West Palm Beach, FL (Feb. 21) – The World Series of Poker Circuit continued today at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, located in sunny South Florida.
The third of ten gold ring events was a $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament. The two-day competition played during a busy Presidents Day holiday weekend attracted 465 players. The total prize pool amounted to $135,315. The tournament’s top 54 finishers collected prize money.
Coming out on top was Ray Del Cueto, a.k.a. “Tampa Bay Ray.” The colorful part-time poker player and former certified financial planner was thrilled with his first major tournament victory. In fact, this marked Tampa Bay Ray’s first time ever to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.
Tampa Bay Ray was a most unlikely poker champion. He had no prior high-profile finishes. He also began play at the final table ranked dead last when play was at nine-handed. But the man from Tampa demonstrated what poker can be all about, thoroughly enjoying his experience and being awarded with a stunning victory. Tampa Bay ray collected $28,800 in prize money and received his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.
Tampa Bay Ray credited his wife with the victory, who encouraged him to come and play. He also promised her he would win the gold ring, if he was fortunate enough to make it to the final table. She was rewarded with a surprising phone call at 10 pm on a balmy Florida evening, with the big news.
On the first day of action, the field size was reduced from 465 players down to just 27 survivors. After two more hours of play, ten finalists took their seats at the final table next to the main grandstand overlooking the racetrack. While dogs circled the infield for one of 14 races held on this day, the seating order and starting chip counts indoors were as follows:
SEAT 1: “Tampa Bay Ray” Del Cueto (Tampa, FL) – 142,000 in chips
SEAT 2: Patty Till (Indianapolis, IN) – 195,000 in chips
SEAT 3: Jonathan Rapp (Davie, FL) – 127,000 in chips
SEAT 4: Richard Bratter (Ocala, FL) – 477,000 in chips
SEAT 5: Michael Traylor (Houston, TX) – 973,000 in chips
SEAT 6: Jason Woodall (Lantana, FL) – 432,000 in chips
SEAT 7: Ryan Sponaygle (Palm Harbor, FL) – 279,000 in chips
SEAT 8: Donald Gousse (Port St. Lucie, FL) – 1,149,000 in chips
SEAT 9: Matthew Bellucci (Naples, FL) – 262,000 in chips
SEAT 10: Michael Palumbo (Ft. Myers, FL) – 648,000 in chips
Players were eliminated in the following order:
10th Place – Richard Bratter was the first player eliminated. He was all-in after flopping top pair (jacks), holding K-J suited. But Donald Gousse had pocket aces, which held up to drag the pot. Bratter, a retiree from Ocala, FL with four previous wins in various tournaments held around the country, collected $2,155 for tenth place.
9th Place – Jonathan Rapp, from Davie, FL ended up as the ninth-place finisher. He was low on chips and hoped to double up. But Rapp lost a race holding pocket fours against A-Q suited. Rapp appeared on his way to getting some chips, but an ace on the river killed his chances of making a comeback. Rapp has previously done well in other WSOP Circuit events, including a 14th-place finish in last year’s championship held in Atlantic City. For this final table appearance, Rapp tapped into the prize pool for $2,672.
8th Place – Pocket fours proved to be fatal for another player. On the next hand following Rapp’s exit, Jason Woodall was dealt 4-4. Like before, the small pocket pair appeared to be the best hand – until the dreaded river. Woodall was up against A-K. Neither and ace nor a king came, but the board did double pair, which meant the ace played as the final card. Woodall, a UPS driver from Lantana, FL delivered a nice showing in this tournament and collected $3,357 in prize money.
7th Place – Ryan Sponaygle lasted about two hours before finally busting out in seventh place. He moved all-in holding A-Q, which was called and dominated by Tampa Bay Ray’s A-K. A king flopped, which all but ended Sponaygle’s hopes of bad beating his adversary. He got no additional help and had to settle for a $4,279 payout. Sponaygle, a pre-med student at the University of South Florida, has played poker professionally for about ten years. He hopes to enter medical school next year and mix poker with a career as a doctor.
6th Place – Michael Traylor has an impressive track record in WSOP Circuit events over the past year. He finished third in the Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Main Event. He also final tabled a tournament at Horseshoe Hammond (Chicago) and now has five cashes this season. Traylor came in determined to close the deal at this final table and win his first championship gold ring, but lost a critical race midway through play and went out in sixth place. Traylor took his A-K up against pocket sevens. But he failed to connect and made an unwanted exit. Traylor, a poker pro from Houston, collected $5,531.
5th Place – Five-handed play lasted nearly two hours. During the impasse, Donald Gousee maintained his decisive chip lead. But Michael Palumbo was not nearly as fortunate. He attempted a bluff which failed and ended up going out in fifth place. Palumbo’s final hand came when he had A-8. After the flop came 7-7-5, Palumbo thought he could move his adversary off his hand and shoved with his two overcards. He was called and pocket sixes ended up taking the pot (along with the sevens on board, good for two pair). Palumbo, who is a shipping manager from Ft. Meyers, FL sailed off with $7,250 for a nice effort.
4th Place – Patty Till took the worst beat of the final table. On her last hand, she moved all-in pre-flop holding A-K and got a call by Donald Gousse, who tabled A-Q. Till jumped into an even bigger lead when she caught a king on the flop. But a jack also appeared, giving Gousse a four-outer to make a straight. The river brought screams of horror from Till’s supporters in the crowd, as a ten appeared – knocking out Till in fourth place. Till, who works in sales and lives in Indianapolis, collected $9,641 in prize money. She also finished third in the 2007 WSOP Ladies World Championship event and has made several cashes in WSOP Circuit events.
3rd Place – When play reached three-handed, things went badly for Donald Gousse. He lost three huge hands in a row, which obliterated his stack and knocked him out of the tournament. The final blow came when Gousse called an all-in pre-flop raise by Tampa Bay Ray, holding A-7. He was completely dominated by his adversary’s A-K. Neither player improved, which meant Tampa Bay Ray scooped what remained of Gousse’s chips. The 20 minute span proved to be a staggering turn of events that ultimately determined the winner. Gousse, a retired electrician from Port St. Lucie, FL who held the chip lead virtually the entire time at the final table, received $13,005.
2nd Place – The runner up was Matthew Bellucci, from Naples, FL. He earned a very respectable $17,802. Bellucci proved to be a tough competitor and could have won were it not for a huge momentum swing in Tampa Bay Ray’s favor during the final hour of the tournament. Bellucci is a 34-year-old risk manager with Morgan-Stanley.
Heads-up played lasted about 20 minutes. The final hand took place when Tampa Bay Ray was dealt . Bellucci was dealt . After the flop came , Bellucci moved all-in with this club draw. Tampa Bay Ray called and showed top pair. The and fell on the turn and river, which meant Tampa Bay Ray’s pair of aces was the winning hand.
1st Place – The latest WSOP Circuit champion is “Tampa Bay Ray” Del Cueto, from Tampa, FL. He is a 67-year-old former CFO who is now retired. Del Cueto is also an avid fisherman, musician, pilot and a proud father and grandfather.
Tampa Bay Ray earned a well-deserved $28,800 in prize money. He was also presented with the gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement given for winning a WSOP Circuit event. This was his first WSOP-related tournament cash and victory.
A full list of all players who cashed can be seen HERE.
Tampa Bay Ray joined previous winners Reed Zhao (Event 1) and James Giraldo (Event 2) as early leaders in the point race for the top player at this inaugural Palm Beach series. The poker player who accumulates the most overall points receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit National Championship, to be held in May at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.
This year, all players on the WSOP Circuit can accumulate points which are used to qualify towards the WSOP Circuit National Championship tournament, held May 27-29, 2011 in Las Vegas. The $1 million tournament will be nationally televised and will be open to only 100 qualifiers. For the first time ever, a WSOP gold bracelet will be presented to the winner.
The 2010-2011 World Series of Poker Circuit schedule which includes all upcoming tour stops and dates can be viewed HERE.