The first stop of the 2010/2011 World Series of Poker Circuit Event came to an exciting finish late Tuesday with poker pro Blair Hinkle coming away with the first WSOPC championship of the season.

Blair and his older brother Grant, are best known for each winning a bracelet during the 2008 World Series of Poker, the first brothers in history to do so in a single Series.

In addition to $88,553 in prize money and the coveted diamond-encrusted WSOP Circuit Championship Gold ring, Hinkle secured himself the first spot in the first-ever World Series of Poker Circuit National Championship to be held in May at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

The $1 million freeroll bracelet event is open to 100 players who have qualified in one of four ways. One of them is by winning a Circuit Main Event, as Hinkle did.

In addition to winning a Circuit Main Event, players may also qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship by becoming “Casino Champion,” earning the most points based on their performance through 10 official Circuit ring events at each stop.

When points from the last event of the Horseshoe Council Bluffs Circuit Events were tallied, it was Robert Georato of Naples, Florida who earned that distinction.

Georato, a 41-year-old former high school math teacher turned semi-pro, earned a total of 90 points during the Circuit Events at Horseshoe Council Bluffs, edging out Jeffery Epstein, an amateur player from nearby Omaha, Nebraska by just two and a half points.

Epstein, who owns and operates the Omaha Sports Academy, a youth basketball center in his hometown, wasted no time securing the point lead after winning the first ring event at Council Bluffs. Epstein beat out 299 other players to win the event, worth $20,411 and 50 points.

After four events, Epstein was joined at the top of the leader board by three other WSOPC ring winners, each tied at 50.

Poker pro and last season’s Caesars Atlantic City Circuit champion, Roland Isra, caught up to the pack after a win in ring event #5, but it was Ian “Memphis” Wiley who took the points lead with a fourth place finish in the event. That, coupled with a third place finish earlier in the Circuit put the 25-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas on top with 57.5 points.

Epstein surged back to a dominant lead in the standings with a second place finish in ring event #8 to bring him to a total of 87.5 points, putting him well ahead of his closest competitor, Kevin Marcus, a 25-year old accounting student from New York who had 60.

With a nearly 30-point lead and three events remaining, it appeared that Epstein would be headed to Las Vegas in May to play for his share of $1 million and a World Series of Poker bracelet, but Georato dashed those hopes  with a first place finish in ring event #8. Georato hung in the middle of the pack with a third place finish in ring event #1 and a 10th place finish in ring event #5, but the 50 points earned in #8 put him just past Epstein with a total of 90.

Georato earned $18,694 for his first place finish. His largest cash was a 195th place finish at the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event, worth $38,600.

In addition to winning a Circuit Main Event and becoming a Circuit stop’s “Casino Champion,” players can qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship by:
  • Making the final table at one of four $10,000 buy-in  nationally televised Regional Circuit Championships to be held at Horseshoe Hammond, Harrah’s Atlantic City, Harrah’s Rincon and Harrah’s New Orleans
  • Earning enough points through the 2010/2011 WSOP Circuit Events to be among the top 36 in point standings.
98 spots remain for the WSOP Circuit National Championship. With 12 more points-eligible stops still remaining on the 2010/2011 Circuit schedule, the event is already poised to be a showcase of world-class poker talent.

For more information about the WSOP Circuit National Championship, click here.

For more information about the 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit points system, click here.