s, and after the board came J-A-6-3-7, he bowed out in third place. Merwick, 29, is a pro from Omaha playing seven years. He came in sixth in the six-handed event here earlier. His biggest cashes were $39,000 for finishing 189th in the 2005 WSOP Main Event, and $37,000 for sixth in a New Orleans Circuit championship. His hobbies are “Sports, sports, sports.”

Heads-up, Georato had a good lead with more than 2 million chips to 650,000 for McKenzie. After careful play, the level ended with McKenzie inching up to about 850,000. After blinds went to 20,000-40,000 with 5,000 antes. McKenzie was soon down to 120,000, but doubled through with A-4 against Georato’s K-9 suited after an ace flopped. He doubled up again, this time holding A-8 and flopping two pair to outrun Georato’s pocket 7s and move past the million-chip mark.

Second Place, $11,552: The final hand at this level was the final hand of the tournament. A flop of       was disastrous for McKenzie because he held     for top pair, while Georato, holding    , flopped top two. Georato bet out and McKenzie moved in. McKenzie also made two pair when a six turned, but it still wasn’t enough, and a river deuce ended the evening. McKenzie, 45, is a stockbroker from Omaha making his third Circuit cash, along with others at Venetian Deep Stack events. He’s played six years.