New Orleans, LA (May 23, 2011) – The 2010-2011 World Series of Poker Circuit season is winding down to a thrilling conclusion.  The season moved one step closer to ending today with the crowing of the Southern Regional champion at Harrah’s New Orleans, located next to the famous French Quarter.

It’s fitting the last poker tournament stop of the season took place in the Crescent City, since it’s widely-acknowledged as birthplace of poker.  The game as we know it today was played in and around New Orleans during the early 1800s and made its way onto riverboats which trafficked up and down the Mississippi River. 

Two centuries later, New Orleans has been the final stop during each and every season since the WSOP Circuit began in 2005.  This season, there were 15 WSOP Circuit stops -- the most ever.  Most stops included ten official gold ring events.  A “gold ring event” means the winner is awarded a gold ring, which symbolizes victory.  Furthermore, all players who finished in-the-money in gold ring events were awarded points which applied to a national championship race and leader board.  This is the first season the WSOP Circuit has utilized a ranking system for its players.

This was the last of four WSOP Circuit Regional Championships this season.  The first three Regional Championships were held at Horseshoe Hammond (Indiana), Harrah’s Atlantic City, and Harrah’s Rincon (San Diego).  Harrah’s New Orleans hosted the Southern Regional Championship, the final regional.

The culmination of this poker season comes during May 27-29 in Las Vegas, just prior to the start of the WSOP.  The inaugural WSOP Circuit National Championship takes place at Caesars Palace.  The tournament will be nationally-televised on the Versus Network.  Only 100 qualifiers are eligible to participate.  The ONE-HUNDRED FINALISTS, all of whom freerolled into the tournament (there is no entry fee), have already been determined and can be viewed here.

The Southern Regional Championship was a $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament.  The field consisted of 75 entries, creating a prize pool totaling $698,400.

The winner was A.J. Jejelowo, from Houston, TX.  He is a 27-year-old medical researcher at Rice University.  Jejelowo is currently working on a major study supported by the American Heart Association.  His project involves research on tissue samples from patients with serious heart disease.  Jejelowo hopes that his efforts and those of his counterparts will improve the lives of those who suffer from heart disease and perhaps someday will lead to a cure.

Jejelowo’s roots are from Nigeria.  His parents immigrated to England.  Jejelowo was born in Manchester, UK.  He arrived in the U.S. about 20 years ago.  Jejelowo attended and graduated from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.

Jejelowo plays poker recreationally.  He had never cashed in a major poker tournament until this appearance in New Orleans.  Jejelowo arrived at Harrah’s New Orleans last Wednesday night.  He entered a mega-satellite into the $10,000 Regional Championship, and was one of only 21 players who qualified via at the satellite process.

Four days later, he was the new poker champion, and was nearly a quarter of a million dollars richer.

“I’ll pay off some of my student loans,” Jejelowo jokingly replied when asked what he plans to do with the prize money.  “This feels great to win.  I’m really stoked right now.  But I’m really tired, too.”

Jejelowo had good reason for his fatigue.  He played at a final table which lasted 12 long hours, against very tough competition.  Jejelowo would be the first to admit he had never competed at this level before.  But he performed like a seasoned poker veteran when it came time to make his toughest decisions.  No doubt, Jejelowo’s impressive scholastic background and profession aided his ability to focus and play his best game under the pressure.

Jejelowo collected $235,956 for first place.  He was presented with the coveted WSOP Circuit gold ring.  The bonus for winning this year’s Main Event was an automatic seat into the WSOP Circuit National Championship.


The tournament was played over a four-day span.  The top nine finishers collected prize money from a pool totaling $698,400.  Initially, the official payout was to be only eight places.  But following the third day of play, the nine finalists agreed to surrender $1,500 each from the top eight positions in order to pay the ninth-place finisher, thus saving the player who busted out first from the final table the indignity of walking away with no money. 
Final table play took place on the main stage inside the tournament room at Harrah’s New Orleans.  The finale was taped for nationwide broadcast on The Versus Network.  The program is expected to run sometime during the summer.

Blinds started at 2,500-5,000 with a 500 ante.  When cards went into the air, the nine finalists and their chip counts were as follows:

Seat One:  Allie Prescott (Memphis, TN) – 353,000 in chips
Seat Two:  Harry Cullen, Jr. (Houston, TX) – 164,000 in chips
Seat Three:  Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler (Las Vegas, NV) -- 85,000 in chips
Seat Four:  Jeremy Gaubert (Thibodaux, LA) – 121,000 in chips
Seat Five:  Gary Friedlander (Houston, TX) – 469,000 in chips
Seat Six:  Kunal Patel (Friendswood, TX) – 160,000 in chips
Seat Seven:  Matthew Waxman (Parkland, FL) – 171,000 in chips
Seat Eight:  A.J. Jejelowo (Houston, TX) – 489,000 in chips
Seat Nine:  Scott Lipshutz (Houston, TX) – 237,000 in chips

Final table play began at noon on a Sunday afternoon.  Play concluded at 12:20 am – making the total duration of play a little more than 12 hours.  Players were eliminated in the following order:

Ninth Place – Two hours passed before the first player was eliminated.  When the sword of doom finally fell, it beheaded two players.  The ninth-place finisher was Jeremy Gaubert, from Thibodaux, LA.  He earned $12,000.  Gaubert, age 27, holds a degree in chemistry from Nicholls State University.  However, he now plays poker full-time.  Among his best tournament finishes were victories at the World Poker Open and the Sunday Million. 

Gaubert was eliminated in a three-way pot with Kunal Patel and Allie Prescott, who had both of his opponents covered in chips.  The hand of doom played out at follows:


Gaubert and Patel were both all-in before the flop.  Patel appeared to be in the best shape, but an ace on the flop essentially killed his chances of tripling up.  Gaubert held top pair, but was avulnerable with kicker problems.  Two blanks on the turn and river gave the 300,000 pot to Prescott.  More important, two players were eliminated from the tournament.

Eighth Place – Finishing in eighth place was Kunal Patel, from Friendswood, TX.  He is a 26-year-old poker pro from Friendswood, TX.  Patel graduated from Duke University.  Patel has cashed big in some online poker tournaments.  However, this marked his best cash in a major televised event.  Patel received a nice payout totaling $26,401.

Seventh Place – Seventh place went to Matthew Waxman, from Parkland, FL.  He is a poker player and business owner.  Waxman is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University.  Waxman had already qualified for the WSOP Circuit National Championship by virtue of his win in the Harrah’s Atlantic City Main Event, last December.  He hoped to win a second gold ring in this event, but came up short.

Waxman got waxed when he missed a straight draw on what turned out to be his final hand.  He settled for $30,794 in prize money.  His last hand went as follows:


Waxman was all-in pre-flop in the three-way pot.  Cullen bet out after the flop leaving, creating a heads-up showdown.  Waxman had an outside straight draw, but missed.  He did manage to hit a queen, but the pocket aces held up as the best hand.

Sixth Place – Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler has enjoyed great success in New Orleans.  He’s made three final tables at the last four major events held in The Big Easy.  Kessler, from Las Vegas, enjoyed his strong showing with another high finish in this tournament.  Despite coming into the finale with the lowest chip count, he moved up to sixth place and collected $37,736.  Kessler has accumulated more than $2 million in cashes over the past five years.  He had the most cashes of any player at last year’s WSOP in Las Vegas, with ten.

Kessler’s last hand played out as follows:


Kessler needed to win a race against one of the biggest stacks, but failed.  It appeared he would double up when a king flopped.  But the dreaded ten fell on the river, giving Prescott a set.  Kessler was crushed and departed the tournament in sixth place. 

Fifth Place – About six hours into play, Scott Lipshutz was eliminated and finished in fifth place.  He is a 25-year-old former financial analyst who is now playing poker full-time.  Lipshutz, who resides in Houston, is a graduate of the University of Texas.  His most impressive tournament finish up to this point was making it to the final two tables of last year’s $25,000 buy-in WSOP event.  Fifth place paid $48,673.

Lipshutz was eliminated on the following hand:


Lipshutz three-bet all-in pre-flop, obviously hoping to steal some chips.  Friedlander made the call with his pair.  Lipshutz rocketed to the lead when he caught an ace on the turn, but a fourth diamond on the river gave both players a flush.  Friedlander’s Td played as the higher card, which eliminated Lipshutz.

Fourth Place – Allie Prescott enjoyed a very strong series in New Orleans.  He was the only player to cash in each of the big three events -- which included the $1,000 buy-in NLHE event (3rd), the Main Event Championship (18th), and the Regional Championship.  Prescott took fourth place in this tournament, giving his best shot to win what would have been his first gold ring victory.  Prescott, who graduated from college in New Orleans at Tulane University, now resides in Memphis, TN.  He is a real estate investor who plays regularly on the tournament circuit.  Prescott earned $66,202 in prize money.

On his final hand of the tournament, Prescott was all-in pre-flop and was dominated from the start.  The hand was played as follows:


Third Place – Harry Cullen finished in third place, which was his best finish in a major tournament.  He earned $95,214.  Cullen is a 51-year-old investor from Houston.  He finished in sixth place in this same event, back in 2005.

Cullen ran low on chips in the tenth hour of play.  He was a distant third in the chip count and had to gamble to try and make a comeback.  Cullen shoved from the button and went out on the following hand, losing to a pair of queens:


Second Place – Gary Friedlander played a marvelous tournament from start to finish.  He had the chip lead at various stages of the finale.  But he took a brutal beat on his final hand, and ended the tournament as the runner up.  He earned a consolation prize amounting to $145,422.  Friedlander, a graduate of the University of Texas, is a 54-year-old business owner.  He owns a major supermarket chain.  Friedlander took third place in the most recent Caesars Classic Main Event.  He has also previously cashed three times at the WSOP in Las Vegas.

When heads-up play began, Jejelowo enjoyed about a 3 to 1 chip advantage.  The counts began as follows:

Jejelowo:  1,691,000 in chips
Friedlander:  560,000 in chips

With blinds set at 10,000-20,000 and a 3,000 ante, Friedlander had a fair amount of play before getting to a desperate state.  Surprisingly, the final hand came only about 20 minutes into the duel.  It seemed to be a dream scenario for Friedlander, who held the best hand.  The last hand unfolded as follows:


Jejelowo made a three-bet shove pre-flop, which was called instantly by Friedlander.  Little did Jejelowo know that he was a huge dog on the hand.  The flop was even better for Friedlander, who picked up a straight draw to match his dominant hand.  It sure appeared that Friedlander would double up and bring the chip counts close to even.  But after both players caught an ace on the turn, the nine on the river gave Jejelowo two pair and stunned the crowd.  Friedlander suffered the crushing disappointment of finishing second.  A.J. Jejelowo was declared the winner.

First Place – The first-ever WSOP Circuit Southern Regional champion is A.J. Jejelowo, from Houston, TX.  He is a 27-year-old medical researcher.  He works at Rice University.  Jejelowo is originally from Manchester, UK.  He graduated from Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.  First place paid $235,956 in prize money.  Incredibly, this was Jejelowo’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament. 

Immediately following his victory, Jejelowo posed with “Mardi” the alligator.  Mardi, named in honor of the annual Mardi Gras parade, has become a Harrah’s New Orleans poker tournament tradition.  Every year, the ne3west poker champion poses with the big-jawed beast, stuffed with wads of $100 bills.  Despite the unsavory company of being framed with the reptile, Jejelowo didn’t seem to mind “Mardi’s” company one bit, since the gawking gator was carrying the winner’s share of the loot.

With the last tournament now completed, New Orleans has crowned eleven WSOP Circuit gold ring champions this year.  The list of winners includes:

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
Event #7:  Tom Franklin (Gulfport, MS) defeated 646 players and won $38,139 in $355 NLHE
Event #8:  Brian Walsingham (Atlanta, GA) defeated 356 players and won $78,604 in 1085 NLHE
Event #9:  Jonathan Pocha (St. Martinville, LA) defeated 382 players and won $121,017 in MAIN EVENT
Event #10:  Stephen Puleio (New Orleans, LA) defeated 355 players and won $23,515 in $355 NLHE
Event #11:  A.J. Jejelowo defeated 75 players and won $235,936 in the $10,000 REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

The Best All-Around Champion for the Harrah’s New Orleans series is Brian Walsingham.  He won two gold rings and accumulated 100 points in the race for best player.  By virtue of his outstanding performance, Walsingham qualified for a seat in the National Championship.

A FULL SCHEDULE of completed events with all names that cashed 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. 

Follow all WSOP news and updates on Twitter @wsop

Official website:  www.wsop.com

For more information, please contact:
Nolan Dalla -- Media Director at (702) 358-4642 or nolandalla@aol.com

Tournament Director – Steve Frezer
General Manager of Harrah’s New Orleans
Assistant General Manager – Sherri Pucci
Vice President of Marketing – Luann Pappas
Director of Table Games – Tosha Skipper
Shift Manager of Harrah’s New Orleans – Larry Barrett

About Harrah’s New Orleans:

Harrah’s New Orleans is operated by a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment, Inc., the world's largest provider of branded casino entertainment.  Since its beginning in Reno, Nevada nearly 70 years ago, Caesars (formally Harrah')s has grown through development of new properties, expansions and acquisitions. Caesars Entertainment is focused on building loyalty and value with its customers through a unique combination of great service, excellent products, unsurpassed distribution, operational excellence and technology leadership.  For more information, visit www.harrahsneworleans.com.