Council Bluffs, IA—Steven Weixel, a mortgage lender who also likes to travel around to tournaments in various states (thanks to a ”very  understanding” wife), won the final ring event of the WSOP Circuit stop at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, $300 no-limit hold’em. The victory was worth $8,638 and a diamond-encrusted trophy ring.
This was an event with a whole series of draw-outs, and the final two hands were no exception. On the second hand heads-up, Weixel left his final opponent, Matthew Chang, with two chips when fifth street filled him, and on the next and last hand, Weixel paired a 7, both times outdrawing Chang.
Weixel is 42, from Rocky River, Ohio, and is strictly a tournament player.. He started playing in high school, in home games, then recreationally five years ago, and now travels to tournaments in Indiana,  Illinois, Vegas and New Jersey, as well as here, and is looking forward to stops at Ohio’s new casinos. His prior tournament payouts include two small WSOP cashes, a Circuit cash in Atlantic City, and another at the Borgata Winter Open. This was his biggest cash to date.
He describes himself as a solid player, but isn’t afraid to mix it up. “You have to take the worst of it sometimes, so you won’t be a sitting duck,” he said. He and his wife have five children, aged 4-12. “She’s the one doing the hard work,” he noted.
This event had 100 players and a $28,800 prize pool. The final nine started play on day two with blinds of 2,500-5,000 and 500 antes, and four minutes later went to 3,000-6,000. Leading with 235,000 chips was Clint Lilienthal.   

Here were the starting chip counts:

1. Matthew Chang        52,500
2. Clint Lilienthal         235,000
3. Steven Weixel        126,000
4. Vu Hoang            123,500
5. Jason Nokes,         72,500
6. Dustin Linblad        50,000
7. Marty Andrews        201,500
8. Scott Neuendorf        54,500
9. Tony Valiente        34,000

Ninth Place, $742: After three all-ins with no bust-outs, Marty Andrews became the first player to leave. He was all in with A-Q while Vu Hoang had pocket kings. The board came  7-8-5-J-J, and Andrews departed in ninth spot. Andrews, 45, is a restaurant owner from Abilene, Kansas who began playing 12 years ago. His hobby is ballroom dancing.
Eighth Place, $931: A brutal beat finished Tony Valiente. Short-chipped, he pushed in with pocket kings and got a call from Weixel in the big blind holding pocket 5s. Valiente looked safe when the flop came 2-10-9, but then a 5 turned to give Weixel a set, and a river 10 filled him. Valiente, 30, from Miami, sells marine luxury goods and is also a poker player. Nicknamed “Ace,” he’s played 12 years and has wins at the Bellagio and Venetian on his resume. Sports is his hobby.

Seventh Place, $1,188: A second bad beat in a row sent another player to the rail. This time it was Jason Nokes, after his aces were cracked. All Matthew Chang had was K-Q, but two kings flopped, and Nokes couldn’t catch his set. Nokes, 37, is a hair salon owner and software programmer from Gardner, Kansas. He’s played six years, learning online. He is also a songwriter and musician. He’s had three prior cashes at Vegas events.

With blinds now at 4,000-8,000, we saw another aces-cracked-bad-beat scenario, but this time it saved a player. Scott Neuendorf, in the small blind called a pocket aces bet with his last 50,000 chips holding pocket deuces -- and caught a miracle deuce on the river.

Sixth Place, $1,545: We got down to five in a 5,000-10,000 round. Dustin Linblad’s last chips were committed from the big blind with just a 10-3 to defend them. Chang had pocket 7s. With the board showing A-Q-5-2, Linblad was dead to a 10 or a 4 for an inside straight, but a river 6 left him in sixth place. Lindblad is a 21-year-old metals broker from Omaha who learned poker from his grandmother 16 years ago. His hobby is “counting money.”

Fifth Place, $9,742: A few hands later, Clint Lilienthal went all in from the button holding   . His opponent, Weixel, had Q-J, and when a board of 7-8-10-9 gave Weixel a straight, Lilienthal was drawing dead and left in fifth place. Lilienthal is an insurance agent from Lincoln, Nebraska, playing eight years, learning online. He has a prior Circuit final table, two Horseshoe Classic final tables, and an online cash for $39,000. Hobbies are golf and sports.

Fourth Place, $2,762: On the next hand, an all-in Scott Neuendorf, holding A-7, was well behind Chang’s suited A-10. The board came 8-6-2-10-5, and the fourth street 10 left Neuendorf drawing dead as he finished fourth. Neuendorf is a business owner from Buckingham, Iowa. He’s 38, has played five years, and his hobbies are watching the NFL and fishing. This is his poker highlight.

At this point, with a million chips in play, the three finalists weren’t that far apart, with all in the 300,000 range.

Third Place, $3,802: After losing a couple of pots, Hoang was down to a handful of chips and found himself all in from the small blind with Q-2. He was up against Chang, who had 8-4. Chang took the lead on a flop of J-8-7, and Hoang couldn’t overtake his paired 8 after a jack and nine hit. Hoang, 31, nicknamed “Vincide,”  owns a nail shop in Omaha and has played two years.

Second Place, $5,340: Heads-up, it was a close match, with Weixel holding about 530,000 chips to 470,000 for Chang. On the second hand, Chang raised to 30,000 from the button, Weixel came over the top for 100,000, and Chang moved in. The hands were turned up:    for Weixel, a pocket pair for Chang. The board came 4-5-9-9-5, giving Weixel 5s full, and leaving Chang with two 1,000-denomination  chips.

On the next and final hand, Chang once again had the better hand, Qs-5s to 9-s-4h, and once again Weixel beat him on the river, this time pairing his 7 when the board came       to end this final ring event. Chang, 32, is from Seoul, South Korea, now lives in Rockville, Maryland and works in security. Chang, who served four years in the Marine Corps, has been playing eight years and has six previous Circuit cashes, including one final table.