Back in February with the encouragement of friends and just $2,000 to his name, 23-year-old online poker player Kyle Cartwright decided to make a go at the live tournament circuit.

The decision would soon prove to be one the best choices that the University of Memphis graduate had ever made. Just 100 days later, Cartwright is a three-time World Series of Poker Circuit champion and has parlayed that initial $2k investment into over $200,000 in WSOPC earnings.

Cartwright, who back in February accomplished the astounding feat of winning two consecutive WSOPC Gold Rings in only his third and fourth-ever live tournaments, picked up a third gold ring playing in only his 12th live tournament in the Harrah’s St. Louis World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event Championship.

For the win, Cartwright booked the largest score of his budding career - $142,290.

Cartwright started day two near the bottom of the leader board but after building up a healthy stack with the help of a good run of cards, the 23-year-old University of Memphis graduate turned up the aggression to distance himself even further from the pack.

“After that first day, Sam Barnhart (the Tunica Main Event Champion) told me how he started day two with around the same amount of chips and he gave me confidence,” said Cartwright.

“That really helped me a lot going into day two.”

The $1,600 buy-in event drew 449 players, generating a total of $646,762, the largest poker tournament prize pool in Missouri state history.

Greg Raymer, Dennis Phillips, Dwyte Pilgrim and TJ Cloutier were among the notables who competed in the three-day event.

Raymer, who went to high school in St. Louis and graduated with a degree in chemistry from the University of Missouri-Rolla, took to the mic just before day one play began to share a few words with the players and make the announcement to shuffle up and deal.

A barrage of day one eliminations which included Pilgrim and Cloutier left 92 players bagging up their chips for the night and returning for day two play which began promptly at noon CST. Raymer and Phillips were among the survivors along with WSOPC veterans Mark “Pegasus” Smith and John “Cowboy” Land.

Unfortunately, all four men saw their exit on day two before the money bubble burst shortly after 4pm.

Harris Paroya of Lee’s Summit, MO started day two atop the leaderboard, but was eliminated late in the day finishing in 21st.

The final nine players resumed day three play just after 1:00 pm CST with Cartwright holding nearly a third of the chips in play to start the day. In less than four hours, it would all be over.





Chip Count

Kyle Cartwright

Bartlett, TN



Mitch Franks

Tupelo, MS



Nick Jivkov

Des Plaines, IL



Ron Segni

El Cajon, CA



Asheesh Boyapati

Sterling, VA



Chris Viox

Glen Carbon, IL



Troy Weber

West Terre Haute, IN



Steve Goff

Eureka, IL



Phil Stelzer

Columbia, MO



Eliminations took place in the following order:

Ninth Place

With blinds and antes at 15,000/30,000 Nick Jivkov moved his short stack all-in UTG with    and was called by Ron Segni with pocket sevens. The board was dealt out      , giving the pot to Segni and sending Jivkov to the rail in ninth. Jivkov is a former logistics company owner who now plays poker for a living. The 32-year-old married father of two collected $13,453 for ninth.

Eighth Place

Steve Goff got it all-in on the button with pocket deuces vs. Cartwright, who tabled   . Goff remained ahead after a  Qc]  flop and   turn, but the river was disaster –   and his tournament run was over. Goff is a 25 years old from Euerka, IL. Eighth place paid $16,842.

Seventh Place

A short while after Goff’s exit, Mitch Franks moved all-in, running his pocket tens into Phil Stelzer’s pocket kings. The jack-high board was no help to either player, sending Franks on his way to collect seventh place prize money. Franks is a 41-year-old engineer from Tupelo, MS. He is a married father of three and an avid fan of Mississippi State University athletics. For his seventh place finish, Franks took home $21,382.

Sixth Place

The final table exodus continued when Chris Viox found himself all-in for his tournament life in a race situation with Cartwright after showing A-Q to Cartwright’s pocket nines. The nines held steady through a king-high flop and blanks on the turn and river, moving Cartwright up to over 4.7 million in chips and sending Viox to the payout table to collect $27,533 for sixth.

Viox is a 35-year-old poker player and investor from Glen Carbon, IL. The married father of two placed third in the 2008 $1,500 buy-in Razz event. For his performance at the Harrah’s St. Louis Main Event he pocketed $27,533.

Fifth Place

With blinds now at 20,000/40,000, Troy Weber would be the fifth place finisher. All in with pocket fives vs. Asheesh Boyapati’s   , Weber was outflopped after a spread of    . Weber stayed behind after a   turn and   river, and his Main Event was finished. Weber is a 40-year-old salesman from West Terre Haute, IN. He has numerous previous circuit event cashes with his latest one worth $35,973.

Fourth Place

It was another all-in coin flip after Segni opened for 125,000 with pocket sixes only to see Stelzer move all-in over the top with   . Segni made the call for his tournament life and the two went heads up to an 8-9-K flop. It appeared that Segni would be going home, but after the   fell on the turn, Stelzer was drawing dead and was left crippled. He was eliminated by Boyapati a few hands later.

With his fourth place finish, Stelzer overtook the current all-around points leader at Harrah’s St. Louis, Jordan Drummond to claim the title of Casino Champion and earn an automatic seat to the WSOP Circuit National Championship to be held in May at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Stelzer is a 69-year-old grandfather of 12 children who began playing poker in 1950 for baseball cards. Stelzer’s fourth place finish earned him $47,705.

Third Place

Segni was soon all-in for just over a million in chips with    and was called by Cartwright who showed   . Segni fell farther behind after a flop of     , where he stayed after the   and   fell on the turn and river. Segni is a contractor from El Cajon, CA and has a son and daughter both in college with his wife of 26 years. His $64,249 third place prize will hopefully be enough to keep the kids enrolled for another year.

Second Place

Heads up play began at about 4:30 pm with Cartwright at more than a 3-1 chip lead over Boyapati. Play lasted only a few hands before Boyapati moved all-in with    after Cartwright made it 110,000 to go pre-flop. Cartwright made the call, showing    and after a final board of      , Cartwright was declared the winner.

For second place, Boyapati took home a healthy $87,927 in prize money. Boyapati is a 25-year-old software engineer from Sterling, VA. He is a recreational poker player who picked up the game just last year.

Harrah’s St. Louis’ 2010/2011 Main Event Champion was awarded $142,290 and his third WSOP Circuit Gold Ring.

“I feel like I have a small advantage for some reason. I’m not sure how to explain it but I think I do,” said Cartwright about his phenomenal run over the last hundred days.

This was the second year that the World Series of Poker Circuit Events has come to Harrah’s St. Louis. Tournament organizers have deemed this year’s series to be an overall success with increases over last year’s attendance and prize pools. This year’s opening event saw a 20% increase in attendance over 2010.

The next stop on the 2010/2011 World Series of Poker Circuit Event schedule is Caesars Palace Las Vegas. The sixteen-day event runs from April 14 through April 30th.

See the full 2010/2011 WSOP Circuit schedule here. To see the full results and reports for each of the official ring events at Harrah’s St. Louis, click here.