New Orleans, LA – Another rocking turnout showed up for the fifth event held at this year’s Bayou Poker Challenge, now taking place at Harrah’s New Orleans. 
 
Despite a Monday start, traditionally a slower day for most poker tournaments, 335 players packed their way into the tournament arena to compete for a World Series of Poker gold ring. 
 
This was the third event out of five which has surpassed the 300-player mark.  In fact, attendance at this year’s Bayou Poker Challenge is up 16 percent over last year’s numbers (through Event #5, 1,389 players have entered versus 1,197 at the same time last year).

A short video of the Harrah’s New Orleans poker room and tournament arena can be seen here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCidaQkmCrM
 
This was the fifth gold ring event (out of 19 events) on this year’s WSOP Circuit schedule at Harrah’s.  The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during May 10th and 11th.  The top 36 finishers divided a prize pool totaling $92,335.  Among those who cashed were two brothers, Rogelio Salinas and Homero Salinas, who finished 19th and 20th, respectively.

After 315 players were eliminated on the first day, final table play began on a Tuesday afternoon. 

There were two former WSOP Circuit gold ring winners amongst the final nine.  Jonathan Westra, a two-time winner, was gunning for his third victory.  Nancy “Trouble” Birnbaum, a former gold ring winner, was seeking her second win.  Both players were serious threats, but failed to add another victory to their tournament resumes.  Another player of note who made it to the final nine was Thai K. Tran, who finished 51st in last year’s WSOP Main Event, held in Las Vegas.

Gary Sixkiller arrived at the Final Table with a slight chip advantage over two looming challengers – Toan Trinh and Dean Simmons.  But the wide distribution of chips and low blinds and antes meant almost all the players had plenty of time to make their move.  In the end, it was a shorter stacks belonging to Michael Scott who surprised everyone and earned a comeback victory.  

When Final Table play began at 4:00 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows: 
 
 

Seat

Player

Hometown

Chip Count

1

Toan Trinh

St. Petersburg, FL

546,000

2

Thai K. Tran

Houston, TX

130,000

3

Keechi Settlemyre

Missouri City, TX

121,000

4

Gary Sixkiller

Wylie, TX

600,000

5

Nathan “N85K85” Jessen

Blair, NE

55,000

6

Michael Scott

Tampa, FL

158,000

7

Jonathan Westra

Gainesville, FL

405,000

8

Nancy “Trouble” Birnbaum

Atlanta, GA

447,000

9

Dean Simmons

Atlanta, GA

551,000

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Final Table play lasted about six hours and ended at 10:00 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Student Expelled
Nathan “N85k85” Jessen, a 22-year-old college student, arrived at the final table as the shortest stack.  He was not able to double up and made a quick exit from the finale.  Jessen, who came in fifth place earlier this year at a WSOP Circuit held at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, was the ninth-place finisher here, which paid $2,077.  This is his first year to play in live tournaments.

Eighth Place:  Tran Trips
Thai Tran was also low on chips.  He was dealt pocket jacks on what turned out to be his final hand.  He picked a bad time to catch a big pair.  His opponent called the all-in raise and tabled pocket aces.  The bullets held up, piercing Tran’s shot at victory.  The Vietnamese-born poker pro who now lives in Houston previously cashed in two events at the WSOP in Las Vegas, including an impressive 51st-place finish in last year’s Main Event.  Eighth place paid $2,770.

Seventh Place:  Settlemyre Settles for Seventh  
John “Keechi” Settlemyre, a retiree from Missouri City, TX hung on for a while, but ended up busting out when his A8 predictably lost to AQ.  This was his second time to make it to a WSOP Circuit final table at Harrah’s New Orleans.  He finished fourth in a tournament last year.  This time, Settlemyre finished seventh, which paid $3,462.

Sixth Place:  No Third Gold Ring for Westra
Jonathan Westra’s bid for a third WSOP Circuit gold ring came up short when he moved all in with AT, which missed a flush draw against AK.  The poker pro from Gainesville has quite a record in WSOP Circuit events, especially for someone just 24 years old.  Westra won gold rings here in New Orleans and Tunica, both in 2008.  This marked his tenth time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event, and was his fifth final table appearance.  Sixth place paid $4,385.

Fifth Place:  Dean Simmons Takes the Fifth
Dean Simmons (a.k.a. Michael Simmons), from Atlanta , GA ended up as the fifth-place finisher when his pocket jacks lost to Michael Scott’s AK when an ace flopped.  The hand was a major boost to Scott, who approached the chip lead after the big hand.  Meanwhile, Simmons had accept a consolation prize worth $5,540 for finishing fifth.  This was his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.

Fourth Place:  Toan Gone
Toan Trinh, from St. Petersburg, FL could only go so deep as the early chip leader.  He lost his momentum during the later stages of the tournament and moved all in on his final hand, in what was a semi-steal attempt with KQ.  Trinh didn’t want any callers with his pre-flop raise, and ended up getting hammered by pocket aces.  Trinh, who cashed for $100,000 in a poker tournament called the “Florida Million,” added another $6,925 to his poker bankroll.

Third Place:  Sixkiller Outlasts Six, Can’t Overcome Last Two
Gary Sixkiller (yes, that’s his real name) could have become a minor Moneymaker figure had he won this event, but instead went out in third place.  The 59-year-old retiree who was the 1974 Foosball National Champion (that’s Foosball, folks – with an S) played his final pot of the night holding A3, which was chopped off by K9, which ended up making trip nines.  Sixkiller – who helped to kill off the first six players at the final table – finished in the position true to his name.  His payout amounted to $8,540.

Second Place:  Birnbaum Nearly Wins Second Gold Ring – Takes Second Place Instead
Nancy “Trouble” Birnbaum, a BMW salesperson from Decatur, GA hoped to become the first female in WSOP Circuit history to win two gold rings in open events.  She came close.  Birnbaum was heads up against Michael Scott and nearly made history.  On the final hand, both players made a pair of jacks.  Birnbuam was dealt Js-7c.  Scott was dealt Jc Tc.  After both players flopped a pair of jacks, Birnbaum was all in.  The final board showed Ks Jh 9c 2s 5c.  Scott’s ten outkicked Brinbuam’s seven – giving him the victory.

Brinbaum won $51,000 and her first gold ring nearly a year to the day in this tournament last year.  She also finished 22nd in the WSOP Ladies World Championship in Las Vegas three years ago.  Her $13,619 for second place in this tournament now gives her nearly $100,000 in career tournament winnings.  The native New Yorker expects to play in several future events, including this year’s WSOP.

First Place:  Great Scott!  Michael Wins!

Michael Scott, a 52-year-old semi-retired commercial real estate developer from Tampa, FL won his first major tournament.  He collected $22,160 for first place, plus his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.  Scott’s previous tournament cashes include a 35th-place finish in the $2,000 buy-in NLHE event held at the WSOP two years ago.  

An interesting side note to Scott’s victory was that he had other plans while the final table was being played.  Scott made his flight reservation and was schedule to leave about five hours after the final table started.  Since Scott was short-stacked, he figured to last a few hours and hopefully move up the pay ladder enough spots to catch a 7:35 flight.  

As it turned out, while a 727 commercial airliner was passing somewhere above the New Orleans skyline, no doubt headed back to Tampa with an empty seat on row 22, Michael Scott was in his rightful seat – at the final table and ultimately in front of a big stack of chips getting his photo taken as the newest WSOP Circuit champion.

When asked about missing his flight in order to finish the final table, Scott smiled and said, “Yeah, I’d say it was worth it.”