ST. LOUIS, MO. – A day after St. Louis Cardinals fans celebrated their beloved team’s home opener, hundreds of poker players celebrated a home opener of their own with the kick-off of the first official ring event of the World Series of Poker Circuit Events at Harrah’s St. Louis.

This is the second year that Harrah’s St. Louis has hosted the WSOP Circuit Events. The casino resort’s sophomore Circuit series got off to a phenomenal start as 843 players registered for ring event #1, smashing the record for the largest poker tournament ever held in the state of Missouri.

The previous record of 675 was set at last year’s ring event opener at the casino resort.

On hand to share a few words with the record-breaking field of players and to make the ceremonial announcement to shuffle up and deal was 2008 WSOP Main Event third place finisher and local favorite, Dennis Phillips.

The winner of two-day event was Mark Pearse of Taylorville, IL. Pearse is a 41-year old corrections officer and father of four. For his win, Pearse was awarded $47,096 and the coveted WSOP Circuit gold ring.

The total prize pool amounted to $241,510 with 90 players taking home their share.

The money bubble broke shortly after midnight with day one coming to a close a short while later. Day two play began promptly at 2:00 pm Saturday with 62 players remaining. After seven hours of play, it was down to the final table.




Chip Count

Wyatt Denis

Fenton, MO



Charlie Dawson

Owensboro, KY



George Cahill

St. Louis, MO



Frank Austin

Deforest, WI



Phil Stelzer

Columbia, MO



Mark Pearse

Taylorville, IL



Eric Crain

Murphysboro, IL



Bryan Testin

Hawthorn Woods, IL



Hugh Jordan Drummond

Vancouver, BC Canada




Eighth Place               

Hugh Drummond’s dual elimination of Wyatt Denis and David Hipperson in ninth and tenth places marked the start of official final table play shortly before 9:30 pm with blinds and antes at 4,000/12,000/24,000. Drummond continued his final table rampage after re-raising Bryan Testin all-in on a board of      . Testin called with top pair, holding   , however Drummond had him beat with Kd]  for a turned straight. Testin is a 46-year-old retiree from Hawthorn Woods, IL. He earned $5,639 for eighth.

Seventh Place

Two-time WSOP Circuit champion, Eric Crain took critical damage to his stack after doubling Charlie Dawson to nearly two million in chips.

With blinds now at 15k/30k and down to his last 345k, Crain moved all-in with    and was called by no other than Drummond with pocket tens. The tens held up for Drummond, ending Crain’s tournament run. The 27-year old from Murphysboro, IL pocketed $7,183 for his efforts.

Sixth Place

The remaining six players returned from dinner break to blinds of 20k/40k. After a flop of    , Frank Austin pushed all in holding   . Dawson called with    and eliminated his opponent after making a straight on the turn. Austin, a 26-year-old financial specialist from DeForest, WI nursed his final table baby stack well to move up a few pay spots. His strategy earned him sixth place prize money, worth $9,262.

Fifth Place

After a short reprieve, Drummond resumed his wrecking spree with George Cahill as his next target. After raising pre flop to 90,000, Cahill moved all in over the top with   . Drummond quickly obliged, tabling   . Cahill was unable to improve after a queen-high board and the 48-year-old driver from St. Louis saw his day come to a screeching halt. For fifth, Cahill collected $12,095.


Fourth Place

Stelzer was next on Drummond’s hit list. From the button, he ran his    all-in into Drummonds pocket kings which held on a K-4-3-9-8 board. Stelzer is a mortgage broker from Columbia, MO. The 69-year-old grandfather of 12 earned $15,998.


Third Place

When play was at five, Pearse was crippled after an all-in vs. Stelzer. With less than seven big blinds left, a fifth place finish seemed inevitable for the 41-year-old corrections officer. However, a bit of run good and some well-timed aggressive play kept him in contention long enough to see a key hand where Drummond moved all-in on a       board. Sensing a bluff from his opponent, Pearse eventually made the monster call with just a  king-high kicker   . Pearse’s instinct proved correct as Drummond tabled T-8 off.


After scooping the massive pot, Pearse sat at about 3.5 million in chips while Drummond was left with 1.4 million. Shortly after, Drummond was all-in with A-J vs. Pearse’s pocket fives. The fives held, eliminating the final table’s once dominating chip leader in stunning fashion. Drummond is a 22-year-old former salesman turned poker pro from Vancouver, Canada. Despite taking home $21,436 in third place prize money, it was nonetheless a disappointing outcome for the young Canadian pro.


Second Place

Heads up play began shortly before 1:30 am with Pearse and Dawson nearly dead even in chips. Incredibly, the two even stacks were all-in the first hand of heads up play when Dawson re-raised Pearse pre-flop for all of his chips. Pearse called with pocket 3’s while Dawson tabled   .

“I really didn’t think he was going to make the call there,” Dawson later revealed. “I was shocked.”


The final board of the night was dealt out      , giving the Pearse the remarkable comeback victory.


Dawson is a 41-year-old real estate investor from Owensboro, KY. Incredibly, this was the ninth time that Dawson has walked away from a WSOP Circuit final table without the ring.


Dawson, dressed in University of Kentucky gear, suffered a double whammy as his alma mater fell to UConn in the NCAA Men’s Basketball semi-finals 55-56.  


Pearse, who was the runner up in event #6 last year at Harrah’s St. Louis attests that victory is even sweeter the second time around.


“This is unbelievable,” he said.


When asked about how poker compared to his day job keeping prison inmates in line, Pearse made a striking comparison.


“Bar none, poker is just as tough. I felt like I got my [tail] whipped all day.”


For his victory, Pearse takes home $47,096 and the WSOP Circuit gold ring. He also picks up 50 points toward the WSOP Circuit national championship and an early lead in the casino championship race.

Still to come are 31 events and 9 ring events. See the complete Harrah’s St. Louis Circuit schedule and previous results here.  The WSOP Circuit at St. Louis runs through April 12th. You can find the complete 2010/2011 WSOP CIRCUIT SCHEDULE here.