Ryan Hall Wins First Gold Ring – Collects $33,989 after Marathon Heads-Up Battle

Atlantic City, NJ (December 9, 2011) – The World Series of Poker Circuit continued tonight at the Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, which has now crossed the midway point.  The seventh event of 12 scheduled gold ring tournaments ended with another first-time winner and an exciting finish.

The latest tournament champion is Ryan Hall.  The full-time professional poker player from Newark, DE, collected $33,989 in prize money – his highest major tournament finish ever.  He was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring, given out by John Arthur – Poker Director for Harrah’s Atlantic City. 

Hall earned this victory, for sure.  He was not only tested numerous times during an eight-hour final table, he had to overcome a tenacious heads-up opponent named Jay Nair, from Redmond, WA.  Hall enjoyed the chip advantage during the entire three-hour heads-up duel.  But Nair proved to be stubbornly difficult to eliminate, putting Hall to a test of both skill and patience.

The final hand was a fitting exclamation point for Hall’s first victory.  He spiked a straight on the final card, ending a test of mental willpower between two very tough poker players.

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The 292-player field represented another large turnout on the Jersey Shore.  Events are averaging about 450 players each, with a big weekend coming up.  The Main Event Championship will be played Saturday through Monday (Dec. 10-12).

Harrah’s Atlantic City has a rich history hosting WSOP Circuit events.  In fact, it was the very first casino ever to host such a tournament, which occurred back in January 2005, during the Circuit’s inaugural season.  Since then, Harrah’s Atlantic City has been a staple on the national tour, having hosted a tournament series during each and every season.  During most years, Harrah’s has been the final event of the year, with its events usually taking place in December.  It’s one of only four Caesars properties to host a WSOP Circuit stop during all eight seasons – the other casinos being Harrah’s Rincon (San Diego), Harrah’s New Orleans, and Harvey’s Lake Tahoe.  Indeed, Harrah’s Atlantic City has established itself as a flagship stop on the national tour, and this year appears to be no exception based on the early turnout.

Final table action was streamed on WSOP.com.  As is the case with all gold ring event final tables, there is a five-minute delay.  Poker fans may tune in and watch the action daily, which normally begins late in the afternoon and runs most of the evening.

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Event #7 was a two-day $500 (+55) No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  Play began on Thursday at noon and ended late on Friday night.  The total prize pool came to $124,548.  The top 30 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #7 can be seen here.

During the first playing session, more than ninety percent of players were eliminated.  There were only 22 survivors who resumed action on the final day and played down to the final table.  After another two hours of play, the ten finalists were determined as follows:

SEAT 1:  Lou Ann Merwick (Lincoln, NE) – 130,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Dave Curre (Rochester, NY) – 131,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  Charles Clark (Webster, NY) -- 428,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Hank White (Bronx, NY) – 472,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Ryan Hall (Newark, DE) – 432,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Dylan Drazen (Astoria, NY) – 300,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Jay Nair (Redmond, WA) – 745,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  Ara Melikian (New York, NY) – 130,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Charles Furey (Bridgewater, NJ) – 486,000 in chips
SEAT 10:  Mike Sica (New Brunswick, NJ) – 250,000 in chips

   
Jay Nair distanced himself from the rest of the field as the decisive chip leader when cards flew in the air for the finale.  Play began at 5:30 pm local time.  Play finished at 1:30 am, making the total duration about eight hours.

10th Place – Lou Ann Merwick experienced her fourth WSOP Circuit final table appearance with her impressive showing in this tournament.  Unfortunately, she did not last long and went out about ten hands into play.  Merwick, a sales professional from Lincoln, NE collected a commission worth $2,884 in prize money.  This was her seventh time to cash on the WSOP Circuit.

9th Place – Hank White, from Bronx, NY endured a wild roller coaster ride during his hour-long stay.  He zigged and zagged between being the low stack and being close to second in chips at one point, but ultimately took a few tough beats and went out in ninth place.  White received a payout totaling $3,118.
   
8th Place – Ara Melitian, a real estate tycoon from New York City, cashed for the first time ever in a WSOP Circuit event and collected $3,908.  Melitian has previously cashed twice in the WSOP Main Event Championship – in 2006 and 2011.  In fact, he finished 102nd in this year’s world championship. 

7th Place – Mike Sica, a.k.a. “Little Man” has been playing poker since before many of the players at the final table were born.  The 67-year-old retiree from Northern New Jersey hoped to add to his jewelry collection with a win in this event, but busted out about three hours into play.  Sica, winner of a WSOP gold bracelet back in 2004, went out when he lost on a tough beat holding pocket kings, which was topped by A-Q (an ace flopped).  Sica now has more than 100 major tournament cashes and 20 final table appearances.  He has accumulated more than $1.2 million in career tournament earnings.  Seventh place paid $4,974.

6th Place – Dylan Drazen, from Astoria, NY finished in sixth place.  He collected $6,427 in prize money.  This was his sixth time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event.  His resume includes a deep run in the Caesar’s Atlantic City Main Event last March as well as a top-ten finish in a WSOP gold bracelet event held in Las Vegas in June.
   
5th Place – Dave Curre took a horrible beat on what turned out to be his final had of the tournament.  He was dealt A-5 and was all-in against A-3.  Curre flopped a five, which gave him a decisive lead on the hand.  But runner-runner low cards gave his opponent a straight, which lead Curre to the rail in fifth place.  Curre is a poker pro from Rochester, NY.  This was his second time to cash at this year’s Atlantic City series.  He collected $8,433 in prize money.

4th Place – Charles Furey, a software developer from Bridgewater, NJ was disconnected from the final table during the fifth hour of play.  He now has multiple cashes at both the WSOP and on the WSOP Circuit.  He made it to a WSOP final table in 2009, finishing fifth.  Furey added $11,245 to his poker bankroll and now has nearly $250,000 in career live tournament winnings.

3rd Place – Charles Clark, a sales representative from Webster, NY ended up as the third-place finisher.  The Hawaiian-born part-time poker player cashed for the first time in a WSOP Circuit event.  He collected $15,241 in prize money.

2nd Place – Jay Nair arrived at the final table with as impressive a background as any player on this year’s WSOP Circuit.  He has spent the last seven years working as a software professional for Microsoft.  Prior to that, Nair completed two Masters Degrees.  Nair has even published math papers with John Nash (of “A Beautiful Mind” fame).  The India-born academic and part-time poker player now lives in Redmond, WA.  He collected $21,005 as his consolation prize.

When heads-up play began, Hall enjoyed slightly better than a 2 to 1 chip advantage over Nair.  The duel lasted more than three hours.  Nair proved to be a bitterly tough foe, constantly shifting gears and making Hall work for every chip.  In fact, Nair had a shot to take the chip lead on what was the final hand of the tournament.  Had he won the last confrontation, the final outcome might have swung in his favor. 

The last hand was dealt as follows:

Hall:     
Nair:     
Flop:       
Turn:   
River:   

Nair shoved pre-flop and Hall called.  Hall found himself in the rare spot of being behind at that point.  The flop gave Hall some extra outs with an inside straight draw.  The turn did not help.  But the river was the perfect card for Hall, who scooped the last pot with a straight.  

1st Place – Ryan Hall won his first career WSOP Circuit gold ring.  He collected $33,989 in prize money.

Hall’s win was a decisive victory.  He was never in serious danger of elimination.  During the eight-hour final table, he was near the chip lead or held the top spot much of the way.

With his victory, Hall jumped into the race as a serious contender in this WSOP Circuit’s “Best All-Around Player” standings.  At present, Jeffrey Gurfinkel appears to be the player to beat, with two deep runs including a victory.  But the race is still wide open.

The player who accumulates the most overall points in Atlantic City’s twelve combined gold ring tournaments receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2011-2012 WSOP Circuit National Championship, to be held in Las Vegas, next May.  At least two players from this tournament series will qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which is classified as a WSOP gold bracelet event.  The other automatic qualifier will be the winner of Harrah’s Atlantic City’s Main Event championship.  The Main Event runs Dec. 10-12.

With the seventh tournament wrapped up, there are still four more gold ring events remaining in what is being billed as a “12 rings in 12 days” poker series.  The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Atlantic City continues through December 12th.  This year’s schedule includes not only all the gold ring events, but multiple second-chance tournaments (at 5 pm and 7 pm most days), single table and mega satellites, plus cash games going around the clock inside the Harrah’s Poker Room.

WSOP Circuit Gold Ring Winners at Harrah’s Atlantic City:

Event 1:  Richard Smith (Warrenton, VA) defeated 704 players and won $41,995
Event 2:  Jeffrey Gurfinkel (Brooklyn, NY) defeated 888 players and won $50,446
Event 3:  Michael Linster (Levittown, NY) defeated 288 players and won $35,529
Event 4:  Jeffrey Manns (Philadelphia, PA) defeated 555 players and won $33,922
Event 5:  Peter Ippolito (East Meadow, NY) defeated 370 players and won $37,926
Event 6:  Jeremy Burleson (Charlotte, NC) defeated 428 players and won $28,646
Event 7:  Ryan Hall (Newark, DE) defeated 292 players and won $33,989



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