New Orleans, LA (May 13, 2011) – Two more gold rings were awarded today at Harrah’s New Orleans. The fifth and sixth events (of 11) were completed as the entire poker room and tournament areas were packed to full capacity.
Harrah’s New Orleans is the fifteenth and final WSOP Circuit destination of a season which began nearly nine months ago. With little more than a week remaining, players from all over the country are scrambling to get to New Orleans in order to qualify for one of the much-coveted seats in the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which is set to begin in Las Vegas on May 27th.
As was expected, turnout for the first six events has been heavy. The $300 (+55) buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament provided another opportunity for those eager to gain ranking points. There were 293 entries. The total tournament prize pool amounted to $140,640. The top 30 finishers collected prize money. A complete list of all players that cashed in EVENT #5 can be found here.
The winner of EVENT #5 was Zhen Cai, from Daytona Beach, FL. He officially collected $33,753 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, Cai joined previous event winners near the top of the leader board in the race for Best-All Around Player for the New Orleans Circuit’s National Championship rankings.
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.
Final table play began with nine players on a Friday afternoon in the main stage of the special events center at Harrah’s New Orleans. Given the wide disbursement of chips, it appeared just about any player could make a run and win. The ultimate winner (Cai) began play ranked second in chips. The chip leader finished as the runner up. Hence, the top two players coming into the finale flip-flopped their predicted order of finish based on the early chip counts.
When play began, the finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:
Seat 1: Mario Silvestri (Fort Worth, TX) – 98,000 in chips
Seat 2: Alex Maturi (Chicago, IL) 424,000 in chips
Seat 3: A. P. Phahurat (Tulsa, OK) – 642,000 in chips
Seat 4: Brendan Waite (San Diego, CA) – 160,000 in chips
Seat 5: Ly Do (San Antonio, TX) – 297,000 in chips
Seat 6: Richard Read (Picayune, MS) – 447,000 in chips
Seat 7: Zhen Cai (Daytona Beach, FL) – 506,000 in chips
Seat 8: Kennii Nguyen (Chicago, IL) -- 334,000 in chips
Seat 9: Dennis Crowley (Houston, TX) – 422,000 in chips
Seat 10: John Ross (Niagara Falls, NY) – 122,000 in chips
Final table play began at 6 pm. Play ended at about 10 pm – making the total duration about four hours. The official order of finish was as follows:
Tenth Place: Former gold ring winner Brendan Waite, a 27-year-old student from San Diego finished in tenth place. He won his WSOP Circuit title last year at Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Iowa).
Ninth Place: Former gold ring winner Alex Maturi suffered a terrible finale table experience (if there is such a thing). Nothing seemed to go right. He began play with a healthy chip stack, but lost a few hands and came to the point where he needed to double up. That opportunity came when Maturi was dealt pocket tens. He shoved with the pair and got a call by an opponent who tabled A-K. Amturi lost the race when an ace flopped. That put Maturi out in ninth place. Maturi won his gold ring two months ago at Harrah’s Rincon.
Eighth Place: John Ross was low on chips and ended up as the eighth-place finisher. Ross shoved all-in and was involved in a three-way pot. His two adversaries checked it down, leaving Ross as the underdog. One player made a pair of sixes, which took away his remaining chips. Ross is a 67-year-old sales director from Niagara Falls, NY. He has previous tournament cashes at the WSOP in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
Seventh Place: Richard Read was the most senior player to make any final table so far at this year’s New Orleans series. In fact, this was his second time to cash. Read might have finished higher than seventh place in this event, but lost a race holding A-K, which was beat by pocket jacks. Reed is a retired dentist from Picayune, MS.
Sixth Place: Ly Do, who was born in Vietnam and resides in San Antonio, ended up finishing in sixth place. This was her first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament.
Fifth Place: Mario Silvestri, who says he is recently unemployed “courtesy of the D.O.J.” was the fifth-place finisher. Silvestri took K-Q up against A-9 on a critical hand. A queen on the flop gave him the lead, which turned out to be short lived. An ace on the turn completely reversed fortunes and Silvestri went out of the tournament a few hands later. Silvestri is 24-years-old and lives in Ft. Worth, TX.
Fourth Place: Dennis Crowley went through a roller-coaster of emotions on what turned out to be his final hand. Crowley shoved all in holding A-Q and was horrified to see a call from an opponent with A-K. Dominated on the hand, Crowley began to reach for his coat en route to the exit. Then, a queen flopped, which catapulted Crowley into a huge advantage. Unfortunately, there were some straight cards he had to avoid. The final board showed Q-J-7-3-T, which gave the A-K a straight. Crowley, a 64-yearold retiree from Houston settled for a nice payout totaling $11,166 for fourth place.
Third Place: Kennii Nguyen, a.k.a. “4Aces” finished in third place. He was low on chips and shoved with Q-9. His raise attracted a call from an opponent who showed T-9. Nguyen was disappointed to see a ten flop, but he also picked up a straight draw. Unfortunately, the final two cards were blanks which put Nguyen out of the tournament. Nguyen is a 35-year-old poker pro from Chicago. He collected $15,135 in prize money.
Second Place: A deal was made between the final two players. The runner up was A.P. Phahurat, from Tulsa, OK. He is a 21-year-old student attending Oklahoma State University. Phahurat, who was born in Thailand, had one previous major tournament cash, which was earlier in the year at the Heartland Poker Tour.
First Place: Zhen Cai became the latest WSOP Circuit champion. He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring with a win at Harrah’s New Orleans. First place paid $21,116.
This was Cai’s fourth time to cash on the WSOP Circuit this season. He had two in-the-money finishes at West Palm Beach (24th and 10th) as well as a 6th-place finish at the Imperial palace in Biloxi. Cai is now very much in the running with points on the National Leaderboard.
EVENT #6 RESULTS ($565 BUY-IN POT-LIMIT OMAHA)
The EVENT #6 winner was Walter B. Wright, from Las Vegas, NV. He collected $14,544 for first place. He was also presented with his first gold ring, the ultimate symbol of achievement awarded for winning a WSOP Circuit event.
The tournament was played over two consecutive days. After most of the starting field was eliminated on Day One, only 11 survivors returned for Day Two action.
A list of all players who cashed in EVENT #6 can be seen here.
Final table play began with nine players on a busy Friday afternoon in the main stage of the special events center at Harrah’s New Orleans.
When play began, the finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:
Seat 1: Phil Ngo (Oklahoma City, OK) – 62,000 in chips
Seat 2: Daniel Galindo (San Antonio, TX) – 94,000 in chips
Seat 3: Cory Wood (Murfreesboro, TN) – 160,000 in chips
Seat 4: Greg Douglas (Tulsa, OK) – 16,000 in chips
Seat 5: Walter B. Wright, Jr. (Las Vegas, NV) – 112,000 in chips
Seat 6: Anthony Lee (Yukon, OK) – 215,000 in chips
Seat 7: Trey Brabham (Austin, TX) – 155,000 in chips
Seat 8: Nick Jivkov (Des Plaines, IL) – 108,000 in chips
Seat 9: Mark Thoennes (Greenville, SC) – 300,000 in chips
Final table play began at 5 pm. Play ended at about 11:30 pm – making the total duration about 6.5 hours. The official order of finish was as follows:
Ninth Place: Greg Douglas was very low on chips and only lasted about 15 minutes at the final table. He is a 22-year-old student from Tulsa, OK. This was Douglas’s third time to cash this season on the WSOP Circuit.
Eighth Place: Phil Ngo was the eighth-place finisher. He is an engineer from Oklahoma City. This was Ngo’s first WSOP Circuit tournament. Ngo’s only other major tournament finish was a fifth-place finish a few years ago at the Scotty Nguyen Poker Challenge.
Seventh Place: Anthony Lee, a 21-year-old poker player from Yukon, OK finished in seventh place. This was his first time to cash on the WSOP Circuit.
Sixth Place: Daniel Galindo became the first player at this year’s New Orleans series to make two final tables. He finished second in the six-handed event. With his sixth-place showing in this tournament, Galindo rocketed to top of the leader board in the Best-All Around Player race.
Fifth Place: Former gold ring winner Nick Jivkov, from Des Plaines, IL finished in fifth place. He is a 32-year-old former business owner and now a professional poker player. Jivkov won his gold ring at the WSOP Circuit series held at the Imperial Palace, last November. This was his fourth time to cash this season, which includes a 14th-place showing in the Midwest Regional Championship, held in Chicago. Jovkov appears to be in good position to qualify for a seat in the National Championship.
Fourth Place: Trey Brabham, a musician from Austin, TX rocked his way to a fourth-place finish. He took eighth place in an event played here last season. Brabham now has eight major tournament cashes, including once at the WSOP in Las Vegas.
Third Place: Mark Thoennes, a self-described “degenerate” from Greenville, SC lasted several hours bt finally went out late in third place. Thoennes final hand was highly unusual for a Pot-Limit Omaha game. He shoved and was called by both opponents. The three-way pot was won by a pair of sevens. Despite five communal cards and 12 hole cards, it was a single pair that scooped the pot. That player was not Thoennes, who settled for $6,400 in prize money.
Second Place: Cory Wood was the runner up. When play reached heads-up, the last two players agreed to a chop. Wood is a 26-year-old poker pro from Murfreesboro, TN. He says his wife is expecting their first child, so the prize money ($8,989 officially) will come in handy.
First Place: Walter B. Wright, Jr. became the latest WSOP Circuit champion. He earned his first WSOP Circuit gold ring at Harrah’s New Orleans. First place paid $21,116.
Wright is a former propane salesman who is originally from Houston. He is 37-years-old. He says two admirable things about him are that he likes dogs and his house is has not been foreclosed upon (so far).
Wright joins previous winners who are jockeying for position in the point race for Best All-Around Player for the Harrah’s New Orleans series.
With their victories, Zhen Cai and Walter B. Wright join a list of previous winner at this year’s Harrah’s New Orleans series including:
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 MIX 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 $26,801 in $355 NLHE
Event #5: Zhen Cai (Daytona Beach, FL) defeated 293 players and won $33,753 in $355 NLHE
Event #6: Walter B. Wright (Las Vegas, NV) defeated 101 players and won $14,544 in $565 PLO
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.
The current leader is Daniel Galindo, who currently has two final table finishes.
A FULL SCHEDULE of remaining events at Harrah’s New Orleans can be found here.
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.