Las Vegas (April 21, 2011) – Jessie Bryant knows a thing or two about making life and death decisions under intense pressure.  His experience surviving conflict and crisis has little to do with the game of poker.

Bryant served in the U.S. Army.  He fought in the initial invasion of Iraq, which took place during the spring of 2003.  Bryant was assigned to a bomb squad for one year.  His job title was “combat engineer.”

Bryant’s specific duties were immortalized in last year’s Academy-Award Winning Best Picture, “The Hurt Locker.” His was a brutally dangerous and difficult job which included working in mind-boggling heat and operating without any traditional human comforts such as air conditioning, cold running water, and showers or bathing (remember, this was during the early phases of the war).  Oh -- and there was the constant threat of being shot at 24/7, to say nothing of actually seeking out danger zones and risking life and limb every single time a new explosive device was discovered.
And to think – some people think their jobs are tough.

Bryant won the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit event held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  He earned his second gold ring this year, following his first victory three months ago at Harrah’s Tunica (Mississippi).  Incredibly, Bryant also won the Omaha 8 tournament at that WSOP Circuit stop. 

If Bryant can be viewed as exceptional in some ways when it comes to his poker accomplishments, his background and activities since serving in Iraq are even more extraordinary.

By the end of his tour in Iraq, fed up with the war and with the reasons for being there, Bryant became politically active.  He appeared in television commercials for John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election.  Bryant introduced himself as a proud veteran and endorsed his preferred candidate.  The commercials ran throughout the South.

Since leaving the military, Bryant has gone on to serve his local community with equal dedication and valor.  He now works at a homeless shelter in his hometown of Conway, AR – which is near Little Rock.  Bryant is a residential advocate.  That means he helps people who come to the shelter with their day to day lives.  He drives them to jobs.  He helps them with school work.  He encourages them to improve education and work skills.  He sometimes just listens to their stories and becomes someone to call a friend.

“I like to help people get on their feet,” Bryant explained.  “I can’t think of a better place to work.  I want to give a shout out at all the people who live at the Conway Shelter.”

After winning the Caesars Palace poker tournament, Bryant announced he will make a cash donation to the shelter.  It was an incredibly impressive gesture and pronouncement by a very special man.  Bryant has already risked his life for his country, and followed that by dedicating much of his time and energy to helping the less fortunate.  Even during his own personal moment of glory, Bryant was seeking for a way to make someone else’s life better

If ever there was a poker player for root for, to cheer for, and applaud, it is undoubtedly the latest WSOP Circuit champion – Jessie Bryant.

Jessie Bryant won the $300 (+50) buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha tournament, classified as Event #5.   This was the fifth of ten official gold ring events played this year at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.  The total prize pool amounted to $35,424.  The top 15 finishers collected prize money. 

Among those who cashed was Eric Froehlich, who holds two WSOP gold bracelets.  He finished in eighth place.  A full list of all players who cashed in EVENT 5 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, only seven survivors returned for Day Two action.  Final table play began on late Thursday afternoon in the top section of the Caesars Palace Poker Room.  The finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Jessie Bryant (Conway, AR) – 123,500 in chips            
Seat 2:  Ryan McClain (Kansas City, MO) – 102,000 in chips         
Seat 3:  Blake Kelso (Las Vegas, NV) – 82,500 in chips        
Seat 4:  Jordan Stone (Fayetteville, GA) – 254,000 in chips 
Seat 5:  Jim Cavanaugh (San Luis Obispo, CA) – 162,000 in chips      
Seat 6:  Greg Aversa (Las Vegas, NV) – 250,000 in chips          
Seat 7:  Richard Cory Cresiski (Las Vegas, NV) – 250,000 in chips

Final table play began at 4 pm.  Play ended at 8 pm – making the total duration about four hours.  The official order of finish was as follows:

Seventh Place:  Richard Cory Cresiski arrived in the finale as one of the big stacks.  But he endured a brutal half hour and was the first player to bust out.  Cresiski went broke when he missed a monster wrap-around straight draw.  His opponent moved all-in after flopping top set.  Of course, Cresiski didn’t know that, but still had multiple outs to make a straight and scoop the pot.  But two blanks hit the board, bouncing Cresiski from the finale.  He is a 34-year-old software consultant from Las Vegas.

Sixth Place:  Jim Cavanaugh, a 22-year-old poker pro from San Luis Obispo, CA went out in fifth place.  He flopped top set (queens) on what turned out to be his final hand.  But his opponent had a gutshot straight along with the nut-flush draw.  The third suited card came, which broke Cavanaugh. 

Fifth Place:  Ryan McClain, a 24-year-old student lasted about two hours, but went out in fifth place.  He nursed one of the smaller stacks for a while, but exited after his double-suited hole cards missed making much of a hand.  This was his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.

Fourth Place:  Gregory Aversa ended up in fourth place.  He is a local poker player from Las Vegas.

Third Place:  Jordan Stone, a 27-year-old poker pro from Fayetteville, GA finished in third place.  He has wins at The Venetian as well as various online poker tournaments.

Second Place:  Blake Kelso was the runner up.  He became the first player at this year’s Caesars series to make two final tables.  He finished eighth place previously.  Kelso is a 28-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas.

Perhaps most interesting was the fact that in his previous finale, Kelso was one of the chip leaders yet busted out early.  This time, he started as the shortest stack.  Kelso nearly made an incredible comeback but just missed the victory by a few cards and one very determined opponent.

Heads-up play lasted about 30 minutes.  Here’s how the last hand played out:

Kelso –        
Bryant –        
Flop –      
Turn –  
River –  

The action was fast pre-flop.  Bryant three-bet Kelso with his pocket kings.  Kelso called with his pocket queens.  Both players had overpairs after the flop.  But Bryant had a big advantage with his two kings and a club flush draw, as well.  Bryant believed he was pot-committed and was all-in after the flop.  The turn opened up some extra possibilities for Bryant when an ace came.  A queen or a five would have given him the best hand.  But a blank hit the river.  Kelso finished as runner up and Bryant was declared the winner.

First Place:  Jessie Bryant became the latest WSOP Circuit champion.  He earned his second WSOP Circuit gold ring with an impressive win at Caesars Palace.  First place paid $9,919.

Incredibly, Bryant had no initial desire to play in this tournament.  That was because on the day this event started, he was alive on Day Two of the previous tournament (Event 4).  After he busted out in 15th place, Bryant had barely enough time to still enter the next tournament, which was Event 5.  He entered and in a sense, made history.

Bryant is deeply patriotic and spiritual.  He explicitly wanted to call out all of those special people who he works with at the homeless shelter in Conroe.  Bryant also thanked God for letting him play his best and ultimately win. 

With his 1st-place showing in this tournament, plus another 15th-place finish in another event, Bryant now is the leader in the Best All-Around point race.  There are now four previous gold ring winners – including Giuseppe Biancoviso (Event 1), Randy Huberty (Event 2), Randy Crowe (Event 3), and Taylor Nguyen (Event 4) – who are behind Bryant on the leaderboard for the Caesars Palace series.  The player who accumulates the most overall points in the ten gold ring tournaments receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit National Championship, to be held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, next month.  At least two players from Caesars Palace will qualify for the WSOP gold bracelet event.  A FULL SCHEDULE can be viewed here.

There are still five more gold ring events remaining.  The WSOP Circuit at Caesars Palace continues through April 30th.  This year’s schedule includes ten gold ring events, along with multiple second-chance tournaments, single table and mega satellites, plus cash games going around the clock inside the Caesars Poker Room.

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