Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady:  Three Women Take Top Three Spots at West Palm Beach – Possibly a Poker First


West Palm Beach, FL (February 20 2012) – One any other typical day, this would have been the daily headline: 
 
Women take top three spots in major poker tournament.

Potentially overshadowed by the “Million Dollar Guarantee” opener at the Palm Beach Kennel Club which coincided on the same day, Event #2 of the World Series of Poker Circuit included what is very likely a first for any major poker tournament ever held, anywhere. 

Drum roll please.

Loni Harwood finished first.  Anne Amato finished second.  Amanda Musumeci finished third.

Look closely at those names.  Real close.  They are all women.

While poker is a game with irrefutable equal opportunity for all players -- regardless of gender --  the fact is, women poker players remain few in number.  Although more women are playing poker now than ever before, few major poker tournaments include more than a fraction of entries who are female.  According to reliable estimates, major tournaments (including WSOP events) tend to attract no more than about five percent if the total field when it comes to entrants who are women (the exceptions are “women’s only” events, of course).

So, when four women appeared at the latest WSOP Circuit final table held in West Palm Beach, heads began to turn.  A few hours later, even more disbelieving chauvinistic eyes were focused on what had morphed into trio of Femme Fatales, just as the record-breaking final stages of Event #1 (the “One Million-Dollar Guarantee), which concluded just a few feet away.

Indeed, the night was a poker dream for both players and spectators alike.  Instead of the usual ambiance of a casino, the Palm Beach Kennel Club resembled a frat house, with plenty of cheering, drinking, and laughter – making for a most festive atmosphere.

Rising highest above all the merriment and history-making was Loni Harwood, an aspiring 22-year-old poker pro from Staten Island, NY. 

Harwood collected $30,994 in prize money.  She was also presented with the coveted gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit tournament.  This marked her first live major tournament victory.

Harwood is a college graduate.  He earned her degree in finance from the State University of New York at Albany, last year.  However, Harwood decided she wanted to give poker a shot for a year or so, before making future plans as to what career path to take. 

Harwood arrived in Florida to visit her father, who resides in Hallandale.  She discovered the WSOP Circuit was being played in West Palm Beach and decided to pay a visit.  In the end, she’s the one who was paid off – with a nice score.  More important perhaps was the self-confidence and reassurance she will most certainly take from this debut victory.

Following her win, Harwood was quick to acknowledge the other females at the final table, particularly Amanda Musumeci, who finished third.  Her rival is best known for finishing 62nd in last year’s WSOP Main Event Championship.

Second place went to Anne Amato, from Sarasota, FL who is also an accomplished tournament chess player.

Getting back to what most people are likely to be talking about long after most other poker tournaments have been long forgotten will be the novelty of three females in the top three money spots for a major open tournament.  No doubt, women have won plenty of major titles, and in some cases they have taken several of the top money spots.  However, unless anyone can show an event held elsewhere had a similar occurrence -- this was very likely history making and a first in poker.

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This was the second of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at the Palm Beach Kennel Club.  Officially listed as Event #2 -- the $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournament attracted 500 entries.  The total prize pool came to $144,150.  The top 45 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players that cashed in Event #2 can be seen at WSOP.COM

The first day’s action resulted in the elimination of most of the field, as only 30 players survived.  After another three hours of play in Day Two, the ten finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1:  Anne Amato (Sarasota, FL) – 200,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Frank Mainade, Jr. (Miami, FL) – 420,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  Loni Harwood (Staten Island, NY) – 765,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Amanda Musumeci (Philadelphia, PA) – 856,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Michael Palumbo (Fort Meyers, FL) – 400,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Debra Jorgensen (St. Petersburg, FL) – 284,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Aaron Lambert (Chapin, SC) – 579,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  William Buckmaster (Atlanta, GA) – 539,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Eric Brenes (San Jose, CR) – 415,000 in chips
SEAT 10:  Calvin Smith (Charlotte, NC) – 525,000 in chips


The final session began at 5:00 pm local time.  Play finished at midnight making the total duration about seven hours. 

With her victory, Harwood moves alongside the winners of Events #1 and #3 (which also concluded on this day) as the early leaders in this WSOP Circuit’s “Best All-Around Player” standings.  The player who accumulates the most overall points in West Palm Beach’s 12 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 (Feb. 25-27).

With the first three tournaments wrapped up, there are still nine 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

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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.