Valley Center, CA (March 22, 2011) – Spring break is normally thought of as a time for college students to take vacations, relax, and do some serious partying. 

But Alex Maturi has a different idea of a good time.

When he’s not attending classes, the 26-year-old law student from Chicago, IL apparently likes to win major poker tournaments.

Maturi won the latest World Series of Poker Circuit event held at the Harrah’s Rincon Resort and Casino near San Diego.  While on Spring break from his studies, he collected $10,790 in prize money for his first major tournament victory.  He was also presented with a gold ring, the coveted prize awarded to all WSOP Circuit tournament champions.

Maturi overcame several disadvantages during the competition, most notably coming into the final table short-stacked on chips.  He also came back from a 4 to 1 chip disadvantage during heads-up play.

Maturi is currently in his second year of law school at Northwestern University, in his hometown of Chicago.  He played poker full-time for awhile, before returning to school to earn a law degree.  Maturi’s previous live tournament cashes include two final tables at the Venetian’s Deep Stack series in Las Vegas – a second and a fourth.

Oddly enough, Maturi’s victory came exactly one week to the day of another law student winning a gold ring while on his Spring break.  Alexandru Masek, a third-year law student attending the University of San Diego won his third WSOP Circuit gold ring at Harrah’s Rincon (Event #2).  If future courtrooms mirror what’s happened during this tournament series, both Maturi and Masek will both enjoy very successful legal careers.  In fact, “Maturi and Masek” does have a nice ring to it – make that multiple rings to it.

This $555 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold’em tournament was the eighth of ten gold ring events held at this year’s Harrah’s Rincon series.  The total prize pool amounted to $43,165.  The top nine finishers collected prize money.  A complete list of all in-the-money finishers for gold ring Event #8 can be found at WSOP.COM.

The tournament was played over two days.  After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, survivors returned for Day Two action.  Final table play began on a Tuesday afternoon.  It appeared that chip leader Sean Riley would battle it out with two-time gold ring winner John “Cowboy” Land for the title.  But typical for tournament poker, things did not quite turn out that way.

The six finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1:  Robert Van Scoyol (Valencia, CA) -- 116,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Alex Maturi (Oak Park, IL) -- 108,500 in chips
SEAT 3:  Michael Hahn (Indianapolis, IN) -- 103,500 in chips
SEAT 4:  John “Cowboy” Land (Dallas, TX) -- 250,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Sean Riley (Los Angeles, CA) -- 438,500 in chips
SEAT 6:  Damon Clark (San Diego, CA) -- 64,500 in chips

Final table action began at 2 pm and ended at 8 pm – an unusually long final table (for six-handed play).  Players were eliminated in the following order.

Sixth Place:  Damon Clark had the shortest stack when final table play began.  He went out about a half hour into the action and accepted a sixth-place payout.  Clark is a 36-year-old disc jockey from San Diego. 

Fifth Place:  John “Cowboy” Land, from Dallas, was shooting for what would have been a third WSOP Circuit gold ring.  However, he fell short of victory and ended up in fifth place.  Land was ranked second in chips at one point during the final table, but lost two big hands which cost him a shot at the gold ring trifecta.  Nevertheless, Land now leads all players with ten WSOP Circuit cashes this season.  He is in contention to challenge Doug “Rico” Carli for the most cashes in a single year (12), which was accomplished back in 2005-2006.

Fourth Place:  Sean Riley finished in fourth place.  He is a 30-year-old student at UCLA who currently resides in Los Angeles.  The Bruin arrived at the final table as chip leader.  But not much went right during his two-hour stay and he went out with $3,400 in prize money.  Riley has several other tournament cashes and has accumulated nearly $100,000 in earnings just by playing poker part-time.

Third Place:  Robert Van Scoya ended up in third place.  He is a 24-year-old poker pro from Valencia, CA.  Van Scoya learned to play poker online, where he still concentrates most of his play.  This was Van Scoya’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.

Second Place:  The runner up was Michael Hahn, from Indianapolis, IN.

When heads-up play began, Hahn enjoyed nearly a 4 to 1 chip lead over Maturi.  The duo battled for more than two hours, with most of the key hands going to Maturi.  Then, Maturi managed to double up on one big hand and came close to his rival in chips.  The stalemate continued for about 30 more hands.

Then, Maturi won a series of smaller pots and seized a decisive chip lead for the first time in the tournament.  The final hand was dealt out as follows:

Hahn –    
Maturi –    
Flop –      
Turn –  
River –  

All the chips went in pre-flop.  Hahn was hoping to steal a round of blinds and antes, but got caught making the wrong move at the wrong time.  Hahn managed to pick up and inside straight draw with one card to come.  But a blank hit on the river and Maturi won the tournament with two pair – aces and eights.  Thus, is was Hahn who was the dead man. 

First Place:  Alex Maturi is a 26-year-old college student, originally from Oak Park, IL.  He is attending Northwestern University Law School.  Maturi joined the following list of winners at this year’s Harrah’s Rincon series:

Event 1 – Alexandru Masek defeated 391 players and won $22,794 ($345 NLHE)
Event 2 – “Choctaw” Kruger defeated 149 players and won $17,505 ($555 NLHE)
Event 3 – Matthew Ardo 74 players and won $5,186 ($345 OMHL)
Event 4 – Michael Ippolito defeated 81 players and won $4,584 ($345 HORSE)
Event 5 – Kevin Hanson defeated 331 players and won $19,852 ($345 NLHE)
Event 6 – Mstr Lunch defeated 180 players and won $20,897 ($555 NLHE)
Event 7 – Matthew Weber defeated 273 players and won $16,711 ($345 NLHE)
Event 8 – Alex Maturi defeated 89 players and won $10,790 ($555 NLHE-6)

With eight of ten gold ring events now completed, Brian Petersen from San Diego, CA remains the point leader in the best-all around race (currently with 75 points).  He has three cashes so far – 2nd, 4th, and 14th, which puts him ahead of all eight previous winners.  However, Michael Ippolito is close to the lead as well, with 60 points. 

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.