Main Event Championship Attracts 625 Entrants – 39 Percent Increase Over Last Year

Record-Breaking WSOP Circuit at Harrah’s St. Louis Comes to a Close

St. Louis, MO (April 23, 2012) – The latest World Series of Poker Circuit championship ended the way every major tournament series should, with record-breaking field, a race down the homestretch to the finish line, capped off by a thrilling moment of victory.

Tripp Kirk won the championship title in masterful fashion.  He overcame a sizable field of 625 players, rewarded with $190,961 in prize money.  Kirk also collected his second career WSOP Circuit gold ring, following his previous win at Harrah’s Tunica last season.  Kirk now has ten WSOP Circuit cashes.  But this was his biggest win, by far.

Kirk is a 27-year-old semi-pro from Atlanta, GA.  He’s been playing live poker seriously for about four years and has developed a well-deserved reputation as a strong up-and-coming young player who could emerge as a top tier player.  Certainly, his victory in St. Louis will only serve to enhance his status in the game.  Kirk actually works full-time for a software company and does much of his work on the road, while playing in various tournaments around the country.

The championship finale entailed a bit of added drama due to the “Best All-Around Player” being at stake.  As Kirk outlasted each of his final table opponents, he reached the point where he was close to overtaking Nik Stone (winner of a previous event) in the point race.  Once play became four handed, Kirk was guaranteed a seat – either by winning the Main Event or finishing in any of the other top three spots.  Oddly enough, Stone has to switch his rooting interest at that point and hope his rival would win the tournament, since the champion was guaranteed a seat and the runner up (in points) would then become the de-facto “Best All-Around Player.”  So, once Kirk ended up winning, no player was more happy than Stone, presumably following the action over the Internet.

The runner up was Tim “Killer” Killday, a fine part-time player from Columbia, MO.  He is the general manager of EcoPave LLC, which owns technology related to the nation’s roadways.  Killday played the role of wild card at the final table, in large part because of his unorthodox style and unpredictable nature.  Killday – making his first-ever WSOP-related cash -- made things interesting and uncomfortable, particularly for those he busted.  Afterward, Killday -- who is a big supporter of the University of Missouri -- wanted to thank his wife of 22 years (Darlene), and their three children.

But the night really belonged to Kirk, who won the final hand of the night holding two pair – aces and deuces. 

With the conclusion of events at Harrah’s St. Louis, the final WSOP Circuit stop this season in the Midwest comes to an end.   The next WSOP Circuit stop takes place at Harrah’s Chester, which is in the Philadelphia area.  The series takes place April 26 to May 7.

The final WSOP Circuit stop of the season takes place at Harrah’s New Orleans, from May 10-21.  One week later, the 2012 World Series of Poker begins in Las Vegas.


The past two weeks of poker action at Harrah’s St. Louis produced several noteworthy stories.  Among them were:

Largest Poker Tournament in Missouri History – Two days into the tournament series, the $355 buy-in tournament (Event #4) set a new record as the largest poker tournament ever held in the state of Missouri.  A whopping 1,066 entrants jammed into Harrah’s St. Louis for the two-day competition ultimately won by Roy Riley, from Savoy, IL.

Kyle Cartwright’s Fourth Gold Ring Victory – The poker pro from Tulsa, OK won Event #10, which was his fourth career WSOP Circuit title.  The defending champion of last year’s Main Event at Harrah’s St. Louis returned to the site of his previous glory and moved to within one won of matching the all-time wins lead (five).  At age 24, Cartwright appears destined to become one of the WSOP Circuit’s most accomplished players.

Kurt Jewel’s Fourth Gold Ring Victory – In an unprecedented development on the WSOP Circuit, the four-win mark was reached a second time by another player on the final day of the series.  Kurt Jewel won Event #12 and joined the likes of Cartwright (see above), Masek, and Nguyen – with four titles.

Amanda Musumeci’s Four Cashes – Poker pro Amanda Musumeci went deep in last year’s WSOP Main Event (62nd place) and continued her strong tournament run this season.  She now has nine total cashes and four final table appearances since this year’s Circuit began.  Musumeci did particularly well in events at this WSOP Circuit stop, coming in the money four times – 5th, 11th, 21st, and 47th.

Eddie Smurzynski’s Final Table Comeback in Event #9 – When play was at ten-handed in the $355 NLHE tournament, young poker pro Smurzunski ranked dead last in chips.  Six hours later, he had all the chips on the table, $27,212 in prize money, and his first WSOP Circuit gold ring.

Large Attendance Increases for Most Events – In addition to setting the record for the largest tournament ever in the region, most of the 12 gold ring events held at Harrah’s St. Louis enjoyed substantial increases in attendance.  Overall numbers were up by more than 20 percent over last year.  The Main Event Championship increased by a whopping 39 percent over the same event held in 2011.

Nik Stone Wins “Best All-Around Player” Title – Nik Stone crawled across the finish line en route to earning an automatic seat in the WSOP Circuit National Championship.  In his only two WSOP Circuit cashes, he took 1st and 6th place, earning 72.5 points, which was good enough to triumph over a flood of other contenders.  Stone actually finished second in points to Tripp Kirk, but since the Main Event champion was already guaranteed a seat, the next bid fell to Stone who now has a chance to play on national television for six-figures in prize money, plus a gold bracelet. 


The eleventh of a dozen gold ring tournaments began on Saturday with Event #11 – the $1,620 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Championship.  The tournament attracted 625 entries which began play in two flights.  The total prize pool came to $909,375.  The top 63 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

The tournament was played over three consecutive days.  About half of the starting field -- 304 survivors -- took seats on the second day of action, played on Sunday.

Day Two saw the field size drop from 304 down to 21.

Among the more notable players who cashed were:

Alexandru Masek – finished in 20th place.  He owns four WSOP Circuit gold rings, one behind the all-time leader, Mark “Pegasus” Smith.

Scott Clements – finished in 36th place.  He is a two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner and also a former WSOP Circuit gold ring winner.

Seneca Easley – finished in 37th place.  He cashed four times at the Harrah’s St. Louis series.  Last year, he won the Main Event at Harrah’s Rincon.  Easley now has 14 cashes over the past two seasons.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #11 can be seen here.

After Brian Davis (Oklahoma City, OK) was eliminated in tenth place on a wicked beat, the final table set.  Players took their seats with the following chip counts:

Seat 1 – James Russell with 1,720,000 in chips
Seat 2 – Tripp Kirk with 1,731,000 in chips
Seat 3 – Bradley Lipsey with 2.300,000 in chips
Seat 4 – Chris Conrad with 2,593,000 in chips
Seat 5 – Jerry Milanos with 479,000 in chips
Seat 6 – Ganesh Letchumanan with 940,000 in chips
Seat 7 – Tim “Killer” Killday with 1,263,000 in chips
Seat 8 – Jeff “Anaconda” Fitzgerald with 1,100,000 in chips
Seat 9 – Charles “Woody” Moore with 516,000 in chips

The final playing session began at 4:15 pm.  Play finished at 10:15 making the total duration about six hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

9th Place – Jeremy Milanos was the first player eliminated.  He is a 79-year-old retiree and part-time poker player from Hillsboro, IL.  Milanos took 72nd place in last year’s Seniors Championship at the WSOP.  This time, his finish paid $17,715.

8th Place – James Russell went out in eighth place.  He is the 59-year-old owner of a landscaping company from the Detroit area.  This was his fourth time to cash in just the last two WSOP Circuit stops, as well as his second final table appearance after taking fifth place at an event at Council Bluffs (Iowa).  Russell collected $22,298 in prize money.

7th Place – Jeff “Anaconda” Fitzgerald was the seventh-place finisher.  He is a 22-year-old service technician from Fenton, MO.  This his second time to cash at this series following a deep run in a previous event at Harrah’s St. Louis.  Seventh place paid $28,455.
6th Place – Bradley “Tip” Lipsey finished in sixth place.  He is a 28-year-old professional poker player from the Nashville area.  Lipsey only started playing live tournaments this year, after enjoying considerable success in online poker.  He now has five cashes this season, including three final table appearance.  Lipsey collected $36,784 in prize money.  But he is a lucky man in more ways than just with money.  Following his elimination, Lipsey wanted to acknowledge the unwavering support of his girlfriend (Sadie), who supports his decision to play poker and takes care of their home while he is on the road.
5th Place – Ganesh Letchumanan ended up as the fifth-place finisher.  He is from Falls Church, VA.  Letchmumanan has now cashed twice this year after a deep run in an event played at Harrah’s Atlantic City.  He collected $48,224.
4th Place – Charles “Woody” Moore was the fourth-place finisher.  The Las Vegas-based poker pro by way of Dallas nursed a short-stack most of the day, en route to an impressive finish.  He took second place in the Main Event held two weeks ago at Council Bluffs, which means he has two top-four finishes in the last two WSOP Circuit championships.  Moore collected a well-deserved $64,093 in prize money.  This was his tenth time to cash on the WSOPC.

3rd Place – Chris Conrad came in third place.  He is a 27-year-old former bartender from Tampa, FL.  With this $86,372 cash, Conrad now has nearly $500,000 in career tournament earnings.  He credits much of his support to his family.  Conrad also has a dog, appropriately named “Vegas.”

2nd Place – Tim “Killer” Killday was the runner up.  He is a 44-year old general manager from Columbia, MO.  Wearing his lucky Missouri Tiger’s jacket from start to finish, the part-time poker player enjoyed his first WSOP Circuit cash.  He picked a great spot to make a debut, collecting $118,119 as his consolation prize.  

When heads-up play began, Kirk had Killday covered by about a 2 to 1 margin.  The fuel lasted only about ten hands.  The final hand came quickly and proceeded as follows:


Killday pushed all-in on a bluff attempt, which failed.  Kirk called and tabled two pair – aces and deuces.  Kirk was declared the 2012 Harrah’s St. Louis Main Event champion.

1st Place – Tripp Kirk became the final WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Harrah’s St. Louis.  He won his biggest payout ever – totaling $190,961 for the victory.  He was also presented with his second gold ring.

With his victory, Kirk qualified for an automatic seat into the WSOP Circuit National Championship.  Two players from this tournament series earned bids into the season-ending finale, which is classified as a WSOP gold bracelet event. 

The other automatic qualifier was Nik Stone.  He accumulated the most overall points in Harrah’s St. Louis’ twelve combined gold ring tournaments and thus also receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2011-2012 WSOP Circuit National Championship. 

Here is the list of gold ring winners at Harrah’s St. Louis, so far:

Event #1 – Shain Matthews (Marysville, CA) won $29,306 in $355 NLHE
Event #2 – Jerry Ard (Monticello, MS) won $32,147 in $565 NLHE
Event #3 – Kevin Balsman (St. Louis, MO) won $11,844 in $355 PLO
Event #4 – Roy Riley (Savoy, IL) won $57,139 in $355 NLHE (Re-Entry)
Event #5 – William Byrnes (St. Charles, MO) won $19,025 in $355 Turbo NLHE
Event #6 – Adam Laskey (Fargo, ND) won $23,449 in $355 NLHE
Event #7 – Nik Stone (Auburndale, WI) won $21,770 in $355 6-HANDED NLHE
Event #8 – Stephen Friedel (Vandalia, IL) won $33,664 in $565 NLHE
Event #9 – Eddie Smurzynski (Midlothian, IL) won $27,212 in $355 NLHE
Event #10 – Kyle Cartwright (Tulsa, OK) won $53,354 in $1,085 NLHE
Event #11 – Tripp Kirk (Atlanta, GA) won $190,961 in $1,620 NLHE MAIN EVENT



Harrah’s St. Louis is a casino-resort located in Maryland Heights, MO -- about a 35-minute drive from Downtown St. Louis.  The international airport is even closer, just 15-minutes by car or shuttle.  In fact, the shuttle bus is free for hotel guests.  For poker players residing throughout the Midwest, the casino can be reached easily, which is located right off Interstate-70.

Harrah’s St. Louis is the 15th (of 17) WSOP Circuit host properties.  The 2011-2012 season is rapidly winding down, with only three more stops remaining on the schedule.  Harrah’s St. Louis is the Midwest’s final destination this season.  The other two remaining WSOP Circuit stops are at Harrah’s Chester (Philadelphia) – April 26 to May 7 and Harrah’s New Orleans – May 10 to May 21.

This marks the third straight season that the WSOP Circuit has visited Harrah’s St. Louis.  Previous tournaments played here drew large turnouts and generated big prize pools.  This year’s series appears to be no different based on heavy registration for the first few events.

Harrah’s St. Louis first opened in 1997 and has been one of gaming’s flagship properties in the Midwest ever since.  The hotel offers 455 deluxe rooms and 47 luxury suites.  Special hotel rates for players are available.  The property also has several fine restaurants at all price levels.  See for more information.

Harrah’s St. Louis’ “12 Rings in 12 Days” series is taking place April 12-23.  All the poker action takes place right on the main casino floor.  The final table is stationed right in the center of the floor, a highly-anticipated destination for every poker player. 

There's a lot at stake for poker players who will make their way to Harrah’s St. Louis over the next two weeks.  Not only are a dozen gold rings up for grabs, lots of prize money will also be awarded to those who cash.  All players who finish in the money will also earn ranking points, which are used to determine finalists for the season-ending WSOP Circuit National Championship.

Since the season began in September, all tournament players have been in the running for 100 guaranteed pre-paid seats in the $1 million WSOP Circuit National Championship finale – which will be a WSOP gold bracelet event to be played in Las Vegas, around the time of the World Series of Poker Main Event.