Las Vegas (April 26, 2011) – San Diego poker pro Michael Souza inched closer towards making history today.  He won his third career WSOP Circuit gold ring with a victory in the latest tournament held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Souza topped a tough field of 225 players who each posted the $560 buy-in to the Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em championship.  He earned a well-deserved $27,001 in prize money.  In addition to capturing another gold ring, Souza also earned 50 critical points towards the WSOP Circuit National Championship tournament, to be held at season’s end.  Souza now has 100 points and is on the cusp on earning one of coveted 100 seats into the $1 million nationally-televised championship.

Souza is certainly no stranger to those who play in and follow major poker tournaments.  Known for his fiery temperament, Souza has garnered his own threads at various poker websites and posting forums.  He’s been called just about every name in the book, and admits to firing back a few choice words towards others on occasions when he feels slighted.  But Souza extracted the ultimate revenge on his victims in this tournament, taking down yet another gold ring.  In fact, this was Souza’s sixth overall tournament victory.  He now has nearly $500,000 in accumulated career tournament earnings.

Event #8 was the eighth of ten official gold ring events played this year at Caesars Palace.  The total prize pool amounted to $108,000.  The top 24 finishers collected prize money.  OFFICIAL RESULTS can be seen here. 
The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, 12 survivors returned for Day Two action.  Final table play began with seven players on a Tuesday afternoon in the top section of the Caesars Palace Poker Room. 

The final table included two former WSOP Circuit gold bracelet winners – Michael Souza (who began play as the chip leader) and Christopher Amaral.  Fittingly perhaps, they ended up finishing 1-2 in the tournament.  Just as impressive was Blake Kelso’s performance, who made his third final table appearance in just eight Caesars tournaments.  No other player has come close to this feat.

When play at the last table began, the finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Blake Kelso (Las Vegas, NV) – 167,000 in chips 
Seat 2:  Michael Souza (San Diego, CA) – 600,000 in chips
Seat 3:  Pete Lockwood (Arlington, TX) – 338,000 in chips
Seat 4:  Rick Troendly (Napa, CA) – 300,000 in chips
Seat 5:  Christopher Amaral (Fall River, MA) – 263,000 in chips 
Seat 6:  Hiroaki Harada (Costa Mesa, CA) – 427,000 in chips 
Seat 7:  Mohammed Abedi-Arani (Dallas, TX) – 366,000 in chips

Final table play began at 4 pm.  Play ended at 7 pm – making the total duration about three hours.  The official order of finish was as follows:

Seventh Place:  Rick Troendly, from Napa, CA was the “bubble” finisher of the official final table (six-handed).  He was eliminated about an hour into play.  Troendly, who operates an Internet-business, has several poker wins over the past 17 years, including victories at the Reno Pot of Gold and Ultimate Poker Challenge.  Troendly noted that his father passed away a few months ago and wanted to credit his father as the person who introduced him to the game of poker.  Dad would have been proud, indeed.  Troendly received $3,985 in prize money.

Sixth Place:  Hiroaki Harada, who is originally from Japan and now lives in Costa Mesa, CA went out on sixth place.  He is a 24-year-old student.  Harada has enjoyed three major wins within the past year – all in the Los Angeles area.  He won tournaments at the California State Poker Championship, the Commerce Hold’em Series, and the LA Poker Classic.  However, this was Harada’s first WSOP-related in-the-money finish.  He received a nice payout totaling $5,146.

Fifth Place:  Peter Lockwood performed well, and finished in fifth place.  He ended up missing a draw and losing to pocket queens.  Lockwood is a 61-year-old business owner from Arlington, TX.  He cashed for $6,747 in prize money.  Lockwood has a few previous cashes, including finishing in the money at the WSOP in Las Vegas a few years ago.

Fourth Place:  Blake Kelso, a 28-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, has enjoyed an outstanding week at Caesars Palace.  He now has second, fourth, and seventh place finishes.  Kelso collected $8,982 in prize money.  Perhaps more important, Kelso seized the point-lead in the race to qualify for a seat in the WSOP Circuit National Championship. 

Third Place:  Mohammed Abedi-Arani took third place.  He is a Kuwaiti-born student now living in Dallas.  Abedi-Arani’s previous poker accomplishments include wins in the Venetian Deep Stack series and at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas.  He settled for $12,146 in prize money.

Second Place:  Loud-mouthed Christopher Amaral stands out inside any poker room, not only for his incessant vocal commentary, but for his size and stature.  A towering presence at 6-8, Amaral is making quite a name for himself in poker tournaments.  He plays relatively few events, preferring cash-games instead.  But Amaral has made the most of the three WSOP Circuit events that he’s entered.  He won a gold ring in his very first tournament two years ago.  After a non-cash in another, he ended up taking second place in this tournament.  Amaral, who claims to be a hand model, is from Fall River, MA.  He collected $16,688 as his consolation prize.

First Place:  Michael Souza, from San Diego became the latest WSOP Circuit champion.  He earned his third career WSOP Circuit gold ring with an impressive win at Caesars Palace.  First place paid $27,001.

Eight gold ring events have now been completed.  The current list of Caesars champions reads as follows:

EVENT 1:  Giuseppe Biancoviso – Florence, Italy
EVENT 2:  Randy Huberty – La Grange, KY
EVENT 3:  Randy Crowe – Los Osos, CA
EVENT 4:  Taylor Nguyen – Houston TX 
EVENT 5:  Jesse Bryant – Conway, AK
EVENT 6:  Bob Whalen – Milwaukee, WI
EVENT 7:  Todd Chew – Nowhere, IL
EVENT 8:  Michael Souza – San Diego, CA 

Blake Kelso, with three final table appearances so far (including fourth-place in this tournament), is the current leader in points for Best All-Around Player 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.

There are still two more gold ring events remaining – including the $1,500 buy-in Main Event which begins April 28th.  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.