Canadian Wins $226,395 Top Prize and Championship Gold Ring

Charles Flett on the Verge of “Best All-Around Player” Victory

West Palm Beach, FL (February 27, 2012) – The World Series of Poker Main Event Championship at the Palm Beach Kennel Club has stormed across the finish line after a record-breaking two-week run.

The $1,600 Main Event Championship started play over the previous weekend with a door-busting 778 entries.  Attendance was up by a slight margin over last year’s inaugural WSOP Circuit appearance in Florida, which drew 742 entries.

Three days and innumerous hands after it all began, nine finalists took their seats the final table, which was played on a Monday night at a special table set up adjacent to the main grandstand, filled with poker players, greyhound racing fans, and horse bettors alike.

Crossing the finish line first was Jim Harnden, from Cobourg, Ontario (Canada).  This marked his first time to cash in a WSOP-related event.   Harnden collected $226,395 in prize money.  For his victory, he was also presented with the coveted gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP Circuit tournament.  

Harnden is a 58-year-old contractor.  However, he is currently taking some time off to travel around North America and is stopping to play poker wherever possible.  This past week, he ended up at the Palm Beach Kennel Club and could not have imagined that he would end up in the winner’s circle, following a battle that lasted three days.

Based on the way Harden played, this was anything but a photo finish.  The Canadian obliterated his opponents during the later stages of the tournament, earning his victory in a relatively quick five hours of final table play.

What made the finale most unusual perhaps, were the two senior players at the final table finishing in first and second place.  Harnden, 58, played heads up against Rob Williamson, age 44.  Most of the other players at the final tale were in their 20s.

“I’ve got a bit of experience on them,” Harnden said afterwards, when asked about playing in a tournament environment that is now largely dominated by younger players.  “I think a lot of what I learned over the years helped me here.”

Indeed, Harnden proved that poker can still be a game that’s fun and enjoyable.  Constantly joking and bantering with the other players during most of the final day, Harnden enjoyed himself throughout.  While many tournaments end up with stone-faced champions and players who rarely speak or show much emotion, the finale of the West Palm Beach championship was a throwback to an era when players talked, joked, got along, and behaved like gentlemen.  Appropriately, the most amiable gentleman of them all, ended up with the victory.

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This was the second year that the WSOP Circuit has visited South Florida.  Aside from Jim Harnden’s thrilling Main Event victory, here are a few of the highlights of an action-packed two weeks of poker festivities:

Million Dollar Guarantee (Event #1) Smashes Records – The opening attraction of the “12 rings in 12 days” tournament poker series was a spectacular success.  Attendance for the “One Million Dollar Guarantee” No-Limit Hold’em opener – Event #1 -- attracted a whopping 2,607 entrants.  The turnout represented the second-largest poker event in World Series of Poker Circuit history.  It was also the largest prize pool ever for any WSOP Circuit tournament, aside from the high-stakes buy-in Main Events at each Circuit stop.  Noah Carbonne and his excellent staff did a remarkable job in planning and coordinating this record-setting spectacle.  Its poker tables were filled to absolute capacity – and then some – during each of the three opening days.  The enormous turnout did pose a wild scene, unprecedented for any previous poker tournament.  No doubt, it was a poker first.  Prior to the third and final opening session, which began on Saturday, players began dutifully lining up at the front doors of the Palm Beach Kennel Club – some arriving as early at 4 am.  By 11 am, the scheduled start time for the tournament, the crowd hoping to get a seat and compete for the $1,250,345 in prize money at stake had swelled to an estimated 600 to 700 bodies, many of whom had to be turned away due to the complete sell-out.

Three Women Finish First, Second, and Third in Event #2 – A poker first occurred in the second event, when women took each of the top three money places.  Loni Harwood finished first.  Anne Amato finished second.  And, Amanda Musumeci finished third.  While poker is a game with irrefutable equal opportunity for all players -- regardless of gender -- 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).  Hence, having women finish 1-2-3 in a field of 500 players (about 475 of which were men) was an extraordinary occurrence.

Joseph Patalano Stage’s Dramatic Comeback and Wins Event #9 – Joseph Patalano, from Wellington, FL overcome a monstrous chip disadvantage when playing heads up and ultimately came back to win his first WSOP Circuit title.  Patalano was down by a gargantuan 16 to 1 margin, but remained unfazed.  Amazingly, Patalano’s feat at the final table was an encore performance of the first day of play.  At one point early in the tournament, Patalano was down to his last 2,800 in chips when the average stack size was 50,000, or so.  He had only a few blinds but was able to make a spectacular comeback and make the final table.  Then, magic happened a second time.

2011 Main Event Defending Champion Cashes Again This Year – At age 19, John Riordan became the youngest winner in WSOP Circuit history when he won West Palm Beach’s Main Event last year.  Riordan was primed to make another deep run this year, and did manage to cash – coming in 34th place.  Incredibly, he has a phenomenal record of accomplishment, yet will not be able to play in the WSOP (in Las Vegas) until 2013, when he finally meets the age requirement.

 A Senior Moment – Tournament poker has become a young player’s game.  That’s certainly true since the dawn of the poker boom.  However, in the Main Event Championship, the two eldest players at the final table ended up finishing first and second.  Jim Harden, 58, came in first.  Rob Williamson, 44, came in second.  The young guns may still have a thing or two to learn.
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Officially listed as Event #10 -- the $1,600 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Main Event Championship attracted 778 entries – which is the third-largest such event of the current season.  The total prize pool came to $1,131,990.  The top 81 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

A full list of all players that cashed in Event #10 can be seen here.

The first day’s action resulted in the elimination of slightly more than half of the starters.  There were 340 survivors who resumed action on Day Two.  After another day of play, the field was trimmed down to just 19 players.  After three hours of play in Day Three, the nine finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1:  Jim Harnden (Cobourg, Canada) – 2,259,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Jamil Wakil (St. Catharines, Canada) – 3,417,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  David Stefanski (East Lyme, CT) – 934,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Matthew O’Brien (Ottawa, Canada) – 2,676,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Drazen Ilich (Lincoln, NE) – 3,200,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Rob Williamson (Jupiter, FL) – 855,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Roman Valerstein (Newtown, PA) -- 1,458,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  Sterling Savill (Tampa, FL) – 246,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Chris Parsons (Mentor, OH) – 500,000 in chips


Final table action began at 3:30 pm.  Action concluded at 9 pm.  Including a half-hour dinner break, final table action lasted about five hours.  The finalists were eliminated as follows:

9th Place – Chris Parsons was the first player to be eliminated.  He is a 25-year-old poker pro from Mentor, OH.  Parsons is enjoying a phenomenal season on this year’s WSOP Circuit.  This marked his third time to cash at West Palm Beach.  It was also his fourth final table appearance this year.  His finishes include – 3rd, 4th, 5th, and now – 9th.  Parsons received a well-deserved $21,383 in prize money.

8th Place – Sterling Savill took eighth place.  He was eliminated about 30 minutes into the action.  Savill is a 23-year-old recent college graduate from Tampa, FL.  He had three cashes last month at Choctaw, in Oklahoma.  Accordingly, this was his fourth time in-the-money this season.  Savill pocketed $26,930 in prize money.

7th Place – David Stefanski finished in seventh place.  He is a 27-year-old poker pro from East Lyme, NY.  His previous accomplishments include two wins at Foxwoods.  This was Stefanski’s deepest run in a WSOP-related tournament.  He has four cashes at the WSOP in Las Vegas.  Seventh place paid $34,333.

6th Place – Drazen Ilich came in sixth.  He has a remarkable record of finishes, considering he plays in relatively few tournaments.  Ilich, a 32-year-old poker pro from Lincoln, NE has two gold ring victories (Horseshoe Hammond and Horseshoe Council Bluffs).  This marked his 16th WSOP Circuit cash.  He also finished seventh in last year’s WSOP Circuit National Championship.  Ilich collected $44,317 in prize money in what is his seventh in-the-money finish this season, which places him among the leaders in that category.

5th Place – Jamil Wakil ended up in fifth place.  He is a 21-year-old poker pro with a lengthy list of accomplishments as an online player.  However, he is relatively new to the live scene, due to his age.  Wakil, who said “I plan on being a billionaire someday,” prior to taking his seat at the final table, advanced one small step closer to his bold statement, collecting $57,924 in prize money.

4th Place – Roman Valerstein is another player who has enjoyed great success recently, although he still relatively young.  The 25-year-old poker pro from the Philadelphia area won a gold ring in Atlantic City two years ago.  This was his fifth time to cash on the WSOP Circuit this season, which paid $76,692.

3rd Place – Matthew O’Brien, a 21-year-old student and poker player from Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) finished in third place.  Prior to playing poker, he was a professional video game player.  O’Brien has a number of tournament cashes despite his relatively young age and just picked up his first six-figure score, with this $102,898 payday.

2nd Place – The runner up was Rob Williamson, from Jupiter, FL.  He is a 44-year-old contractor.  This was only the second WSOP Circuit event Williamson has entered.  He did play in last year’s WSOP Main Event.  Williamson could certainly be proud of his effort and what he earned for this finish, which amounted to $139,574 in prize money.

1st Place – Jim Harnden won his first major tournament victory by scooping the final pot of the night.  Admittedly, Harndes was very fortunate on the last hand, winning the pot with K-Q against A-K after a queen flopped.  The pair of queens ended up as the winning hand.  Harnden collected his first WSOP Circuit gold ring and $226,395 in prize money.

With his victory, the Canadian also earned a seat into the WSOP Circuit National Championship.

The other automatic qualifier appears to be Charles Flett (Event #12 is still pending at press time).  SEE FINAL STANDINGS HERE (at conclusion of all events).  He will apparently win this WSOP Circuit stop’s “Best All-Around Player” standings – by virtue of four cashes at West Palm Beach.  Flett, from Ponca City, OK took 2nd, 7th, 12th, and 21st in his four cashes. 

With 10 of 12 gold ring events now complete, here are the winners, so far: 

EVENT #1 – Anh Lu defeated 2,607 players in NLHE and won $183,750
EVENT #2 – Loni Harwood defeated 500 players in NLHE and won $30,994
EVENT #3 – Jason Reep defeated 247 players in HORSE and won $17,270
EVENT #4 – Adam Cook defeated 413 players in NLHE and won $26,142
EVENT #5 – Jake Schindler defeated 391 players in 6-HANDED NLHE and won $24,736
EVENT #6 – Joseph Casella defeated 353 players and won $23,315
EVENT #7 – James Henson defeated 290 players and won $33,432
EVENT #8 – Brian O’Donoghue defeated 279 players and won $19,487
EVENT #9 – Joseph Patalano defeated 149 players and won $40,467
EVENT #10 – Jim Harnden defeated 778 players and won $226,395


Next, the WSOP Circuit heads north to Caesars Atlantic City (New Jersey) – which runs its tournament series from March 1-12, 2012.  After that, the WSOP Circuit shifts to the West Coast again with a stop at Harrah’s Rincon, near San Diego.  That “12 Rings in 12 Days Series” runs March 15-26, 2012.

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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.


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
e-mail:  nolandalla@aol.com
Or visit official website:  www.wsop.com


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)
e-mail:  thume@pbkennelclub.com
Or visit the official website:  http://www.pbkennelclub.com/