Atlantic City, NJ (March 9, 2011) – The biggest and most prestigious Omaha-High tournament of the year has just finished at Caesars Atlantic City.

Never mind that this was the only major Omaha-High tournament of the entire year.  In fact, Omaha-High is widely considered to be a “dead” game, a stiff in the poker graveyard alongside Five-Card Stud, Five Card Draw, and other dinosaurs of yesteryear.  

Outside of a few off-Strip Las Vegas casinos and a couple of cardrooms in the South, seeing the game spread anywhere is a about as rare as spotting a U.F.O.  Omaha-High tournaments are practically non-existent.  The last time the WSOP offered an Omaha-High tournament was back in 2003.

So, it was retro-day at Caesars Atlantic City as the WSOP Circuit offered a rare treat to go along with platform shoes, lava lamps, and disco records.

Predictably, the $350 buy-in tournament attracted one of the smallest field sizes of the WSOP Circuit season.  Only 90 players showed up, most of them (how shall we say this nicely?) old enough to remember when Omaha-High was the second most popular game played in cardrooms, right behind Hold’em.  Seven of the nine players who cashed were over age 40, a statistic that would almost be unthinkable in any Hold’em event.

Nevertheless, the youngest player at the final table ended up as the winner.  Mun Nguyen, a 27-year-old self-employed part-time poker player from Pittsburgh, PA won the top prize totaling $8,380.  He was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

If Nguyen’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was the runner up in a $350 No-Limit Hold’em tournament held in Atlantic City just four days ago.  Nguyen dominated much of that previous final table and ended up with second place in what was his first WSOP-related tournament ever.  This time, Nguyen was not to be denied.  He destroyed this final table in a lightning-fast pace and made winning look too easy.

Perhaps the biggest bonus from the victory to go along with Nguyen’s 1-2 parlay in finishes at this Caesars series is his status atop the point-leaders seeking to qualify for a seat in the season-end National Championship, coming in May.  Nguyen leapfrogged over the six previous winners and now has 87.5 points in the race for highest score in Atlantic City.  Only two players will qualify to play in the $1 million nationally-televised finale – the winner of the $1,500 Main Event (which starts Friday) and the Best All-Around Player, which Nguyen now leads.

So, while this tournament is unlikely to make many headlines in the poker world, the possibility does exist that a new poker star has been born here in Atlantic City.  Only time will tell if he rises to greater heights in poker galaxies beyond.  

And that's the great irony of the latest news out of Atlantic City.  While Omaha-High is a poker game that has all but disappeared, one thing that came out of these ashes of nostalgia was a poker player named Mun Nguyen.  He will certainly be a player to watch in the coming months and years ahead.


The total prize pool for Event #7 amounted to a relatively modest $26,190.  A complete list of all in-the-money finishers for the $350 Omaha-High tournament can be found here.

The tournament was played over two days.  After most of the starting field of 90 was eliminated on Day One, just seven survivors returned for Day Two action.

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

Seat 1        Norman Merritt    165,000 in chips
Seat 2        Mun Nguyen         234,000 in chips
Seat 3        Kevin Gugliotta    48,000 in chips
Seat 4        Randy Nelson        62,000 in chips
Seat 5        Doug “Rico” Carli    46,000 in chips
Seat 6        Harry Frankel    238,000 in chips
Seat 7        Guy M. Tull        123,000 in chips

The final table began at 1 pm and ended at 4 pm, which made for one of the quickest finales in recent memory.  Players were eliminated in the following order.

Seventh Place:  Kevin Gugliotta was short stacked and was the first player to go bust among the final seven.  He is from Lake Hopotcong, NJ.  Gugliotta collected $1,164.  

Sixth Place:  Randy Nelson went out in sixth place.  He is semi-retired and lives in Fredericksburg, VA.  Nelson has nearly two dozen major tournament cashes.  He collected $1,451 in prize money.
Fifth Place:  Guy M. Tull is a restoration specialist from Annapolis, MD – which means he restores buildings after suffering serious damage, such from fire.  Unfortunately, Tull could not restore his stack once he became low on chips and ended up as the fifth-place finisher.  Tull has major cashes at the WSOP, US Poker Championships, and elsewhere.  He was paid $1,943 for fifth place.     

Fourth Place:  Doug “Rico” Carli is a two-time former WWSOP Circuit gold ring winner.  He is among the all-time leaders in cashes with 49 Circuit in-the-money finishes since 2005.  The retired stockbroker from Alliance, OH added to his impressive resume by taking fourth place in this tournament.  Carli pocketed $2,641 but missed his chance to win gold ring number three.    

Third Place:  Harry Frankel, a poker pro from Monsey, NY finished in third place.  He is a former business owner.  Frankel took third place in a WSOP Circuit event held at Harrah’s Atlantic City last December.  He repeated that feat here and earned $3,625.   

Second Place:  The runner up was Norman Merritt, from Rock Hill, SC.  He works in real estate.  Merritt now has four WSOP Circuit cashes.  Second place paid $5,179.       

When heads-up play began, Mun Nguyen enjoyed about a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Norman Merritt.  It only took about 15 minutes for the tournament to end.  The final hand was played as follows:

Nguyen – Jd 9s 6s 7c
Merritt – Kh Js Jc 6d
Flop – Qd Ts 8c
Turn – Th
River – 4c

All the chips went in on after the flop.  Nguyen flopped a straight.  Merritt had a higher straight draw to go with two pair.  Nguyen ended up winning with a queen-high straight.

First Place:  Mun Nguyen enjoyed his second “top-two” finish within just four days and won his first WSOP gold ring.  He received $8,380 for first place.

Nguyen joins previous event winners at the Atlantic City series including:  

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)
Event 4 – Paul Lambrakis defeated 386 players and won $41,186 ($570 NLHE)
 Event 5 – Jaeik Cho defeated 477 players and won $138,807 ($350 NLHE)
Event 6 – Travell “T” Thomas defeated 155 players and won $30,445 ($750 NLHE)

Nguyen is also the points leader in the Best-All Around race.  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 three 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.