Ryan Eriquezzo Takes Opener at Harrah
If any city can rightfully claim to be the birthplace of poker, it is most certainly New Orleans.  Long before Las Vegas existed, French settlers colonized Louisiana and brought with them a game they called “poque,” the forbearer of the game as we know it today.  During the 1800s, poker became the craze on steamboats roaring up and down the mighty Mississippi River, with the major stopping point being New Orleans.
Fast forward nearly two hundred years later.  When the World Series of Poker Circuit was initially launched back in 2005, Harrah’s New Orleans became a natural tour stop.  Many events held that first year completely sold out.  In fact, poker was so popular here that New Orleans has since been one of only four stops on the tour which has hosted a WSOP Circuit during each of the first six seasons.
The final WSOP Circuit stop of the 2009-2010 season began today with the first tournament of 19 gold ring events to be played at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament  took place over two consecutive days during May 7th and 8th.  The tournament attracted 547 entries.  The top 55 finishers divided a prize pool totaling $154,014.  After most of the field was eliminated on the first day, final table play began on a Saturday afternoon.  There were no prior WSOP Circuit gold ring event winners among the final nine players, which guaranteed a first-time champion.
Ryan Eriquezzo arrived at the Final Table with a decisive chip advantage over the rest of the field.  Closest in chips was Danny Lee.  Everyone else was more than 2 to 1 behind the chip leader.  Eriquezzo and Lee ended up playing heads-up for the title. 
The final nine also included well-known poker pro Allen “Chainsaw,” Kessler, who was making a triumphant return to New Orleans for the first time since winning last year’s Winter Bayou Poker Challenge championship.
When Final Table play began at 8:00 pm on a festive Saturday night just steps away from Bourbon Street, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:





Chip Count


Morris “the Moose” Lewis

New Orleans, LA



Johnny “Chicago” Nowak

Fairview, TX



John “GM” Nguyen

Harvey, LA



Alex Olwine

Dayton, OH



Chad Tucker

Winfield, AL



Ryan Eriquezzo

Danbury, CT



Steven Brudi




Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler

Las Vegas, NV



Danny Lee

New York, NY


Final Table play lasted about five hours and ended at 1:10 am.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Nine for Alex Olwine
Alex Olwine, from Dayton, OH, arrived at the final table with a short stack.  He lasted only about 15 minutes before losing a race with AK against a pocket pair.  Olwine failed to catch either an ace or a king, which resulted in payout totaling $3,234.  This was his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.

Eighth Place:  Rude Finish for Brudi
Steven Brudi took a tough beat on his final hand when he was dealt pocket aces and moved all in.  He got a call, which turned out to be a bad thing when three clubs came, which made a flush.  That meant Brudi, making his first WSOP Circuit cash, collected $4,389 in prize money.

Seventh Place:  No Win for Nguyen
John “GM” Nguyen, from Harvey, LA, went out in disappointing fashion when his QQ lost to AQ.  Although Nguyen was a solid favorite from the start, the flop came KJT, which gave Nguyen’s opponent a straight.  Nguyen failed to improve.  The 23-year-old gamer and poker pro, who was playing in his first WSOP Circuit tournament ever, collected $5,544 in prize money.  Prior to taking up poker full-time, Nguyen traveled around the country, specializing in a popular video game called “Counter-Strike.”

Sixth Place:  “Chainsaw” Hacked
Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, coming off his championship victory in last year’s Winter Bayou Poker Challenge which was held here at Harrah’s New Orleans, was short-stacked throughout the later stages of the tournament.  He went out about two hours into the final table when he pushed all in with AJ, which got steamrolled by pocket aces.  Kessler, a longtime tournament player with 12 WSOP Circuit cashes, two WSOP final table appearances, and nearly $1.5 million in overall major tournament winnings the past five years, added another $7,085 to his poker bankroll.

Fifth Place:  “Johnny Chicago” Sings the Blues
Johnny “Chicago” Nowak ran low on chips and made his final stand with K8 suited.  He was involved in a coin-flip situation against pocket 6s, hoping to double up.  But a 6 fell on the turn, giving his opponent trips, which ended “Johnny Chicago’s” hopes of earning his first major tournament victory.  Nowak, who is originally from Chicago and now lives in Texas, pocketed $9,010 in prize money.

Fourth Place:  Chad Beat Bad
Chad Tucker took a brutal beat on his final hand.  The Alabama poker player moved it all in holding pocket aces, and got a call from this chip leader, with 87 suited.  The middle cards were both diamonds and the flop stunned all observers when three diamonds came.  Tucker failed to improve and had to settle for $11,012.  This marked his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.

Third Place:  The Moose is Loose
Morris “the Moose” Lewis was cut loose from the final table when he lost a big hand with AK.  He moved all in after the flop when he caught top pair (kings).  Danny Lee had J7 and two spades and made the call when two spades flopped, which gave him a flush draw.  A third spade (an ace) hit on the turn, which completed Lee’s flush, but which also gave Lewis two pair.  That was as far as Lewis went, as a blank fell on the river.  Morris “the Moose” Lewis, a landscaper from New Orleans enjoyed a nice payout totaling $13,477.

Second Place:  Lee Surrenders
Danny Lee, an amateur poker player from New York City, made an incredible run in this, his first WSOP tournament, by coming within just a few hands of the most improbable of victories.  Lee had a healthy stack size during most of the finale.
After a deal was made when three players remained, Lee and his final opponent agreed to a deal whereby Ryan Eriquezzo was declared the winner and Lee ended up taking second place.  Danny Lee’s official payout amounted to $21,948.
First Place:  Ryan Eriquezzo is the Champ!   
Poker pro Ryan Eriquezzo was declared the winner of Event #1.  He officially collected $34,656 and his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.  Eriquezzo has plans to play more WSOP Circuit events here in New Orleans, and perhaps win another gold ring.
Eriquezzo lives in Danbury, CT.  He is 25 years old.  Eriquezzo now has nearly $200,000 in career tournament winnings.  This was his eighth major cash in 2010.  It was his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.
An interview with Ryan Eriquezzo at tableside, moments after his win can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/user/wsopdotcom#p/a/u/1/sy1BbtitzDw
The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s New Orleans continues through May 19th.  This year’s schedule includes 19 gold ring events, along with multiple second-chance tournaments, single table and mega satellites, in addition to cash games going around the clock inside the Harrah’s New Orleans Poker Room.  This marks the sixth straight year Harrah’s New Orleans has been a part of the WSOP Circuit.  This is the 11th and final WSOP Circuit stop of the 2009-2010 season following previous tournaments held in Chicago, Southern Indiana, Lake Tahoe, Harrah’s Atlantic City, Tunica, Council Bluffs, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Rincon, Harrah’s St. Louis, and Caesars Palace Las Vegas.