Valley Center, CA (March 18, 2011) – What are the odds that two players with the same highly unusual last name would win a major poker titles within only a few week’s time?

That just happened as Michael Ippolito won the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit tournament, held at Harrah’s Rincon near San Diego.  Ippolito won the $345 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event, and was rewarded with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

The “other” Ippolito who happened to win a WSOP Circuit gold ring lives 3,500 miles away, on Long Island (New York).  Peter Ippolito, who took first place in a tournament held at Caesars Atlantic City two weeks ago, is no relation to the most recent champion from San Diego.

Ironically, this was the first time (Michael) Ippolito had ever played in a HORSE tournament.  In fact, he had never played Razz before, which is one of the five games which are played in rotation.  But Ippolito exhibited great poker sense and won a most-satisfying victory.

Ippolito is a 42-year-old business owner from San Diego.  He owns a gym and physical fitness center.  Ippolito also coaches baseball during his spare time.  He is married and has two children.  The Ippolitos are adopting another child later this year, from the nation of Ethiopia. 

Ippolito topped of a tough field and collected $5,186 in prize money for his victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring, the coveted prize awarded to all WSOP Circuit tournament champions.

Following his victory, Ippolito trekked outside to a nearby ranch where he posed with his prize alongside a new equestrian friend.  The HORSE competition won by Ippolito was the fourth of ten gold ring events held at this year’s Harrah’s Rincon series.  The total prize pool amounted to $21,534.  The top eight finishers collected prize money.  A complete list of all in-the-money finishers for gold ring Event * can be found at WSOP.COM.

The tournament was played over two days.  After most of the starting field of 81 players was eliminated on Day One, eight survivors returned for Day Two action.  Final table play began on a Friday afternoon.  The eight finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Michael Ippolito (San Diego, CA)        196,000 in chips
Seat 2:  Bill Colt (Murrieta, CA)            127,000 in chips
Seat 3:  Frankie O’Dell (Denver, CO)        67,000 in chips
Seat 4:  David Brookshire (Chatsworth, CA)    68,000 in chips
Seat 5:  Lance Brukman (Long Beach, CA)    86,000 in chips
Seat 6:  Jose Mendoza (Downey, CA)        51,000 in chips
Seat 7:  Javid Javani (Los Angeles, CA)        170,000 in chips
Seat 8:  Alex Molina (National City, CA)        46,000 in chips

Final table action began at 2 pm and ended at 5:30 pm.  Players were eliminated in the following order.

Eighth Place:  Jose Mendoza, a.k.a. “Baby Joe Loco” was the first player to exit from the final table.  He is a 41-year-old poker pro originally from Mexico, now living in Downey, CA.

Seventh Place:  Two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner Frankie ODell ended up in seventh place.  Odell won WSOP titles in 2003 and 2007, both playing Omaha High-Low Split.  Odell also won a WSOP Circuit gold ring at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe in 2008.  Odell, a poker pro from Denver, CO now has nearly $1.9 million in career tournament earnings.

Sixth Place:  Alex Christopher Molina was the sixth-place finisher.  He is 24-year-old aspiring poker player who was recently discharged from the U.S. Navy.  He served five years in the military.  Molina is from New Orleans, LA.  He has previously cashed in a few small tournaments.  But this was his best WSOP showing, to date.

Fifth Place:  Bill Cole finished in fifth place.  He is a 66-year-old owner of a bail bonds company.  Cole has several WSOP-related cashes, including three in-the-money finishes at WSOP tournaments in Las Vegas.  His best showing so far was a second-place finish at the first WSOP Circuit event played at Harrah’s Atlantic City, back in 2005.

Fourth Place:  Javid Javani finished in fourth place.  He is a 36-year-old teacher who is originally from Iran.  Javani now lives in Los Angeles.  He has nearly a quarter-million in career tournament earnings, included three wins.  Interestingly, Javani won the previous two HORSE tournaments he entered – at America’s Poker Classic and the LA Poker Classic last year.

Third Place:  The third-place finisher was Lance Brukman, from Long Beach, CA.  He now has 17 career cashes in various tournaments played throughout Southern California.

Second Place:  David Brookshire, a 28-year-old poker pro from Baltimore, MD finished as the runner up.  He had the chip lead during most of the final table, but went card dead late and had to settle for second place.  Brookshire concentrates mostly on cash games.  In fact, his favorite poker game is Razz, which is rarely played anywhere except during HORSE tournaments. 

When heads-up play began, Brookshire enjoyed about a 3 to 1 chip advantage over Ippolito.  The two finalists battled for about an hour.  Ippolito managed to survive three all-in situations during the Hold’em and Razz rounds.  At one point, it seemed just a matter of time before Brookshire would eventually win.

However, a critical hand took place during the Hold’em round when Brookshire flopped two pair.  He decided to slowplay his powerful hand, hoping to trap his adversary for most of his chips.  Indeed, Ippolito ended up moving most of his stack in the pot during the limit action that followed, but also managed to backdoor into a flush, which proved to be the turning point of the duel. 

About 20 minutes later, the final hand was dealt during the Seven-Card Stud round.  The hand was dealt out as follows:

Brookshire – (7d 7s) Kd 3d 2d 8h (9c)
Ippolito – (Ah Td) 6d Ah 3h 3s (6s)

All the chips went in during fifth street.  Ippolito had a pair of aces and then improved to two pair (aces and threes).  Meanwhile, Brookshire was drawing to both a diamond flush and a possible three-of-a-kind.  But he bricked on the final two cards and Ippolito dragged the final pot of the tournament.

First Place:  Michael Ippolito is a 42-year-old business owner from San Diego, CA.  He won his first WSOP Circuit title at Harrah’s Rincon and pocketed $5,186 in prize money.  Ippolito was also presented with his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

With his victory, Ippolito joins a short list of tournament champions at Harrah’s Rincon.  The winners so far are as follows:

Event 1 – Alexandru Masek defeated 391 players and won $22,794 ($345 NLHE)
Event 2 – “Choctaw” Kruger defeated 149 players and won $17,505 ($550 NLHE)
Event 3 – Matthew Ardo 74 players and won $21,534 ($345 OMHL)
Event 4 – Michael Ippolito defeated 81 players and won $4,584 ($345 HORSE)

With four of ten gold ring events now completed, Brian Peterson from San Diego, CA stands alone as the points leader in the best-all around race.  He has second- and fourth-place showings so far, which puts him ahead of the previous four winners.  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.

At least eleven players from the San Diego series will qualify for automatic seats in the $1 million WSOP Circuit National Championship tournament.  Qualifiers include the $1,500 buy-in Main Event winner.  The best all-around player (point leader) will also win a seat.  And, the nine players who make the final table of the Regional Championship will automatically qualify for a chance at the $1 million, plus a WSOP gold bracelet.  This is unquestionably the best chance for many poker players to make history and win the most coveted prize in all of poker.

The final event of this year’s Harrah’s Rincon series runs March 27-30.  The $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship will be televised on the Versus Network.  This will be the third of four WSOP Circuit Regional Championships held this season.  Satellites are being held at Rincon to earn a discounted seat into one of Southern California’s most prestigious tournaments of the year.

Harrah’s Rincon is the eleventh WSOP Circuit stop of the season, following well-attended tournaments held in several other locations throughout the U.S.  The current 2010-2011 season includes a total of 15 WSOP Circuit stops.

All poker tournaments take place inside the special events center, located on the main floor of specious and luxurious Harrah’s Rincon.  In addition to gold ring events, there more than 20 second-chance tournaments are on the schedule, as well as single table and mega satellites.  Cash games run around the clock inside the Harrah’s Rincon Poker Room.  To see the complete Harrah’s Rincon tournament schedule, please click here.

The WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s Rincon continues through March 30th.