A Million Guaranteed: West Palm Beach Opener Smashes Prize Pool Record at $1,250,345
West Palm Beach, FL (February 16, 2012) – Now in the midst of its eighth record-breaking season, the World Series of Poker Circuit has produced its fair share of memorable and magical moments.
But what took place this past weekend at the Palm Beach Kennel Club was truly electrifying.
The opening tournament of this year’s WSOP Circuit stop almost blew the doors off the hinges of the legendary 80-year-old racetrack. A whopping 2,607 poker players flooded into the dog track and revamped poker room, jamming every single table in the facility to full capacity – and then some.
There were unavoidable lines. There were scalpers – yes, selling places in line to get a seat in the tournament. There was a near riot during one of the opening days. There was also a calm and cozy peace that prevailed over the sprawling tournament area once cards finally flew into the air and competition began, with poker tables terraced along the atrium-like windows facing out towards circling greyhounds and throngs of horseplayers screaming for their favorite ponies, appearing on simulcast.
The final tally was staggering. Not only was this the second-biggest turnout of any WSOP Circuit event in history, the total prize pool also set a new record. With a “One-Million Dollar Guarantee” banner luring in near-record numbers, the prize pool swelled to a mammoth $1,250,345 – a cool quarter-million more than organizers anticipated.
Consider this: The prize pool represents the biggest figure ever for any WSOP Circuit event, aside from the Main Event Championship events, which have typically cost thousands of dollars to enter. Essentially, for an investment of $500 (or less, for some players who qualified to play via satellites), participants had the chance to win hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Read more about the opening day of this tournament by CLICKING HERE.
So, pick your headline:
Largest poker turnout in Florida history;
Second-biggest tournament in WSOP history;
Biggest prize pool for any event in poker history for a $500 or lower buy-in.
Of course, there was also a winner. He gets the final headline.
Nearly getting lost amongst all the pomp and circumstance – which included a blue ribbon cutting ceremony with dignitaries and the participation of just about everyone who was anyone on the Florida poker scene – was the thrilling final outcome and eventual new champion.
His name was Anh Lu.
Lu is a 50-year-old nail technician from Bradenton, FL. He collected a whopping $182,750 in prize money, which was the biggest payout ever for any WSOP Circuit tournament, aside from the Main Event Championships at each stop.
For his victory, Lu was presented with the coveted gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit tournament. Remarkably, this was his first time to cash in a WSOP event of any kind.
Lu’s victory almost proved to be anti-climatic. With the hopes of thousands of would-be finalists dashed, Lu made it to the final table ranked in the middle of the pack. Then, he played his best poker when it counted most – winning his first WSOP title amidst a boisterous cheering section favoring various other players.
The night concluded with Lu taking a well-deserved victory lap around the final table. Meanwhile, the track grandstands were nearly empty, vacated long ago by poker players who hoped to be precisely where Lu was standing. But there was room for only one champion.
As Lu basked in his long-awaited glory, scattered beneath his feet were countless losing pari-mutual tickets littering the arena from a day of racing. Symbolic of the lofty aspirations of 2,605 other poker players long since vanquished, in the end -- there was only one winning ticket remaining.
It belonged to Anh Lu. He showed, he placed, and ultimately – he won.
This was the first of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Officially listed as Event #1 -- the $555 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 2,706 entries. The total prize pool came to $1,250,345. The top 279 players were paid. All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.
A full list of all players who cashed in Event #1 can be seen here.
The tournament was played over five consecutive days. However, the first three days were split into three separate flights. The first three sessions – officially classified as flights 1-A, 1-B, and 1-C – resulted in the elimination of nearly 90 percent of the field. Only 306 survivors took their season on the second day of action, played on a Sunday.
Following another 12 hours of play on (the combined) Day Two, only 30 players returned for the final day, which was played on the Presidents Day holiday. After another five hours of play on Monday, the final table was set. The nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:
SEAT 1: Devon Garbus (Tampa, FL) – 4,275,000 in chips
SEAT 2: Charles Flett (Ponca City, OK) – 5,250,000 in chips
SEAT 3: Anh H. Lu (Bradenton, FL) – 3,250,000 in chips
SEAT 4: Josh Kay (West Bloomfield, MI) – 1,180,000 in chips
SEAT 5: Michael Cox (Sumter, SC) – 3,100,000 in chips
SEAT 6: Harrision Gimbel (Jupiter, FL) – 3,995,000 in chips
SEAT 7: Phong Nguyen (Bristow, VA) -- 4,510,000 in chips
SEAT 8: Jose M. Silverman (San Juan, PR) -- 4,175,000 in chips
SEAT 9: Jerry Ard (Monticello, MS) – 2,200,000 in chips
The final table featured no former WSOP Circuit gold ring winners, thus guaranteeing a first-time champion. Nonetheless, several of the players were experienced professionals and tournament performers.
The early chip leader was Charles Flett, from Oklahoma. However, the wide distribution of stack sizes meant that any of the nine finalists could win. In fact, no player was short stacked when the cards went into the air, which meant a long night of poker was ahead.
The final session began at 6:30 pm local time. Play finished at 1 am making the total duration about 6.5 hours. The official order of finish was as follows:
9th Place – Michael Cox was the first player to bust out. He hit the rail about an hour into the finale. Cox is a 30-year-old poker pro from Sumter, SC. This marked his first time to cash in a WSOP-related tournament. He picked the right event in which to debut at the final table, as his strong run was rewarded with a $20,594 payout.
8th Place – Devon Garbus went out next and ended up in ninth place. He is a 25-year-old stagehand and aspiring poker pro from Tampa, FL. Garbus works in entertainment and he lasted a while in the bright lights of the final table. But the third-ranked player in chips when play began ultimately endured a tough final hour. This is the first time Garbus has ever entered a WSOP tournament. He performed admirably, winning $25,648 for his debut performance.
7th Place – Harrison Gimbel, from nearby Jupiter, FL took seventh place. He is a former student who is now playing poker full time. This was Gimbel’s first time in the money at a WSOP event, which paid $32,214.
6th Place – Phong Nguyen ended up as the sixth-place finisher. The Vietnamese-born poker player now residing in Bristow, VA now has 37 major cashes and more than $300,000 in live tournament winnings, a figure bolstered by collecting $40,772 in this event.
5th Place – Jose Silverman, from San Juan, Puerto Rico enjoyed his best tournament finish ever, by coming in fifth place. He is a 41-year-old printing contractor. Silverman also cashed in a WSOP Circuit event last year at Atlantic City – which makes this his second time to cash in the Circuit. He earned $52,014 for this outstanding effort.
4th Place – Josh Kay departed in fourth place. He had what was arguably the most impressive poker resume of any of the finalists, having cashed in the WSOP Main Event during two of the last three years. He’s also made several other final tables of major poker events. Kay, who attended Michigan State University and proudly called West Bloomfield, MI his home, now plays poker full time. Kay could certainly be proud of moving from the shortest stack when nine-handed play began all the way up into fourth place.
3rd Place – Jerry Ard came in third place. He had the unusual experience of losing his final hand against a straight flush. Ard, who is a 44-year-old poker player from Monticello, MS enjoyed his third WSOP Circuit final table appearance this year, after taking third- and eighth-place finishes earlier this month in Tunica. A earned a well-deserved $86,611 in prize money.
2nd Place – Charles Flett finished as the runner up. He is a 26-year-old poker pro from Ponca City, OK. Flett enjoyed the biggest cheering section of any of the finalists and almost gave his supporters a gallery-pleasing victory. But Flett was stopped in his tracks by one lone adversary. The former poker dealer could certainly take great pride in his accomplishment – outlasting 2,504 other players and earning a six-figure score, worth $113,759.
When heads-up play began, Lu enjoyed slightly better than a 2 to 1 chip advantage over Flett. The final hand came only about ten minutes into the duel and proceeded as follows:
Flett moved all-in pre-flop and Lu called. The flop gave Lu a set of jacks. But Flett had an outside straight draw. The turn and river were blanks for Flett, giving Lu the final pot of the tournament – with trip jacks.
1st Place – Anh Lu became the first WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at the Palm beach Kennel Club in what was unquestionably an history-making event. He overcame a monster-sized field and won his biggest payout ever -- $182,750 for the victory. Lu was also presented with his first gold ring.
With his victory, Lu moves into the top spot as the early leader in this WSOP Circuit’s “Best All-Around Player” standings. The player who accumulates the most overall points in the Palm Beach Kennel Club’s twelve combined gold ring tournaments receives a pre-paid entry into the $1 million 2011-2012 WSOP Circuit National Championship. At least two players from this tournament series will qualify for the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which is classified as a WSOP gold bracelet event. The other automatic qualifier will be the winner of Main Event championship (to be held Feb. 25-27).
With the first tournament wrapped up, there are still 11 more gold ring events remaining in what is being billed as a “12 rings in 12 days” poker series. The WSOP Circuit at the Palm Beach Kennel Club continues through February 27th. This year’s schedule includes not only all the gold ring events, but multiple second-chance tournaments, single table and mega satellites, plus cash games going around the clock inside the action-packed poker room
MORE ABOUT THE WSOP CIRCUIT AT PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB
This marks the second consecutive season that the Palm Beach Kennel Club (PBKC) has hosted a WSOP Circuit stop. Last year’s attendance and prize pool figures were so strong, that the decision to return once again to sunny South Florida once again was inevitable.
Indeed, PBKC continues to distance itself from the other dogs in Florida’s highly-competitive poker race. This year, PBKC will be hosting 12 WSOP Circuit gold ring poker tournaments over a two-week period. Tournaments officially began on Thursday, February 16th with Event #1 – which included a one-million dollar guarantee. This marked the first time in history that any tournament of that size ($500 buy-in) offered a guaranteed million-dollar payout.
The following 12 days are sure to be packed with multiple tournaments and around-the-clock cash-game action. The poker festival concludes on February 28th with the final table of the $1,600 buy-in Main Event Championship.
“Florida poker has officially arrived and partnering with the World Series of Poker is as special as it gets," said Noah Carbonne, Director of Poker Operations for the Palm Beach Kennel Club. "We're thrilled to be involved with the Rolls Royce of poker – which is the WSOP. For all of us here at the Palm Beach Kennel Club, the State of Florida, and most importantly the thousands of poker players here in the southeast as well as those attending from around the country, we are ready to make history – especially with our million-dollar guarantee, which has never been offered before for an event of its size.”
Gold ring tournaments are only a fraction of what’s on the poker menu at the Palm Beach Kennel Club. Second-chance No-Limit Hold’em tournaments will be running from day one. The deep-stack tournaments will cost $235 to enter and begin nightly at 7 pm. Satellites for all gold ring tournaments will also be going regularly inside the poker room. Several mega-satellites for the Main Event Championship will also be offered.
The PBKC initially opened in 1932, making it one of the oldest pari-mutual racetracks in the country. Owned and operated by the famous Rooney Family (which also owns the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers), the track has been a popular attraction and a leisurely way to spend an afternoon for locals and visitors alike. Known for its live greyhound racing and simulcasts from numerous racetracks all over the country, PBKC jettisoned into a new era last year when it expanded its poker facility, which is now one of the largest poker rooms in Florida.
About a year ago, PBKC expanded its poker operations to include 64 tournament tables. PBKC is the first dog track to ever host a WSOP-related tournament. Each final table takes place in a premium location near the main grandstand, which enables everyone close to the poker action to cheer on the greyhounds, as well. Naturally, betting windows will be close by for those who want to mix in some racing action with poker playing. Dog races take place most days starting at 1 pm. There are also dog races nightly on weekends.
PBKC is conveniently located just steps away from the West Palm Beach international Airport, which offers direct flights from all over the country. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is also close by. Several hotels are situated near the dog track and poker facility, to accommodate all budgets. The cardroom offers regular shuttle service to and from at least three nearby hotels. Special hotel rate packages for poker players are available.
It’s not too late to be part of the biggest poker event in Florida history. West Palm Beach is well-known for its sandy white beaches, luxury hotels, fine restaurants, great shopping, and plenty of sunshine. And now, there will be great poker action around the clock at the PBKC. The complete schedule and structure sheets for all events can be viewed at WSOP.COM
PBKC is the 11th of 17 WSOP Circuit stops this season. All players over age 21 are eligible to compete for a seat in the $1 million freeroll event which crowns the WSOP Circuit National Championship point race. This season's top 100 players who qualify will compete in the first-ever nationally-televised championship, which will take place in Las Vegas, in May 2012. The winner of that extraordinary event will receive the most coveted prize in all of poker, a WSOP gold bracelet.
Note: Be sure and follow all WSOP news and updates on Twitter @wsop
For more information about the World Series of Poker Circuit, please contact:
Nolan Dalla (WSOP Media Director) at (702) 358-4642
For more information about the Palm Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room, please contact:
Teresa Hume (Director of Publicity) at (561) 683-2222 (Ext. 120)
Or visit the official website: http://www.pbkennelclub.com/