Atlantic City, NJ (March 6, 2011) – The only certainty in poker tournaments is that they are sometimes wildly unpredictable.

Anyone present at the most recent WSOP Circuit tournament held at Caesars Atlantic City would have likely emptied out his pockets to bet on a poker player named Mun Nguyen (that’s Mun, with a “U”).  Nguyen had so many chips at the final table, that his castle-sized stack covered nearly three seating positions.  Think of it like this:  Nguyen was Secretariat making the final turn in the 1973 Belmont.  He was that far ahead.

By that time, Nguyen had busted just about everyone around him, swatting his adversaries like annoying flies at a spring picnic.  When play became four-handed, Nguyen had about 80 percent of the total chips on the table.  Everyone else seemed to be playing for second place.

Everyone that is, except for Paul Lambrakis.

Indeed, Lambrakis exhibited a rare combination of patience and persistence.  He not only managed to worm his way into a heads-up duel directly with Nguyen, he even ended up winning what must be considered one of the most stunning comeback victories of the 2010-2011 WSOP Circuit season.

Immediately following his shocking victory, Lambrakis shared a few thoughts on strategy.  He explained that he folded several so-called “borderline” hands against Lambrakis when play was still four and five handed.  Hands such as A-9, which would have likely been played by any severely short-stacked player late in any tournament, were instead folded by the rock solid Lambrakis.

His strategy worked.  In fact, once the showdown between Lambrakis and Nguyen began, one sensed this final chapter might have a very different outcome than was earlier predicted.  Secretariat’s epic victory notwithstanding, Nguyen hobbled towards the finish line like a mule en route to the glue factory.  The player who has absolutely crushed everyone in his path simply ran out of momentum.

In the end, Lambrakis won $41,186 for first place – by far his biggest career cash.  Lambrakis was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring, the coveted symbol of victory awarded to all winners in poker’s biggest and most prestigious national tournament series.

It all goes to show that nothing is quite over in tournament poker until the cards are boxed up and the final chip is stacked.  Pay the longshot.

The WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City continued with a $570 buy in No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  The total prize pool amounted to $187,210.  The top 45 finishers collected prize money.  A complete list of all in-the-money finishers for Event #4 can be found here.

The tournament was played over two days.  After most of the field was eliminated short of a payout on Day One, the following session included just 48 survivors.  It took another four hours to play down to the final table of ten players.

Final table play began on a late Sunday afternoon inside the Palladium Ballroon, located on the second floor at Caesars Atlantic City.  The ten finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1    Mun Nguyen    1,350,000 in chips
Seat 2    Joe Loriggio    193,000 in chips
Seat 3    David Levy    200,000 in chips
Seat 4    Steve Cordrey    347,000 in chips
Seat 5    Christopher Lim    172,000 in chips
Seat 6    Chris Dandrea    536,000 in chips
Seat 7    Paul Lambrakis    930,000 in chips
Seat 8    Scott Fredriksen    86,000 in chips
Seat 9    Michael Senter    306,000 in chips
Seat 10    Wayne Kaufman    470,000 in chips

The final table began at 7:30 pm and ended at 11 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order.

Tenth Place:  Short-stacked Scott Fredriksen was all-in three consecutive times during the first three hands.  He managed to double-up once when his pocket fours hit a set.  Then, he lost all those chips back when his K-Q was flattened by K-K.  Severely crippled by that time, Fredriksen went out with two garbage cards on the next hand.  Fredriksen, from Mahopac, NY exited with $3,152.

Ninth Place:  The final table’s first bad beat took place when Wayne Kaufman lost holding a straight, to a full house.  Kaufman (5-3) check-raise jammed on the turn when the board showed J-7-4-6.  He was called by an opponent with a set of fours.  The board paired on the river, thumping Kaufman off the final table in ninth place.  Kaufman, a landscape contractor from Smithtown, NY received $3,893 in prize money.
Eighth Place:  David Levy was the eighth-place finisher.  He went bust holding A-3 suited, which lost to the dominant A-9.  Both players flopped an ace, but the nine outkicked the three, meaning the Levy was broke.  Levy, an accountant from Rockville Center, NY collected a $4,874 payout.

Seventh Place:  Joe Loriggio works in seafood sales, so he’s used to being around fish.  But there were no fish sitting at this final table.  Loriggio ended up in seventh place after his pocket tens got hammered by pocket queens.  Loriggio, from Astoria, NY was paid $6,189.

Sixth Place:  Chris Dandrea, from Nashville, TN was making his second final table appearance this season on the WSOP Circuit.  He previously finished third place in an event held last month in Tunica.  This time, Dandrea could do no better than sixth place.  On his last hand, Dandrea pushed with K-J hoping to steal a round of blinds and antes.  But the big stack (Nguyen) called and tabled A-3.  An ace on the flop all but ended Dandrea’s final table experience.  He collected $7,969 in prize money.
Fifth Place:  Christopher Lim, from Bronx, NY took fifth place.  Like everyone at the table except monster-stacked Nguyen, he was low on chips and had to play a sub-standard hand to try and get through the blinds.  On his final hand, Lim pushed with Q-3 which lost to K-6 (neither player made a pair).  Lim, who works as an attorney, was pleased with the verdict which amounted to $10,412.  This was Lim’s second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit event at Caesars.  He also cashed a few years ago at the WSOP in Las Vegas.

Fourth Place:  Michael Senter played excellent poker but finally ran cold late in the tournament and went out in fourth place.  Senter’s final hand was pocket threes which were crushed by pocket queens.  Senter, a customer service specialist from Falls Church, VA received $13,808 in prize money.  Senter previously cashed in a WSOP Circuit event a few years ago at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

Third Place:  Steve Cordrey, a landscaper from Millsboro, DE finished in third place.  He was dealt pocket threes on what turned out to be his final hand, which picked up a big draw when the flop came A-4-5.  But poker slayer Nguyen had A-3, which included one of Cordrey’s outs.  The pair of aces held up, leaving Cordrey with a nice payout totaling $18,597.

Second Place:  Mun Nguyen had nothing to be ashamed of in finishing second.  To the contrary, his performance in this tournament would have been a bold headline had it not been for the tenacity of his final adversary.  Incredibly, this was the first WSOP-related tournament Nguyen had ever entered.  He drove from Pittsburgh, PA to Atlantic City when he heard the WSOP Circuit series was taking place.  That decision turned out to be a very wise investment of time and money.  Second place paid $25,451.

Nguyen is primarily a cash-game player.  His favorite poker game is Pot-Limit Omaha.  Nguyen, age 27, previously cashed in several tournaments played in the Pittsburgh area.  But he is just now beginning to focus on major tournaments and will certainly be a force to watch in the months and years ahead.

When the heads-up duel began, Nguyen enjoyed about a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Lambrakis.  The shorter stack doubled up once, which put Lambrakis close to even in chips.  Then, he dragged a few small pots before the final hand was dealt.

The final hand was played as follows:

Nguyen –    
Lambrakis –    
Flop –      
Turn –  
River –  

All the chips went in on the turn.  Lambrakis moved all in with top pair.  Nguyen figured he was pot committed at that point with his outside straight draw.  Lambrakis ended up winning with a pair of aces over Nguyen’s pair of nines.

First Place:  Paul Lambrakis is a 38-year-old accountant from Brooklyn, NY.  He received $41,186 for first place.  His poker nickname is “Paulie Nuts.”  He was given the name because he tends to play very tough and not give his chips away, a quality that was clearly on display in this tournament.

This was the fourth time Lambrakis has cashed in a WSOP Circuit event.  His three previous in-the-money finishes all took place in Atlantic City.

Lambrakis joins previous event winners in the top spot for best all-around player.  They are co-leaders in the point race for the top player at the Atlantic City series.  

Event #1 – Thung “Patrick” Lu defeated 742 players and won $43,184 ($350 NLHE)
Event #2 – Peter Ippolito defeated 254 players and won $30,181 ($570 NLHE)
Event #3 – Mike Summers defeated 158 players and won $12,414 ($350 LHE)

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 in May at Caesars Palace Las Vegas.

There are still five more gold ring events remaining.  The WSOP Circuit at Caesars Atlantic City continues through March 13th.  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.