TUNICA, MS – Scott Meena and his friends, brothers Daniel "Q" Rossi and Tommy "Tot" Rossi got their start playing high-stakes poker at a young age.

And for an 8-year-old growing up in 1960’s Pittsburgh, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

"It was about baseball cards man," said Meena. "We’d play five card draw deuces and threes wild for shoeboxes full – the action would get up to a hundred cards sometimes."

"The Roberto Clementes and Bill Mazeroskis were worth more cards and one Steelers card was worth five Chargers cards."

Fifty years later, the three friends are still enjoying their favorite pastime at home games and casinos. The trio came down to Tunica to play at the World Series of Poker Circuit Events. Meena entered the $550 dollar buy-in event no-limit hold’em Event #17, making it to the final table.

And for a 57-year-old self-employed carpenter living in present-day Pittsburgh, the stakes were pretty high -- $27,605 first place prize and a coveted World Series of Poker Circuit Event ring.

The Rossi brothers were on hand to root their childhood buddy on as he sat down to the final table with the chip lead.

Name

Hometown

Seat

Chip Count

Wayne Gatheright

Walls, MS

1

265,000

Mike Ashar

Vermilion, OH

2

255,000

Scott Meena

Clairton, PA

3

378,000

Ricky Daniel

Franklin, TN

4

273,000

Radwan "Doc" Khuri

Memphis, TN

5

348,000

Johnny Yancey

Marvell, AR

6

102,000

Eric Koffman

Bay City, MI

7

226,000

Ben Mintz

New Orleans, LA

8

230,000

CorrieWunstel

Baton Rouge, LA

9

232,000

Ninth Place

Final table play began shortly before 4:00 pm with blinds and antes at 5,000/10,000/2,000. Wayne Gatheright suffered a beat from Johnny Yancey who was all-in with pocket threes vs. Gatheright’s pocket 10’s. A river   completed the straight for Yancey for the double-up.

Down in chips, it was pocket tens that sent Gatheright to the rail. All-in pre flop with     against Mike Ashar’s pocket pair, the board came queen-high. Gatheright’s second final table of the 2009-2010 Tunica Circuit Events earned him $2,356.

Eighth Place

Corrie Wunstel was all-in with K-J against Scott Meena’s pocket queens. Queens held and Wunstel was escorted to the payout table to collect $2,778 for eighth.

Seventh Place

All-in from the small blind, Eric Koffman got a call from Scott Meena who limped-in from early position with pocket 10’s. Koffman’s pocket fours were all but beat after Meena spiked a 10 on the flop. No running fours on the turn or river meant the end of Koffman’s tournament. The 35-year old property manager from Bay City, MI collected $3,426 for seventh place.

Sixth Place

With blinds and antes at 8,000/16,000/3,000 Yancey got it all in from the small blind with     while Radwan Khuri called from the big with    . Yancey flopped top pair jacks but the turn came  . After a river five, Khuri doubled up, leaving Yancey with only 20,000.

Yancey was eliminated the next hand with     vs. Ben Mintz’s pocket nines. Yancey is a 49-year old farmer from Marvell, AR. He reaped $5,134 for his sixth place finish.

Fifth Place

Mintz made it 38,000 to go pre-flop and got calls from Meena and Rickey Daniel. After a       flop, Meena moved all-in. Daniel folded, leaving Mintz with a decision.

After tanking a few minutes, Mintz declared, "Either you need two outs or I need two outs," before making the call. Mintz was left looking for a single out after turning over pocket jacks to Meena’s    . No jack hit the turn or river and Mintz’s run was over.

Mintz’s fifth final table appearance earned him $6,842.

Fourth Place

Blinds moved up to 10,000/20,000 and after a bad run of cards, Mike Ashar was all-in with his remaining chips with    . Meena called with Q-J suited. The flop paired Meena’s queen and blanks hit the turn and river, eliminating Ashar in fourth.

Ashar is a 62-year old retired Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and now practices law in his hometown of Vermilion, OH. He also owns a stable of show horses and ponies. Ashar’s second 2009-2010 Harrah’s Tunica Circuit Event final table resulted in a $8,550 payday.

Third Place

Khuri was the third place finisher. "Doc" as he is known in poker circles, is a practicing psychiatrist from nearby Memphis, TN. In Event #4 of the Circuit Events here at Tunica, Khuri placed fifth out of 800. He pocketed $11,976 in his third career WSOP Circuit Event final table.

Second Place

Heads up play saw Meena with about a 4-1 chip lead over Daniel. Daniel picked up a few pots to narrow the margin to 3-1 after doubling up just before the dinner break.

After the players returned, Meena extended an offer that would have ended the match right then and there. Daniel initially refused, but after losing a few 25,000 brown chips, decided to take the deal.

Daniel officially earned $16,884 for second place while Meena took home the gold ring and an official $27,605 first place prize.

"I feel good," said Meena after the win. "That kid (Daniel) is a great player, I think he might be a better player than me and that I just got better rush of cards than he did."

Meena had two cashes at last year’s Circuit Event at Harrah’s New Orleans and is focusing on building a bankroll to support both his contracting business and his career on the felt.

He says that he takes his childhood experiences with him to the felt as an adult.

"It was meaningful back then when you’re eight or nine-years-old playing five card draw with deuces or threes wild for those cards."

Still to come are 2 more events and single-day non-ring $125, $230 and $340 buy-in events which begin at 4 pm and 7pm. The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Tunica runs through February 10th.