Las Vegas (April 30, 2011) – Poker was the star attraction on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip this weekend.  Caesars Palace hosted the thirteenth (of 15) World Series of Poker Circuit stops during the 2010-2011 season. 

Poker players flocked to Caesars Palace from all over the country – actually, from all over the world – in order to compete for the last of ten gold rings at stake, plus piles of prize money, in addition to critical ranking points needed to qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which is also taking place later at Caesars Palace.

The Main Event Championship, which was a $1,500 (+100) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament (officially known as Event #10), attracted the biggest field in its six-year history.  There were 496 entries, up significantly from last year’s attendance.

The winner was Chris Johnson, from Las Vegas.  He is a 24-year-old professional poker player.  Johnson is originally from Nebraska.  He moved to Las Vegas about nine months ago with the sole purpose of playing poker full-time.  He has focused on a variety of targets, including playing both live and online.  Johnson also spends much of his time playing in moderate to high-stakes cash games throughout Las Vegas. 

Johnson collected $153,559 for first place.  He was also presented with the first gold ring, the ultimate symbol of achievement awarded for winning a WSOP Circuit event.  Johnson will being playing in the WSOP Circuit National Championship next month, by virtue of earning his seat via this victory.

Johnson caught fire at the end of the second day of tournament play.  On the final hand of the night (Day Two), Johnson catapulted himself into the chip lead for the first time.  On Day Three, as soon as the first hand was dealt at the final table, which was played the following afternoon, just about everything went in Johnson’s favor.  He destroyed his opposition in record time.

Indeed, in a sense the final table was over just as things were getting underway.  The finale was clocked at a rocket fast 2 hours and 40 minutes – making this one of the fastest final tables in the seven-year history of the WSOP Circuit.

“I got ran over by the deck,” Johnson said afterward.  Everything went good for me today.  I won two early coin flips and that pretty much made it smooth sailing the rest of the way.”

…………….

This was the last of ten official gold ring events played this year at Caesars Palace.  The total prize pool amounted to $714,240 – making it the largest purse of any event played so far.  The top 54 finishers collected prize money.  A complete list of all players that cashed can be found at WSOP.COM. 
 
The tournament was played over three consecutive days.  After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, 84 survivors returned for Day Two action.  Those players battled amongst themselves and played down to the final table during Day Two.  Chris Johnson went into the final table as chip leader.  But two other strong players, Alex Santiago and Adam Hui were close behind. 

Final table play began with ten players on a Saturday afternoon in the top section of the Caesars Palace Poker Room.  The finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:         James Martini (Incline Village, NV) – 922,000 in chips
Seat 2:         Chris Johnson (Las Vegas, NV) – 1,600,000 in chips
Seat 3:         Alex Santiago (West Hartford, CT) – 1,478,000 in chips
Seat 4:         Jon Seaman (Scottsdale, AZ) 617,000 in chips
Seat 5:         John Kulish (Green Bay, WI) – 1,168,000 in chips
Seat 6:         Brian England (Hazlet, NJ) – 1,390,000 in chips
Seat 7:         “Hollywood Dave” Stann (Hollywood, CA) – 510,000 in chips
Seat 8:         Matthew A. Leecy (Ottawa, KS) – 470,000 in chips
Seat 9:         Derrick Kwenzel (Grand Forks, ND) – 486,000 in chips
Seat 10:       Adam Hui (Markham, ON Canada) – 1,393,000 in chips


Final table play began at 12:15 pm.  The table played at a lightning-fast pace.  Four players were eliminated within the first 60 minutes.  Play ended at 2:55 pm – making the total duration less than three hours.  The official order of finish was as follows:

Tenth Place:  Derrick Kwenzel enjoyed his WSOP-related cash and finished in tenth place.  He was eliminated just a few hands into play when he lost a race – holding a middle pair versus two overcards.  Kwenzel took 7-7 up against A-K.  Not only did a king flop, which was nearly fatal for Kwenzel – he was kicked while down and out when the board four flushed, completing the opponent’s diamond lock.  Kwenzel, who arrived at the final table with about half the average-sized stack, could take some satisfaction in collecting $11,492 in prize money.  Kwenzel is a 36-year-old realtor from Grand Forks, ND. 

Ninth Place:  A few hands later, short-stacked Matthew A. Leecy lost his remaining chips when he could not overcome a dominating hand.  Leecy shoved with A-8 and was called by chip leader Chris Johnson, who tabled A-Q.  A queen on the flop all but ended Leecy’s hope of making a big comeback.  Instead, he collected $14,249 in prize money.  Leecy is a 23-year-old student and aspiring psychologist from Ottawa, KS.  He serves in the Kansas Air National Guard.  This was Leecy’s third time to make a WSOP Circuit final table. 

Eighth Place:  “Hollywood” Dave Stann is one of poker’s true characters.  He notes himself as “the bad boy of blackjack, a poker punk, and an all-around rock star.” 
 
Side Note to Readers:  This is for real.  The flamboyant fashion mogul from his namesake Hollywood won a WSOP Circuit gold ring three years ago here at Caesars Palace.  He hoped to add a Main Event victory to a resume that includes more than one-million in blackjack earnings, plus major poker tournament victories at the Venetian (Las Vegas) and Borgata (Atlantic City). 
 
But this was not Stann’s day.  His stack melted when he was outfoxed by Brian England on a big hand.  Stann shoved pre-flop holding A-T suited.  He hoped to steal some chips, but England had smooth-called in middle position holding pocket kings and then made an instant call once Stann morphed into the aggressor.  Stann failed to improve, which knocked him to the rail in eighth place.  $17,906 was the figure added to Stann’s bankroll.
 
Warning to Readers:  More “Hollywood” Dave Stann trivia follows.  He hosted and appeared on various television programs, including Celebrity Blackjack, King of Vegas, World Series of Blackjack, and the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.  He is the author of “Hollywood Blackjack:  An Uncensored Guide to Doing it Like a Pro.”     

Seventh Place:  Alex Santiago was the seventh-place finisher.  He was eliminated when he took A-Q up against pocket tens.  Santiago failed to make a pair, resulting in his elimination.  Seventh place paid $22,820.  Santiago is a 26-year-old poker pro.  He has previously won both live and online tournaments, including a major event at the Borgata (Atlantic City). 
 
Santiago was a college student before playing poker full-time.  He holds a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland.  He wanted to note that all three of his brothers – Ari, David, and Jonathan – were rooting him on during the tournament.  They could certainly be proud of Santiago’s showing. 

Sixth Place:  James Martini, a 53-year-old retired CFO from New Jersey (now living in Incline Village, on Lake Tahoe) lost a race for all his chips and went out in sixth place.  He shoved holding pocket fives.  Brian England had plenty of chips and made the call, with K-J.  Both a king and a jack flopped, drying up Martini.  Nevertheless, Martini is clearly a player to watch in future tournaments.  He has hopes of “getting better” at the game.  He already won the Best All-Around Player award at this year’s World Poker Challenge, played at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.  Sixth place paid $29,498.

Fifth Place:  Adam Hui, one of the stars of this year’s Caesars series, made a deep run and ended up in fifth place.  The poker pro from Markham, Ontario (Canada) ended up with eighth, fifth, and fourth-place showing in the nine events he entered. 
 
Hui went card dead late and was down to a short stack when he pushed with K-5 (hoping to steal a round of blinds and antes).  However, Brian England called with K-4.  It was a great spot for Hui, until disaster struck when a four flopped.  Hui could not improve from that point and accept the fifth-place payout totaling $38,669.  Hui ended up winning the Best All-Around Player race for this Caesars Palace series and will play in the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

Fourth Place:  John Kulish finished in fourth place.  He took a terrible beat which cost him most of his chips.  Kulish was dealt A-T and shoved.  He got a call from Jon Seaman, who showed A-9.  Kulish loved his situation, even after the flop when both players connected with a pair.  Kulish’s pair of tens were in the lead, until disaster struck when another nine fell on the turn, ending Kulish’s run.  The 65-year-old retiree from Green Bay, WI fell just short of Adam Hui in the point-race. 
 
Had Kulish taken second place (or better) in this tournament, he would have won the seat into the National Championship.  Instead, Kulish came in two spots short but did earn a well-deserved $51,418 in prize money.     
 
Third Place:  Jon Seaman went out in third place.  He was getting low on chips, unable to stop the storm that was sitting to his right named Chris Johnson.  Seaman decided he had to gamble at one point and got his chips in with K-J, which was a slight dog to Johnson’s A-2.  In a repeat of virtually every other all-in situation, the big stack with the best hand prevailed.  Neither player made a pair, so the ace-high scooped the pot.  Seaman did manage to collect a very nice payout totaling $69,360.  Seaman is a 27-year-old high-stakes poker player from Scottsdale, AZ.

Second Place:  The heads up match only lasted a few hands.  Outchipped by about a 5 to 1 margin, Brian England shoved holding A-J.  He ran into A-K.  The rest was history.  The final hand was played out as follows:

England:     
Johnson:     
Flop:       
Turn:   
River:   

Brian England is a 21-year-old poker pro from Hazlet, NJ.  He attended Columbia University in New York.  In fact, he played on the football team.  England also played a lot of poker while in school.  Remarkably, this is the first WSOP-related tournament England has played.  He earned $94,944 as his consolation prize.

First Place:  Chris Johnson, from Las Vegas became  the latest WSOP Circuit Main Event champion.  He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring with an impressive win at Caesars Palace.  First place paid $153,559.

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

EVENT 1:  Giuseppe Biancoviso – Florence, Italy ($350 buy-in NLHE)
EVENT 2:  Randy Huberty – La Grange, KY ($560 NLHE)
EVENT 3:  Randy Crowe – Los Osos, CA ($350 OMHL)
EVENT 4:  Taylor Nguyen – Houston TX ($560 NLHE) 
EVENT 5:  Jesse Bryant – Conway, AK ($350 PLO)
EVENT 6:  Bob Whalen – Milwaukee, WI $560 NLHE)
EVENT 7:  Todd Chew – Nowhere, IL ($560 NLHE)
EVENT 8:  Michael Souza – San Diego, CA ($350 SIX-HANDED NLHE)
EVENT 9:  Miller Dao – Maricopa, AZ ($1,090 NLHE)
EVENT 10:  Chris Johnson – Las Vegas, NV ($1,600 NLHE MAIN EVENT)


All previous results can be viewed HERE.
 
Two players qualified for the WSOP Circuit National Championship – Chris Johnson and Adam Hui.

Blake Kelso, one of two players with three final table appearances at this year’s Caesars series, took a bad beat in not winning a seat.  His point lead was overcome in the final event by Adam Hui, who also made three final table appearances.  Hui joined Johnson as winners of pre-paid entries into the $1 million 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit National Championship, to be held at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, next month.  They are the only two players from Caesars Palace who qualified for the WSOP gold bracelet event.

The next WSOP Circuit stop is already underway in Chester, PA – located near Philadelphia.  The final WSOP Circuit location of the current season will take place at Harrah’s New Orleans from May 8-22.  For more information, please see HARRAHS NEW ORLEANS FULL SCHEDULE.

This marks the sixth straight year Caesars Palace Las Vegas has hosted a WSOP Circuit stop.  The last five champions have all been local players from Las Vegas.  The updated list of Main Event champions include:

2011:  Chris Johnson (Las Vegas, NV) 
2010:  Andrew Lichtenberger (Las Vegas, NV)
2009:  Justin Bonomo (Las Vegas, NV)
2008:  Allen Cunningham (Las Vegas, NV)
2007:  Cory Carroll (Las Vegas, NV)
2006:  John Spadavecchia (Lighthouse Point, FL)



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