Las Vegas (April 27, 2011) – The World Series of Poker Circuit at Caesars Palace continued today with the play and conclusion of the $1,090 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament, officially classified as Event #9.
The winner was Miller Dao, from Maricopa, AZ. He is a police officer. Dao has worked in law enforcement for nearly ten years. He has been on the police force in Maricopa for four years.
Dao is originally from Vietnam. When he arrived in the U.S. at the age of 12, Dao moved to Michigan. He lost his job at one point due to the economic downtown in Michigan and incredibly, was homeless for a time. Dao stated he lived in his car and with friends for nearly six months before relocating to Arizona, where he started his life over. Since then, Dao has proven to be not only a survivor but a remarkable success story, model citizen, and leader within his community.
Dao is also proving to be quite a poker player. He has only competed in six WSOP Circuit tournaments. Remarkably, he has cashed in three of them. Not too many players can claim to have cashed in half the events they have played. Dao took third place in his first cash, which was a preliminary event in San Diego. His second in-the-money finish was a final table appearance at the Western Regional Championship held last month at Harrah’s Rincon. Dao took ninth place in that event. This time however, he went all the way to the finish line with the top prize.
Dao collected $55,202 for first place. He was also presented with the first gold ring, the ultimate symbol of achievement awarded for winning a WSOP Circuit event. Dao will also being playing in the WSOP Circuit National Championship next month, by virtue of earning his seat in the Regional Championship.
This was the ninth of ten official gold ring events played this year at Caesars Palace. The total prize pool amounted to $220,800 – making it the largest purse of any event played so far. The top 24 finishers collected prize money. A complete list of all players that cashed in EVENT 9 can be found here.
The tournament was played over two consecutive days. After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, 28 survivors – four short of the money -- returned for Day Two action. Final table play began with ten players on a Wednesday afternoon in the top section of the Caesars Palace Poker Room.
The finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:
Seat 1: Barry Clapp (Calgary, AB Canada) – 275,000 in chips
Seat 2: Neal Jordan (Excello MO) – 522,000 in chips
Seat 3: Sonja Jurkovich (Las Vegas, NV) – 246,000 in chips
Seat 4: Kasra Khodayavkhani (Dallas, TX) – 220,000 in chips
Seat 5: Sang Nguyen (San Jose, CA) – 243,000 in chips
Seat 6: Melvin Skeeles (Farmerville, LA) – 256,000 in chips
Seat 7: Miller Dao (Maricopa, AZ) – 702,000 in chips
Seat 8: Adam Hui (Markham, ON Canada) – 371,000 in chips
Seat 9: Jeff Bell (Grand Falls, NF Canada) – 310,000
Seat 10: Tommy Winters (Mable Falls, TX) – 335,000
Final table play began at 5 pm. Play ended at 11:30 pm – making the total duration about 6.5 hours. The official order of finish was as follows:
Tenth Place: Jeff Bell was the first player to get rung. The 61-year-old retiree who is originally from a small town in Newfoundland (Canada) went out just a few hands into play. Bell now lives in San Antonio, TX. He is a proud Vietnam veteran and is also a survivor of lung cancer, which he beat five years ago. Bell wanted to leave a parting message to all those to read the official report that he is living proof that serious illness can be overcome and survivors can continue to enjoy a healthy life.
Ninth Place: Thomas Winters got frozen out of the finale nine. The 43-year-old livestock dealer from Marble Falls, TX previously cashed a few years ago in a WSOP event in Las Vegas. With marked his first time to finish in-the-money on the WSOP Circuit.
Eighth Place: Sonja Jurkovich hoped to become the second female gold ring winner at this Caesars series (after Taylor Nguyen won Event #4), but came up short. Jurkovich, who holds a doctorate in psychology, calls herself an “aspiring poker pro.” She appears well on her way to achieving her goal as this marked her third time to cash this week. She also won a major tournament last fall at the LA Poker Classic. Eighth place paid $6,403.
Seventh Place: Kasra Khodayarkhani, a 21-year-old poker pro from the Dallas area ended up as the seventh-place finisher after coming into the finale with the shortest stack size. So, moving four spots up the money ladder and collecting $8,148 was something of an accomplishment. This was the fifth WSOP-related tournament Khodayarkani had entered and was his first time to cash.
Sixth Place: Barry Clapp finished in sixth place. He is a 50-year-old attorney from Calgary, Alberta (Canada). This was Clapp’s first time to enter a WSOP-related event. Sixth place paid $10,521.
Fifth Place: Sang Nguyen, a Vietnamese-born part-time poker player from San Jose, CA ended up taking fifth place. He earned $13,793.
Fourth Place: Adam Hui, who finished eighth in an event just three days earlier, improved on that finish in this tournament by taking fourth place. He is a poker pro from Markham, Ontario (Canada). Hui collected $18,364 in prize money. He is best known for bursting upon the poker scene with a six-figure score at last year’s Empire State Hold’em Championship.
Third Place: Neal Jordan (a.k.a. Neal Jordan) settled for third place. His elimination came following more than 100 hands of three-way action. Jordan survived a few all-ins before exiting when he missed an open-ended straight draw. He shoved with eight outs, but ran into a monster hand – trip kings held by Melvin Skeeles. Jordan, who specializes in stock market investmenting and is a noted speaker, enjoyed his biggest poker cash ever with $24,831 in prize money. Jordan has several other cashes, most of which took place in various tournaments held at Caesars Palace. Jordan is noted as a top authority on the stock market. He has appeared on television many times and been quoted in major media on financial matters.
Second Place: Melvin Skeeles played quite well and proved to be a formidable opponent. He had plenty of chips most of the way and exercised great patience in never putting his stack at risk. Skeeles approach served him well to the tune of a runner-up finish. Skeeles is a pharmacist from Farmerville, LA. The consolation prize for second place was $34,118.
First Place: Miller Dao, from Maricopa, AZ became the latest WSOP Circuit champion. He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring with an impressive win at Caesars Palace. First place paid $55,202.
Nine gold ring events have been completed. The 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
EVENT 9: Miller Dao – Maricopa, AZ
Blake Kelso, the only player with three final table appearances so far at this year’s Caesars series, 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 is still one more gold ring event remaining, which is the $1,500 buy-in Main Event which begins Thursday, 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.