New Orleans, LA – The poker world is pretty much divided into two camps – those who like re-buy tournaments and those who don’t. 
Re-buy tournaments are attractive to many players because the prize pools are often two to three times the payout for a conventional freeze out tournament.  The larger the number of re-buys, the bigger the prize money is for those who are fortunate enough to cash. 
The downside to re-buy tournaments is they can be expensive if things go bad.  Re-buy tournaments also play differently, especially during the re-buy phase, which typically takes place during the first few levels.  With the prospect of re-buys available, many players like to gamble early, and this increases variance – which is already part of the tournament equation.  

The most recent World Series of Poker Circuit tournament held at Harrah’s New Orleans was a No-Limit Hold’em event, with $100 re-buys during the first three levels.  The tournament attracted 164 players, which was about the expected number for the midweek start. 
What blew everyone away was the number of re-buys – a whopping 656 reloads, which amounts to an average of four re-buys per player.  On average, most poker re-buy tournaments have 1.5 to 2 re-buys per player.  Indeed, to anyone who still doubts the poker action in New Orleans is not among the best in the country, just check out the numbers.

Note -- Video highlights of this tournament can be seen at YouTube here:

This was the ninth gold ring event of 19 on this year’s WSOP Circuit schedule at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The $300 (+40) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament was played over two consecutive days during May 13th and 14th.  The top 18 finishers divided a prize pool totaling $106,206.

The winner was Lake Garner, from Hattiesburg, MS.  He won his second WSOP Circuit gold ring, following a victory which also took place here at Harrah’s New Orleans in 2007.  Garner also won a major tournament held in Mississippi in 2005 and among his many accomplishments has cashed at the WSOP of in Las Vegas.

Garner, accompanied by his wife Michelle, who sat near the final table for the duration, became well-known to fans of reality television when they jointly appeared on the popular program, “The Amazing Race.”  During the 2006 season, they traveled around the country together logging 72,000 miles.  The Garners ended up finishing sixth.

This time, the outcome was far better – first place.  Garner pocketed $28,144 and received his second WSOP Circuit gold ring.  He also took just two re-buys, only half the tournament average.

Also among those who cashed was two-time WSOP Circuit gold ring winner Johnathan Westra, who ended up with an 11th place finish.  After 155 players were eliminated on the first day, final table play began on a Thursday afternoon.  New Yorker Sholom Lipszyc arrived at the Final Table with a slight chip advantage over Lake Garner. The remaining seven players were outchipped by 2 to 1 or more.  The final table was also notable for the appearance of “Johnny Chicago” Nowak, who was making this third top ten showing and fourth cash so far at this year’s Bayou series.

When Final Table play began at 2:00 pm, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:




Chip Count


Chan Pelton

College Station, TX



David Poleto

New Orleans, LA



Mitchell Smith

N. Miami Beach, FL



“Johnny Chicago” Nowak

Fairview, TX



Carl “Spanky” Guillot

Baton Rouge, LA



Rodney Baseke

Montgomery, TX



Sholom Lipszyc

New York City, NY



Jesus Cabrera

Atlanta, GA



Terry Lake Garner

Hattiesburg, MS


Final Table play lasted about five hours and ended at 7:00 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place:  Third Final Table Appearance for “Johnny Chicago”
“Johnny Chicago” Nowak is having quite a Bayou series.  This marked his fourth time to cash through just nine events.  Unfortunately, Nowak went out quickly when he moved all in with pocket fives, which lost to pocket tens.  Nowak, who is originally from Chicago and now lives in Fairview, TX added $2,920 to his poker winnings this week, which now totals in excess of $14,000.

Eighth Place:  Jesus Fails to Rise
Ismael “Jesus” Cabrera, who is originally from Havana, Cuba and now lives in Atlanta, went out in eighth place.  He won two major events held in Mississippi during the last six months.  This marked his fourth time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  Eighth place paid $3,451.
Seventh Place:  Sholom Says “Shalom”
Sholom Lipszyc, from New York City endured a frustrating two-hour run at the final table.  The early chip leader gradually lost most of his stack and finally moved all in when short-stacked holding A3.  He got called by pocket kings, which ended up scooping the pot.  Lipszyc ended up collecting $4,248 in his first WSOP-related in-the-money finish.

Sixth Place:  Baseke Puts on the Brakes
Rodney Baseke ran low on chips and tried to steal a round of blinds and antes.  He picked a bad time to make a move and got a call by pocket tens.  Baseke ended up missing a straight draw and lost to a full house.  This was Baseke’s second time to cash at this year’s Bayou series.  He took 35th place in the first event here, which attracted 572 players.  For this finish, Baseke was paid $5,310.

Fifth Place:  Mitch Smith Takes Bad Beat
Mitchell Smith liked what he saw when he picked up pocket aces, raised all-in, and got a call by the chip leader.  Unfortunately the AA hit the much when the outmatched Q9 ended up connecting with two pair.  Smith shook his head in disgust and walked away with $6,637 and a bad beat story.  Smith now has 16 major cashes in various tournaments, including the 2008 WSOP Main Event.
Fourth Place:  Poleto Plucked
David Poleto, a sports promoter from New Orleans, went out badly when his KJ was bested by K2.  After the flop came K 8 2, Poleto moved all in with top pair and got an instant call from his opponent holding two pair.  Another deuce on the river added insult to injury, giving his opponent a full house.  Poleto, who owns a sporting adventure company called Gulf Coast Adventure Racing, jetted away with $8,496 in prize money.

Third Place:  Pelton Takes Third
Chan Pelton, a farmer from College Station, TX lasted about five hours but then finally ran into trouble when he moved all in with A5, which was called by the chip leader, holding 97 offsuit.  The flop brought a nine, giving the opponent a pair of nines.  Pelton failed to improve from that point forward and had to settle for a nice consolation prize amounting to $10,866.  Pelton has a number of impressive cashes at tournaments held throughout the South.  He now has nearly $150,000 in career tournament winnings.

Second Place:  “Spanky” Agrees to Deal – Takes Runner Up Spot
Carl “Spanky” Guillot, an antique dealer from Baton Rouge, LA was the subject of one of the tournament’s most interesting storylines.  Spanky was down to just a round of blinds when play was with 17 players.  He managed to squeak into the money.  Then, he nursed a short stack for the better part of two days en route to a stunning second-place finish.  Spanky was all-in a number of time at the finale, and managed to survive each time.  When heads-up play began, Spanky was down by about a 7 to 1 margin and was offered a deal to take the runner up spot, to which he agreed.  Second place officially paid $16,992.

First Place:  Lake Garner Wins Second Gold Ring!
Lake Garner (a.k.a. “Terry Lake Garner”), from Hattiesburg, MS collected the top prize of $28,144 and his second WSOP Circuit gold ring.  Garner’s previous win came in a $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em event held in May 2007.  Garner has only three career cashes in WSOP Circuit play, but nevertheless also has two victories.

A short interview with Garner and his wife at tableside can be seen at the link posted above.