Poker Pro James Sparks Ignites Omaha Field at Harveys Lake Tahoe
Same-Day Seniors Championship Won by Paul Tippets
Stateline, NV – The winner of the third World Series of Poker Circuit event held at Harveys Lake Tahoe was James Sparks, from Warsaw, IN.
Sparks is a 36-year-old professional poker player. He previously owned a cyber café near Indianapolis before deciding to sell his business and travel around the country, playing poker and snow skiing. Sparks now concentrates mostly on cash games, although he occasionally plays in tournaments. Nevertheless, his win in an Omaha High-Low Split tournament was a bit of a shock.
“I can’t believe I won this,” a jubilant Sparks said afterward. “I hardly ever play this game, so to win an Omaha tournament is really incredible to me.”
Like many poker players, Sparks spends most of his time playing No-Limit Hold’em. However, he has played a fair amount of Pot-Limit Omaha High and High-Low Split online. That experience certainly helped him in this tournament. He made it to the final table with one of the lowest stacks and bulldozed over the final nine competitors en route to a surprising victory.
Sparks collected $9,097 in prize money. He was also presented with the gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement given for winning a WSOP Circuit event. This was his first WSOP-related tournament victory following previous success playing in some Heartland Poker Tour events in the Midwest.
With his victory, Sparks joined the previous two days' winners -- Phillip Hui (Event #1 champion) and Manh Tran (Event #2 champion) as the early leaders in the point race for the top player at this year’s Harveys Lake Tahoe series. The poker player who accumulates the most overall points receives a freeroll entry into the $1 million 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit National Championship, to be held next May in Las Vegas.
This $345 buy-in Omaha High-Low Split tournament began on a Sunday at noon and ended late on Monday night. The tournament attracted 110 entrants, a modest-sized field after two huge No-Limit Hold’em events held during the previous two days. Through the three gold ring events played at Harveys Lake Tahoe so far, combined attendance is 933 players. This number represents a 7 percent increase in attendance over the first three events last year.
The first day opened with 110 players playing down to 12 survivors, which took about 14 hours. The final table began at 3 pm, with three players battling for the chip lead. The eventual winner (Sparks) began play ranked 9th out of 10 players.
When the ten finalists took their seats, the seating order and chip counts were as follows:
SEAT 1: David Robison (Raleigh, NC) – 233,000
SEAT 2: T,J, Langlois (Portland, OR) – 70,000
SEAT 3: Kyle “K.C.” Carlston (Las Vegas, NV) – 94,000
SEAT 4: James Sparks (Warsaw, IN) – 50,000
SEAT 5: Glenn Uchibori (Honolulu, HI) – 77,000
SEAT 6: Keith Carlem (South Lake Tahoe, CA) – 213,000
SEAT 7: Yarom Limor (Beverly Hills, CA) – 110,000
SEAT 8: Ronald Matsuura (San Jose, CA) – 210,000
SEAT 9: Bill Hall (Redding, CA) – 115,000
SEAT 10: Bill Villanueva (Lincoln, NE) – 31,000
Players were eliminated in the following order:
10th Place – Eccentric poker semi-pro Yarom Limor had a horrible stay at the final table, which lasted only a matter of minutes. The long-haired Beverly Hills-based tournament trail regular started out play with an average-sized stack. On his very first hand, he flopped a monster draw with numerous possibilities to scoop both the high and low end of the pot. But two successive blanks killed Limor’s chances and reduced his stack to a paltry 10,000. The disgusted and dejected Limor went out a few hands later when he missed another draw. He had to settle for $634 in prize money.
9th Place – T.J. Langlois, a carpenter from Portland, OR, nailed down 9th place. He was low on chips and made his final stand with K-K-5-3 which ended up losing to A-A-x-x. No low qualified, which meant the pair of aces scooped the pot. Langlois, a big Grateful Dead fan, ended up “Truckin” away $781 in prize money.
8th Place – Bill Villanueva, a special education instructor from Lincoln, NE went out in eighth place. He began play with the lowest stack size at the final table and managed to move two spots up the money ladder. Villanueva, who recently served in the U.S. Army and specialized in desert warfare, collected $980 in prize money. He also attended college at both UCLA and Princeton.
7th Place – David Robinson previously worked as a cryptologist for the national Security Agency before deciding to give poker a try. The graduate of North Carolina State who holds an M.A. in math and statistics now plays online mostly, concentrating on what are called “turbo” tournaments. Robinson enjoyed a nice run in this tournament and went out with $1,251 in prize money.
6th Place – Kyle “K.C.” Carlston, a 33-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, NV cashed again. He is now in the top twenty players on the national leaderboard for WSOP Circuit player points – following previous cashes at Council Bluffs and Hammond (Chicago) earlier this year. Carlston says he intends to play in several upcoming WSOP Circuit events in order to qualify for the season-ending $1 million freeroll. Carlston picked up $1,527 in this tournament plus 22.5 points, which will advance his cause to become one of the 100 finalists. Carlston holds a B.S. in mathematics from Tulane University as well as a Masters Degree in engineering from Cal-Berkeley. He cashed in the 2008 WSOP Main Event and has accumulated more than $700,000 in career tournament winnings.
5th Place – Glenn Uchibori, an engineer from Honolulu, HI, began final table play with a short stack. But he managed to survive nearly three hours before finally exiting in fifth place. Uchibori earned $2,155.
4th Place – Keith Lathem was the only local player among the finalists. He lives in South Lake Tahoe, CA, which is just steps across the border from Harveys Lake Tahoe. The truck and transportation company owner was playing here for the fifth straight year. He picked up $2,909 in prize money.
3rd Place – Ronald Matsuura ended up in a three-way battle with rivals Bill Hall and James Sparks. He managed to survive four all-ins before finally busting out in third place. Matsuura, a restaurant owner from San Jose, CA who now plays poker seriously as well, earned a $4,004 payout.
2nd Place – Bill Hall, the owner of a tow truck company, hooked up and drove away with $5,624 for second place. Hall, who lives in Redding, CA had a shot at his final adversary late in the tournament, but was never able to generate enough momentum to seize the chip lead. Each time Hall had a solid hand, his opponent would scoop half the pot and avoid losing chips. Hall eventually lost most of his stack holding a club flush, which lost to Spark’s full house – tens full of threes. A short time later, the final hand was dealt, and Hall exited as the runner up.
The final hand of the tournament was dealt about four hours into play when Bill Hall had . He was up against James Sparks’ . The final board showed  which made a straight for Sparks. There was no low. Sparks scooped the final hand of the tournament.
1st Place – James Sparks, from Warsaw, IN, received $9,097 for his first WSOP-related victory.
The Seniors Championship was completed on November 13th. The one-day $235 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 136 players. The winner was Paul Tippets, from Ogden, UT. The official results were as follows:
1 Paul Tippets Ogden, UT --$7,138
2 William Grubb Vacaville, CA --$4,410
3 Richard Vincent Spring Branch, TX --$3,183
4 Lance Donnell Reno, NV --$2,339
5 David Hood Lincoln, CA --$1,749
6 Lori Vandusen Roseville, CA --$1,330
7 Charles Davy Citrus Hts, CA --$1,028
8 Ridwan Sarwari Sunnyvale, CA --$807
9 Terrence Valenzuela Lodi, CA --$644
10 Robert Medlyn Grass Valley, CA --$522
11 John Haddad Schertz, TX --$522
12 J. Austin Hijar St. Louis, MO --$522
13 Elisabetta Martino El Sobrante, CA --$430
14 Vincent Martino El Sobrante, CA --$430
15 John Lord Orangevale, CA --$430
The impressive attendance figures at Harveys Lake Tahoe are consistent with big turnouts at all WSOP Circuit stops, so far. All four WSOP Circuit events have experienced increases in both attendance and prize money. Numbers were up significantly at Council Bluffs, Hammond (Chicago), and Southern Indiana. A new addition to this year’s schedule held at the IP Casino-Resort and Spa in Biloxi also produced impressive numbers.
Several inches of snow on the ground and a winter wonderland atmosphere outdoors could not freeze the enthusiasm of hundreds of poker players who showed up this past weekend at Harveys Lake Tahoe. The casino-resort is located on the south shore of crystal blue Lake Tahoe, beneath a wall of snow-capped mountains, making for one of the most astounding views of any poker destination in the world.
Northern Nevada has a rich poker history. Few may remember that the WSOP had its origins, not in Las Vegas, but rather in Northern Nevada. The first WSOP-style tournament was played in Reno at the Holiday Casino in 1969. That first gathering of poker players was called the "Second Annual Gambling Fraternity Convention," and was won by Crandell Addington, later a Poker Hall of Fame inductee. Poker patriarch Benny Binion was so impressed with the concept that he held the first WSOP the following year at Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas, in 1970.
Now some 41 years later, poker remains alive and well in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area. In addition to the ten scheduled gold ring events on this year’s schedule, there are nightly No-Limit Hold'em tournaments and plenty of mega-satellites. Cash games are going on inside the poker room around the clock.
Poker players can still come and join the action. Hotel reservations can be made by calling 1-800-HARRAHS. Ask for a special tournament player’s rate under the code: "WSOP1" Special hotel rates are $39 weekdays and $69 for Friday nights. Saturday nights are based on availability. Hotel reservations can also be made online at http://www.harveystahoe.com. This year, all players on the WSOP Circuit can accumulate points which are used to qualify towards the WSOP Circuit National Championship tournament, to be held in May 2011 in Las Vegas. The $1 million freeroll tournament will be nationally televised and will be open to only 100 qualifiers. For the first time ever, a WSOP gold bracelet will be presented to the winner. The 2010-2011 World Series of Poker Circuit schedule – which includes all upcoming tour stops and dates -- can be viewed here.
ABOUT HARVEY’S LAKE TAHOE RESORT & CASINO
Harveys Resort & Casino is the largest resort casino property at Lake Tahoe. A wide variety of resort features include: 740 rooms and suites; nearly 75,000 square feet of casino space; five great restaurants including the stunning 19 Kitchen • Bar (overlooking beautiful Lake Tahoe), Hard Rock Cafe, Sammy Hagar’s famous Cabo Wabo Cantina and the elegant Sage Room Steakhouse (est. 1947); a full-service health club and pool; elaborate convention center services; Harveys Cabaret theatre (home of the Improv Comedy Club); race and sportsbook; poker room; wedding chapel; and family arcade. Harveys also presents the celebrated Lake Tahoe Summer Concert Series, which features superstar artists including Elton John, Eagles, Bob Dylan, Kenny Chesney and many more. In 2010, Harveys Resort & Casino was awarded 35 Casino Player Magazine Best of Gaming Awards including: Best Steakhouse (Sage Room); Best Headliners; Best Video and Reel Slots; Best Race/Sportsbook; Best Poker Room and Best Poker Tournaments. For more information and reservations, please visit: www.HarveysTahoe.com.