Council Bluffs, IA (April 11, 2012)—“I have a ring on my finger. I’m married to the game of poker forever.”

These were the words of Scott Stanko moments after he won the WSOP Circuit Main Event in Council Bluffs.

The tournament drew 290 players -- 16 percent more than last year -- and had a prizepool of $421,950. Stanko was awarded better than $101,000 and a WSOP Circuit gold ring for the win.

He slept on quite a cushion before the third and final day of play in the championship event.

He bagged 1,481,000 million chips at the end of Day 2 -- accounting for more than 25 percent of the total chips in play with only nine players remaining.

He started out Day 3 slowly, picking his spots deliberately. After a while, he had surrendered his massive chip lead. But as any good closer does, Stanko righted the ship and went on to beat WSOP Circuit champion Charles “Woody” Moore heads-up.

“I made a couple pretty big mistakes,” Stanko said after the tournament. “You can never play perfect. What’s beautiful about winning is I can learn from that stuff.” 

Stanko is 33 years old and just recently dedicated himself to poker fulltime. Prior to his new profession he earned his undergrad at the University of Nebraska and even pursued his PhD in biochemistry. When he needed a new adventure he decided to move to Wyoming to work as a cowboy for the family business. After riding horseback for eight to ten hours a day became stale, he decided to pursue his law degree at the University of Michigan and even practiced law in Chicago. When that got boring he became a stock trader. 

Are you keeping up?

After basically every venture became monotonous and unfulfilling for one reason or another, Stanko turned to the one constant in his life -- poker.

“I put so much time into poker,” Stanko said. “What’s so great about winning here in Council Bluffs is I got my undergrad at the University of Nebraska and had a bunch of my friends here watching. It was great hanging out with them all weekend and it’s a great feeling.”

In addition to prizes and jewelry, Stanko also won an automatic berth into the $1,000,000 Circuit National Championship to take place this July in Las Vegas. He will join the Council Bluffs Casino Champion, Michael Nellis, for a shot at a WSOP golf bracelet.

With two runner-up finishes Nellis amassed 75 points and secured the Casino Championship. Nellis played his heart out over the 12-day series and won better than $24,000 in prize money.

“I came to the Circuit looking to gauge my poker skills against some of the best and I’m thrilled to have had the best run of anyone in Council Bluffs,” Nellis said. “I’m excited to have a crack at a bracelet in the National Championship. Bring on Hellmuth!”

A full list of the players who cashed in the Main Event can be found HERE. 


The final table of the Main Event began at 2 p.m. CST on Tuesday and play lasted more than eight hours. The final nine players stacked up as follows:

 Seat 1  Charles Moore  Las Vegas, NV  623,000
 Seat 2  Mark Bonsack  Cle Elum, WA  283,000
 Seat 3  Stephen Ma  Boulder, CO  928,000
 Seat 4  Pejman Niyati  Plano, TX  875,000
 Seat 5  Sean Moore  Omaha, NE  278,000
 Seat 6  James Smith  Atlantic, IA  401,000
 Seat 7  Casey Cavanaugh  Omaha, NE  745,000
 Seat 8  Scott Stanko  Scottsbluff, NE  1,481,000
 Seat 9  Jeremy Jagoda  Leawood, KS  199,000

Ninth Place: The first elimination from the final table was 38-year-old Jeremy Jagoda who met his demise at the hands of Stanko. Jagoda re-raised all-in from the button and Stanko called holding   , slightly behind the    of Jagoda. A queen on the flop spelled the end for Jagoda. He finished tenth and earned $9,261.

Jagoda is a radiologist from Leawood, KS. This was his first WSOP cash and final table. 

Eighth Place: Pejman Niyati began the day toward the top of the chip counts but steadily declined through the first few levels of play. Holding just 7.5 big blinds he shoved with    and James Smith made the easy call with   . The flop brought an ace putting an end to any hope Niyati had for gold. Eighth place awarded $11,646.

This was Niyati’s fourth cash and first final table at the WSOP. He is a fulltime father of his boy Kaleb, a gifted basketball player.

Seventh Place: Sean Moore laid claim to the title of seventh place finisher when his    couldn’t catch up to the    of Smith. Meanwhile, Smith’s stack got healthier, as he approached the 900,000 chip mark. Moore was awarded $14,819.

Moore is married and has two lovely daughters, Ashley and Samantha. He has supported his family for the past five years playing poker professionally. When he isn’t on the tournament felt he spends his time coaching soccer, traveling and being with his family. He is a proud veteran.

Sixth Place: After his opponent spiked a four on the flop holding pocket fours against Smith’s queens, it was looking as if Smith might be out the door shortly. But he battled back and was in the race for first when he four-bet all-in against Moore. Moore made the call on a queen-high flop and tabled    and was well ahead the    of Smith. The turn and river were jack-less and just like that Smith was eliminated in sixth. He earned $19,148.

Smith is a 55-year-old salesman from Atlantic, IA. He has no superstitions because he says it’s bad luck to be superstitious. He is married with one stepson and one grandson. This was his first WSOP cash and final table.

Fifth Place: On a board of     Woody Moore bet out 325,000 and Mark “Bonsai” Bonsack looked at him and asked, “Really? I’ve got a pair Woody.” Bonsack then made the call leaving him only about 150,000 behind. Woody bet the rest of Mark’s stack on the   turn and Mark called, tabling pocket fives, well behind the pocket eights of Woody. The river brought a blank and Bonsack was eliminated in fifth, earning $25,127.

This was Bonsack’s second final table of the 2011/2012 Circuit stop in Council Bluffs. He has over $150,000 in lifetime WSOP earnings and is a 51-year-old contractor from Cle Elum, WA. 

Fourth Place: Stephen Ma left the tournament in fourth place. On a board of     , Stanko moved all-in and the action was on Ma. Ma spent some time in the tank before calling with    and realizing he was behind the    of Stanko. A river blank sent Ma heading home with $33,503.

Stephen Ma is a 28-year-old former student turned poker pro. He resides in Iowa City, IA and says fifty-dollar bills are unlucky. His favorite poker player is Allen Kessler. In 2007 he placed 220th in the WSOP Main Event.

Third Place: With four players remaining, tournament director Charlie Ciresci looked at Casey Cavanaugh and said, “Casey you must be card dead.” - “Like never before,” Cavanaugh replied. Fortunately, mucking his rags managed to move him up a pay level and he finished third for $45,510.

Cavanaugh’s final hand came when he held    on a board of     and Stanko held   . The hand basically played itself and all the chips went in the middle. Stanko faded the nine on the turn and river and Cavanaugh was eliminated.

Cavanaugh is a 31-year-old personal trainer from Omaha, NE. He is engaged and says his poker ambition is to win the WSOP Main Event. This was his first WSOP cash. 

Second Place: Charles “Woody” Moore finished as the Horseshoe Council Bluffs Main Event runner-up. He was awarded $62,584.

With more than $400,000 in career earnings, Moore is a familiar face to the WSOP. This marked his 15th career cash. He has now recorded first, second and third place finishes at the WSOP. He is married with one son. He is a 63-year-old retiree from Las Vegas, NV. 

First Place: Scott Stanko began the final table with 25 percent of the chips in play, but winning wasn’t always a given.

“I think I got a little too overly focused,” Stanko said. “You have to let poker come to you and I was pressing a little bit too much.” 

He started out slowly, picking his spots deliberately. But by the time play reached heads up, Stanko’s massive chip lead had transformed into a chip deficit and he had some work to do. Each player chipped back and forth at eachother until Stanko delivered the final blow, holding    versus the    of Moore. The   on the flop gave Moore the lead, but only temporarily, and the   turn put Stanko well ahead and Moore would never catch up.

“I was pretty much going for the win the whole way,” Stanko said. “Last man standing out of 290 entrants… It feels good.”

The Horseshoe Council Bluffs Main Event champion was Scott Stanko. He earned $101,266.

With the completion of the Main Event the 2011/2012 World Series of Poker Circuit in Council Bluffs has come to an end. Overall participation was up more than 35 percent for the 12-day series. 

More poker action will start up this Thursday as the WSOP calls Harrah’s St. Louis home for 12 days of tournament play.
Full schedule HERE. 

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