“This ring is better to me, than money” – New Champion Proclaims

Atlantic City, NJ (December 10, 2011) – The World Series of Poker Circuit continued today at the Harrah’s Resort, in Atlantic City.  The ninth event of 12 scheduled gold ring tournaments ended with another first-time winner.

The latest tournament champion is Richard Ward, from Max Meadows, VA.  He is a 59-year-old truck driver.  Ward has only played in a few events.  In fact, he says he only has time to play in one or two major tournaments a year.

Ward collected $49,178 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. 

“This ring is better to me, than money,” Ward boasted afterward.  “I think I’m going to cry, I’m so happy right now.”

Indeed, Ward seemed like the last player one expected to see winning the latest WSOP Circuit title.  He overcame a tough field of nearly 200 players, and then arrived at the final table as one of the shorter stacks, competing against three players in the running for “Best All-Around” player at this Harrah’s Atlantic City series. 

But one by one, the competitors fell, leaving Ward alone to pose for a smiling portrait with all of the chips and his first poker trophy – the gold ring.


The 195-player field represented another impressive turnout on the Jersey Shore.  Events are averaging about 400 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  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.


Event #9 was a two-day $1,000 (+85) No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  Play began on Friday at noon and ended on Saturday night.  The total prize pool came to $189,150.  The top 21 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #9 can be seen here.

During the first playing session, ninety percent of players were eliminated.  There were only 21 survivors who resumed action on the final day and then played down to the final table.  After another two hours of play, the ten finalists were determined as follows:

SEAT 1:  Eric Doerr (Newark, DE) – 216,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  David Laufer (Atlantic City, NJ) – 216,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  Jamie Kerstetter (Monroe, NJ) – 114,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Steve Kendrick (Suwanee, GA) – 630,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  “Mad Dog” Mike Shasho (Ramsey, NJ) – 174,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Daniel Voccia (Hamptons, NY) – 309,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Jonathan Hilland (Austin, TX) – 408,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  Roman Valerstein (Newtown, PA) – 148,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Mark Sceilato (Jackson, NJ) – 545,000 in chips
SEAT 10:  Richard Ward (May Meadows, VA) – 210,000 in chips

Among the finalists were three players making their second final table appearance, this week.  David Laufer, Jamie Kerstetter, and Roman Valerstein were repeat finalists.  This created some extra drama at the table, since any of the three could have conceivably taken over the points lead at the Atlantic City series, with a victory.  However, all three players came up short – although each is now within striking distance of the current leader.

Play officially began at 2 pm and ended at 7 pm, resulting in a five-hour finale.

10th Place – “Mad Dog” Mike Shasho got bit early at the final table and had to settle for a bone -- $3,588 in prize money.  The retiree from Ramsey, NJ cashed for the first time in a WSOP-related event.  However, he has more than a dozen cashes in major tournaments, mostly in Atlantic City.

9th Place – Michael Scellato, who manages an online poker training website, finished in ninth place.  His previous accomplishments include deep runs in tournaments held at the Borgata Atlantic City as well as a cash in an event at last year’s WSOP in Las Vegas.  Scellato’s site is called POKERXFACTOR.COM.  This was his first time to cash in a gold ring event.  Ninth place paid $4,426.
8th Place – Jonathan Hilland, the CEO of a high-tech research company based in Austin, TX, ended up as the eighth-place finisher.  Hilland is a modern renaissance man.  He’s traveled to 32 different countries and speaks three languages.  Hilland can also be proud of some of his poker accomplishments, including his cash in this year’s WSOP Main Event Championship (396th place).  Hilland collected $5,548 in prize money.

7th Place – Steve Kendrick, a business owner from Suwanee, GA finished in seventh place.  He was the senior member of the final table, at age 59.  This was Kendrick’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.  Seventh place paid $7,065.

6th Place – Jamie Kerstetter enjoyed another strong showing in what was her second final table appearance this week.  Kerstetter, who was the runner up in the Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em event that finished three nights earlier, hoped to build on that finish with a victory in this event.  However, Kerstetter took a few beats late and failed to win any big hands during her final hour.  She ended up with $9,145 for sixth place.  Kerstetter, a tax attorney and semi-pro poker player from Monroe, NJ cashed in this year’s WSOP Main Event Championship, finishing in 590th place.  Kerstetter now has four cashes so far at the Harrah’s Atlantic City series – more than any other player.
5th Place – Eric Doerr (a.k.a. “Clown Fish”), who owns an online company specializing in registration of domain names, finished in fifth place.  Doerr was one of the shortest stacks when final table play began and managed to survive nearly four hours.  He collected a nice payout totaling $12,036.  Doerr has enjoyed some big scores previously, with two six-figure payouts.  This was his 19th major tournament cash during his career.

4th Place – David Laufer, a poker pro from Saylorsburg, PA duplicated his result from three days ago.  He finished fourth in Event #5, and then took the encore spot in this tournament.  Laufer collected $16,110 in prize money and now has about $29,000 in his two combined cashes here in Atlantic City.

3rd Place – Roman Valerstein made another strong run in this tournament, coming in third place.  Three days after coming in fifth place in Event #6, Valerstein added another final table to his record.  Valerstein experienced the wildest run of any player at the final table, taking a few brutal beats, but also at one point dishing out some revenge to his opponents.  But he ultimately took a wicked beat on his final hand, losing with pocket queens to a three-outer.  However, the poker pro from Newtown, PA could certainly take pride in another deep run, which paid $21,936.

2nd Place – Daniel Voccia, a semi-pro poker player from the Hamptons (New York), finished as the runner up.  He now has four WSOP Circuit cashes – and two at this series.  Voccia has also won events at Foxwoods as well as a major tournament in Great Britain.  Voccia, a former professional soccer player, just missed scoring a goal in this event, but did managed to collect $30,379 in prize money.

1st Place – Richard Ward won his first career WSOP Circuit gold ring.  He collected $49,178 in prize money.

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

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 ninth tournament wrapped up, there are still three 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
Event 8:  M. Rosenberg (Atlantic City, NJ) defeated 187 players and won $14,148
Event 9:  Richard Ward (Max Meadows, VA) defeated 195 players and won $49,178

For more information about the Atlantic City poker scene, please visit: