Council Bluffs, IA (April 5, 2012)—Horseshoe Council Bluffs has now crowned eight new Circuit champions in just seven days. Keeping up that pace was Event #8, a $350 No-Limit Hold’em Turbo tournament. It played out in one day and concluded just before 3 a.m. Thursday.

The victor was 31-year-old Aaron Ruppert. Ruppert bested a 178-person field to take home his first ring and almost $14,000. 

“It feels great,” Ruppert said. “It’s my first ring so it’s a big accomplishment.” 

And an accomplishment it was. Ruppert, himself a past casher in the WSOP Main Event, was joined by fellow Main Event cashers Amanda Musumeci, Sarah Hale and Joel Merwick. Together they account for $430,000 in career earnings at the WSOP.

Musumeci stood above her peers, finishing 62nd for $130,997 in 2011. Ruppert also cashed in the 2011 Main Event, 74th place awarding $90,343. Merwick finished 198th for $39,075 in 2005 and Hale finished 502nd for $25,027 in 2009.

Additionally, Musumeci and Hale became the second and third females to make a final table at the 2011/2012 Circuit stop in Council Bluffs. Much is made about the state of women in poker, but when it comes to cards, Ruppert is gender blind.

“Once you start to play everyone is the same,” he said about the fairer sex. “It’s all poker and gender doesn’t matter at all.”

Ruppert, a meteorology major at the University of Oklahoma, enjoys storm chasing when he isn’t playing cards and he says there are similarities between his two hobbies. 

“It’s 99 percent boredom and 1 percent extreme excitement,” Ruppert said about storm chasing. “ It’s driving around a lot with not much going on, but then you’re there with a tornado. It’s kind of like a big hand in poker.”

Many will be able to empathize with Ruppert’s boredom in the early stages of tournament, but the final table undoubtedly had 100 percent of his attention at all times. 

 Seat 1 Scott Sharpe Leawood, KS 180,000
 Seat 2 Jeff Eades Omaha, NE 275,000
 Seat 3 Aaron Ruppert Norman, OK 109,000
 Seat 4 John Comito Des Moines, IA 187,000
 Seat 5 Amanda Musumeci Philadelphia, PA117,500 
 Seat 6 Sarah Hale Las Vegas, NV 316,000
 Seat 7 Kov Vang Maplewood, MN 229,000
 Seat 8 Kevin O'Donnell Seward, NE 62,500
 Seat 9 Joel Merwick Omaha, NE 216,500
 Seat 10 Bruce Hoyt Gilbert, AZ 98,500

Tenth Place: This was Kevin O’Donnell’s first ever WSOP Circuit cash, but he has had some success in other events. He has carded second and third place finishes in H.O.R.S.E. tournaments and appeared at several other final tables. O’Donnell is married with five children and eight grandchildren. He says family and business are his priorities. He is 55 and earned $1,010 for tenth.

Ninth Place: Kou Vang has almost $70,000 in career earnings at the WSOP. He won a ring in Council Bluffs in 2008 and he now has six cashes and three final tables. His poker ambition is to support his family. 

The 29-year-old poker pro from Maplewood, MN earned $1,246 for his ninth place finish.

Eighth Place: This marked the second time John Comito has cashed at a WSOP Circuit event in Council Bluffs, but it was his first final table. He earned $1,563.

Comito is a 66-year-old dealer from Des Moines,IA. He is married with three boys.

Seventh Place: Amanda Musumeci has been on a tear in 2011. She has now recorded nine WSOP cashes, most notably a 62nd place finish in the WSOP Main Event this summer that awarded more than $130,000. This was her third WSOP Circuit final table. She came to the final table of Event #8 short stacked and was never able to get anything going. Together with Hale, the two marked the second and third females to make a final table at the 2011/2012 Circuit stop in Council Bluffs. She finished seventh and won $1,992. She has more than $140,000 in career earnings.

Musumeci is 27 years old and works as a professional poker player.

Sixth Place: Bruce Hoyt won a ring in a H.O.R.S.E. event held at Choctaw last year. Since then he has recorded four more cashes and three final table appearances. He came up short of ring number two, finishing sixth and earning $2,581.

Hoyt is a small business owner from Gilbert, AZ. He is 61 and married with four children and eleven grandchildren.

Fifth Place: Joel Merwick has now recorded eight final tables but hasn’t been able to attain the ever-elusive Circuit ring. Along with Musumeci, he also has recorded a WSOP Main Event cash (2005, 189th). 

Merwick has almost $170,000 career cashes at the WSOP. His most recent finish awarded $3,401. He is a 31-year-old poker pro. 

Fourth Place: Prior to Event #8, Jeff Eades had never cashed in a WSOP event and in his own words, had no previous poker accomplishments. He is 53 years old and works in sales. He won $4,560.

Third Place: After coming to the final table as the chip leader and even holding about 40 percent of the chips in play with six players left, Sarah Hale undoubtedly had her eyes on gold from the start. But as any poker player knows, this game is unforgiving -- even more so in the turbo format. Her third place finish came after a less than stellar run of cards and she was awarded $6,221.

Like Musumeci and Merwick, Hale has recorded a cash in the WSOP Main Event (2009, 502nd). Her father, Oklahoma Johnny Hale, has recorded seven WSOP final tables and 13 cashes. Sarah’s first words were, “raise the pot.” Her poker ambition is to play her best and make her father proud. 

Second Place: This was Scott Sharpe’s first time cashing in a WSOP Circuit event. He was awarded $8,643.

Sharpe is a 29-year-old realtor from Leawood, KS.

First Place: Aaron Ruppert won Event #8 in Council Bluffs. He is roommates with three-time Circuit champion, Huy Nguyen.

“I felt like I needed to get one at least to catch up. I’m a little jealous of him,” Ruppert said with a smile.

When he isn’t playing poker, Ruppert, a meteorology major, enjoys storm chasing and he even appeared on the Discovery channel series while working with a storm chasing team.

Like Musumeci, Hale and Merwick, Ruppert also cashed in the WSOP Main Event (2011, 24th).

Ruppert is a 31-year-old professional poker player from Norman, OK.

WSOP Circuit events continue at Horseshoe Council Bluffs through April 10. The Main Event will take place April 7.

About Horseshoe Council Bluffs: Horseshoe Council Bluffs, located only a few miles from Omaha, NE, is Iowa’s largest casino. It opened in March 2006 after receiving an $86 million renovation and expansion. The property now features roughly 100,000 square feet of gaming space and boasts the title of Iowa’s only land-based, full-service casino. In addition to the most popular tables and slots, Horseshoe Casino features live greyhound racing and simulcast thoroughbred racing, giving it the broadest array of wagering options in the region. This is the sixth year the property has hosted a World Series of Poker Circuit event. 

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