New Orleans, LA (May 12, 2011) – The final World Series of Poker Circuit stop of the season inched one step closer to winding down as cards flew into the air for Event #4.  Harrah’s New Orleans is the fifteenth and final WSOP Circuit destination of a season which began nearly nine months ago. 

As was expected, turnout for the first four events has been heavy as many players are desperately trying to gain essential points needed to qualify in the inaugural WSOP Circuit National Championship, coming up in two weeks.  The $300 (+55) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 423 entries – a large number considering the mid-week starting date.

The winner was Brian Walsingham, from Atlanta, GA.  He collected $26,801 for first place.  He was also presented with his first gold ring, the ultimate symbol of achievement awarded for winning a WSOP Circuit event.  With his victory, Walsingham joined the three previous event winners atop of the leader board in a tie for first place for Best-All Around Player in the WSOP Circuit National Championship rankings.

This was Walsingham’s first major tournament victory.  He came close to winning on two previous occasions.  Walsingham took second place in an event at the Gulf Coast Poker Championship, held in 2007.  He following year, he finished second in a tournament at the 2008 WSOP Circuit stop at Harrah’s New Orleans.  This marked his third time to cash on the WSOP Circuit this season, following previous in-the-money finishes at Biloxi and Tunica.

The total tournament prize pool amounted to $121,824.  The top 45 finishers collected prize money.  A complete list of all players who cashed in EVENT #4 can be viewed here
The tournament was played over two consecutive days.  After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, three tables of 27 survivors returned for Day Two action.  Even with that many players remaining, Walsingham seemed in total command as the chip leader.

Final table play began with nine players on a Thursday afternoon in the main stage of the special events center at Harrah’s New Orleans.  As soon as the first hand was dealt, Walsingham looked to be the player to beat.  He enjoyed a significant chip lead and had about a quarter of the total chips in play.  

Taylor Nguyen, winner of a gold ring last month at Caesars Palace Las Vegas was also a serious threat.  She hoped to become one of only three women to win multiple WSOP Circuit gold rings.  Nguyen arrived at the final table ranked third in the chip count.

When play began, the finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

Seat 1:  Brian Walsingham (Atlanta, GA) – 1,043,000 in chips 
Seat 2:  Kenny Milam (La Place, LA) – 297,000 in chips
Seat 3:  Jeff Bell (San Antonio, TX) – 99,000 in chips
Seat 4:  Charlie Cibula (Chicago, IL) – 123,000 in chips
Seat 5:  Jeremy K. Swansen (St. Amant, LA) – 218,000 in chips  
Seat 6:  Taylor Nguyen (Houston, TX) – 503,000 in chips 
Seat 7:  Lyle A. Walker (Denham Springs, LA) – 563.000 in chips 
Seat 8:  Eric Witmer (Gonzalez, LA) – 450,000 in chips
Seat 9:  Justin Gardenshire (Ponca City, OK) – 668,000 in chips
Seat 10:  Pete Yutmeyer (Huntsville, AL) – 175,000 in chips

Final table play began at 4 pm.  Play ended at about 11 pm – making the total duration about seven hours.  The official order of finish was as follows:

Tenth Place:  Jeff Bell was rung and ended up as the first player eliminated.  He was the shortest stack when play began.  Bell pushed all in after the flop holding pocket sevens.  But his opponent had flopped a pair of eights and called the shove.  Bell failed to catch one of two remaining sevens and ended up as the tenth-place finisher.  Bell is a 61-year-old retiree from San Antonio.  He also finished in tenth place in the first event at this year’s WSOP Circuit in New Orleans.  That means in the two tournaments Bell has entered, he has finished in the top three percent both time.

Ninth Place:  Kenny Milam is one of the most popular locals in New Orleans.  He has four major tournament wins on his resume.  He’s likely enjoyed as many cashes as any local poker player in New Orleans events over the past five years.  Milam hoped to win his first official WSOP Circuit gold ring in this tournament, but came up short.  Milam went bust after he flopped top pair (aces) but ran into a Broadway straight.  That cost Milam all of his chips and put him out in ninth place.  Milam is a trucking contractor from Laplace, LA.  He is a proud Vietnam vet.  Milam also likes to brag that he once kissed “Miss Universe” in 1972 (Milam will provide more detail upon request).

Eighth Place:  Jeremy K. Swanson, a local contractor from St. Amant, LA finished in eighth place.  He went out holding pocket nines.  Swanson was up against A-Q.  Two high pair on board killed Swanson’s pocket pair, as the ace played as a fifth card.  It was a tough way for Swanson to go out.  This was the third WSOP Circuit event Swanson has entered.

Seventh Place:  Justin Gardenhire took a bad beat on what turned out to be his final hand of the tournament.  He was dealt pocket kings.  Gardenhire was all-in on the flop against an opponent who held T-9, which made a pair of nines.  It appeared Gardenhire would double up, but a ten on the river gave the villain two pair, cracking the kings.  Gardenhire is from Ponca City, OK.

Sixth Place:  Eric Witmer played a great tournament and ended up in sixth place.  His last gasp came when he moved all-in on a semi-bluff holding A-Q (overcards) after missing the flop completely.  But he ran into an opponent with pocket queens, who made the call and ended up digesting Witmer’s chips.  Witmer works in sales and lives in Gonzales, LA.  He is married and has three children.  This was his highest WSOP Circuit finish, to date.

Fifth Place:  Charlie Cibula made the most of his short stack and lasted nearly three hours before busting out.  Cibula moved several spots up the money ladder given his starting chip position and ended up in fifth place, good for $6,775.  He is a 26-year-old poker pro from the Chicago area.  Cibula has a number of what are called “min-cashes.”  This was his second WSOP Circuit final table appearance after a ninth place finish a few years ago at Hammond, Indiana.      

Fourth Place:  Nhu Nguyen, a.k.a. Taylor Nguyen came close to winning her second WSOP Circuit gold ring within a three-week span.  The furniture importer from Houston won the $350 buy-in NLHE event at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.  She also cashed in Event #1 here in New Orleans.  Nguyen came close to the chip lead when play was at four handed.  But she lost a few critical pots and was finally eliminated when she ended up losing to a full house.  Nevertheless, Nguyen could be proud of yet another storng showing, which paid $8,985 in prize money.  Nguyen has now played in ten WSOP Circuit events and has cashed in five of them, with two final table appearances.
Third Place:  Three-handed action lasted more than 100 hands and went more than three hours.  During that time, players traded off chips.  No one seemed much in danger of going out until Pete Yutemeyer pushed his entire stack with pocket eights pre-flop, and got an instant call from Brian Walsingham, who tabled the dreaded pocket aces.  The rockets held up, knocking Yutmeyer to the rail.  Nonetheless, the 63-year-old chief operating officer from Huntsville, AL could certainly take pride in a strong finish.  Third place paid $12,102.  Yutmeyer later revealed two interesting things about himself.  First, he is a graduate of Purdue University.  He added that his wife is the best player in the family.

Second Place:  The runner up was Lyle A. Walker from Denham Springs, LA.  This marked his second time to cash in a WSOP Circuit tournament, after making the money previously at the Imperial Palace in Biloxi.  The top-two finishers agreed to a deal.  Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Accordingly, there was no final hand dealt in the tournament.

First Place:  Brian Walsingham became the latest WSOP Circuit champion.  He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring with an impressive win at Harrah’s New Orleans.  First place paid $28,801.

Walsingham joins previous winners as co-leaders in the point race for Best All-Around Player for the Harrah’s New Orleans series.  The list of New Orleans champions reads as follows: 

Event #1:  John Christian (Baton Rouge, LA) defeated 473 players and won $28,288 in $355 NLHE 
Event #2:  John Holley (Destin, FL) defeated 96 players and won $8,380 in $355 MIXED POT-LIMIT 
Event #3:  Danny Doucet (Lafayette, LA) defeated 312 players and won $21,116 in $355 NLHE
Event #4:  Brian Walsingham (Atlanta, GA) defeated 423 players and won $28,801 in $355 NLHE

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 at Caesars Palace Las Vegas, next month.  At least 11 players from Harrah’s New Orleans will qualify for the nationally-televised WSOP gold bracelet event.

A FULL SCHEDULE of remaining events at Harrah’s New Orleans can be found here.

Special Bonus -- New Orleans Poker Trivia:

Question:  What was the first American city to open up a legal casino?

Answer:  Okay, that’s easy one.  Sort of like asking, “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?”  After all, this is a “New Orleans Poker Trivia” question.  In 1822, the first land-based casino opened up in New Orleans -- which by that time had become the south’s busiest port and soon grew into America’s third-largest city.  The first gambling club was located near the Mississippi River waterfront.  It attracted mostly sailors, soldiers, dock workers, and assorted visitors to the city.  The casino was open 24-hours-a-day and included a saloon, restaurant, and several gaming tables (a few bordellos were also conveniently located within a short distance).  Poker, faro, and roulette were played.  The casino was such an enormous success that other gambling establishments opened up around the French Quarter, contributing to New Orleans’ emerging reputation as America’s raciest city.  Despite local prohibitions against gambling which were enacted as the years passed, most laws were not enforced until the 1920s when prohibition effectively wiped out the remainder of what had once been the world’s greatest concentration of gambling activity. 

A Short History of the WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s New Orleans

The first major poker tournament held at Harrah’s New Orleans was called the “Cajun Poker Classic,” which took place in early 2004.  The three-day tournament attracted 536 players and inspired the casino to host more poker events in the future.  Later that year, the first Bayou Poker Challenge was held, which consisted of six tournaments. 

Next, Harrah’s New Orleans became a charter member of the World Series of Poker Circuits, which officially started play in 2005.  Since then, New Orleans has hosted the final stop on the circuit each year, which takes place in mid-May just prior to the start of the WSOP at the Rio in Las Vegas.  The first two WSOP Circuit championships held at Harrah’s New Orleans were televised by ESPN and were among the most exciting tournaments broadcast at the time.  They still occasionally appear in re-runs to this day.

WSOP Circuit events in New Orleans proved to be so successful that a second tournament series was created, starting in 2007.  This became known as the “Bayou Poker Challenge” (a.k.a. the Winter Bayou Poker Challenge), which has since become a December attraction.  This tournament series is categorized as a World Series of Poker Satellite, since its Main Event winner earns an entry valued at $10,000 seat (plus expense money) into the WSOP championship, held the following year.