Michael McGuinness Silences Bombastic Final Table – Lets His Cards and Chips Do All the Talking

Atlantic City, NJ (March 2, 2012) – Michael McGuinness faced several challenges when he first sat down at the most recent World Series of Poker Circuit final table, played at Caesars Atlantic City.

For one thing, he was ranked ninth out of ten players, in chips.

Second, while the rest of the table jawed back and forth – trading off jokes, laughter, stories, and even some R-rated profanity -- McGuinness did his very best to tune out all the distractions and simply play his best game.

Indeed, McGuinness remained patient throughout the competition and pretty much allowed his cards and chip to do all the talking.  While some opponents guzzled beers like it was tap water, and others chattered away incessantly with their thoughts of a variety of unrelated subjects, McGuinness kept his mouth shut, his head down, and his hands and arms in motion.  More often than not, he was the one pushing his chips in one direction, and then raking in pots in the other.  By the time the tournament and ended, McGuinness had defeated and silenced all those who hoped for their own victory, their dreams deafened by the sound of the official photographer snapping portraits of the winner in a post-tournament victory parade at the final table. 

The celebration was particularly sweet given that McGuinness came in second in an event played last year on the WSOP Circuit.  At the Eastern Regional at Harrah’s Atlantic City (which is no longer being held), the ex-cop finished in second place.  He recalled being pleased with the showing in that $10,000 event.  But the sting of defeat still lingered.

The ultimate payoff took place on this night, a blustery night on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.  Once he was able to double up, McGuinness was never in serious danger of elimination.  It goes to prove the old saying, that the quiet one is the one you have to watch out for.

 McGuinness is a 43-year-old retired police officer.  He previously worked as a New Jersey State Trooper.  He now resides in Toms River, NJ.

The new poker champion enjoyed quite a payday -- $39,790 for the victory.  He was also presented with the WSOP Circuit gold ring, which is the ultimate token of achievement for victory.  This was his first WSOPC win.


The first of a dozen gold ring tournaments began Thursday with Event #1 – a $345 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em competition.  This was the first of 12 gold ring events on the WSOP Circuit schedule at Caesars Atlantic City.  The tourney attracted 667 entries.  The total prize pool came to $194,097.  The top 72 players were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points.

Among those who cashed was Brain Ali (New York, NY), the winner of last year’s Main Event Championship, here at Caesars Atlantic City.  He finished in 28th place.

A full list of all players who cashed in Event #1 can be seen here.

The tournament was played over two consecutive days, starting on Thursday.  Only 39 survivors took seats on the second day of action, played on Friday.

Following five hours of play on Day Two, the final table was set.  The ten finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1:  Michael McGuinness (Toms River, NJ) – 240,000 in chips 
SEAT 2:  Peter Luo (Brooklyn, NY) – 491,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  David Kim (Flushing, NY) – 547,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  John Ernst (Oakhurst, NJ) – 1,100,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Norman Rodriguez (New York, NY) – 646,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  David Smith (Walls, MS) – 174,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Anthony Erekat (Lodi, NJ) – 666,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  Matt Iles (Atco, NJ) – 1,600,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Kevin Milton (Stewartstown, PA) – 737,000 in chips
SEAT 10:  Riley Hilton (Clintonville, WI) – 465,000 in chips

The final table featured only one former WSOP Circuit gold ring winner (Anthony Erekat).  Once he went out in sixth place, a first-time champion was guaranteed.  A few of the players were experienced professionals who had enjoyed previous tournament success.  The most notable of the dangerous group was Matt Iles, with more than $3 million in career tournament earnings.

Given Iles’ great success, it was no surprise he arrived with the chip lead.  In fact, he and John Ernst had a combined 2.7 million, which represented nearly 40 percent of the chips in play.

Astoundingly, Iles and Ernst would end up among the first players eliminated, leaving a less-experienced group of finalists to battle for the championship.

The final playing session began at 8:30 pm local time.  Play finished at 1:30 am making the total duration about five hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

10th Place – David Smith was the first player to bust out.  He arrived with the shortest stack and lasted only a few hands.  Smith is a retiree from the Memphis area.  He is also a “Life Master” at bridge.  Smith previously finished as the runner up in a WSOP Circuit event, so this was his second time to make a deep run in a gold ring tournament.

9th Place – John Ernst went out next, ending up in ninth place.  His early departure was somewhat of a surprise, given that he was ranked second in chips when the final table began.  Nothing went right for Ernst during his short stay.  This was the first WSOP-related cash for the college student from Oakhurst, NJ.  However, he did win an event last year and the Borgata in Atlantic City.

8th Place – Peter Luo finished in eighth place.  He is from Brooklyn, NY.  This marked Luo’s first time ever to cash in a WSOP event.

7th Place – Matt Iles ended up in seventh place.  He had to look upon the final few hours of the tournament as a great disappointment.  Iles began with what appeared to be a formidable stack.  Combined with his experience, he was clearly the player to beat.  But as is the case with poker tournaments, nothing is predictable.  The poker pro from Atco, NJ with millions in tournament winnings hit the rail during the third hour of play. 
6th Place – Anthony Erekat, from Lodi, NJ made the most of his time at the final table.  He finished in sixth place.  Erekat was one of the players who made things both fun and interesting for spectators and viewers alike.  Talking and joking throughout play, he behaved much like it was a typical Friday night poker game.  Unfortunately, the cards did not match his personality and he ended up with a middle of the pack finish.  This was his third WSOP Circuit final table appearance.  He won a gold ring at Harrah’s Atlantic City back in 2008.
5th Place – Kevin Milton finished in fifth place.  He is a 40-year-old systems analyst from Stewartstown, PA.  Milton has quite an impressive record, given that he does not play in many major tournaments.  He’s cashed three out of the last four times he’s played on the WSOP Circuit, including an 18th-place showing in a 1,000-plus player field earlier at Harrah’s Atlantic City.  This performance wasn’t too shabby either, which was worth a five-figure payout.
4th Place – David Kim was the fourth-place finisher.  He is a 21-year old college student from Flushing, NY.  This was Kim’s first time to cash on the WSOP, which paid $13,430.

3rd Place – Norman Rodriguez came in third place.  The Dominican-born poker player now living in New York made a good run, but took a tough beat on his final hand.  Rodriguez earned a well-deserved $18,059 in prize money .

2nd Place – Wild man Riley Hilton finished as the runner up.  The Canadian-born blackjack dealer now living in Clintonville, WI was nearly the star of the reality show.  He put on a display that was as good as it gets, so far as poker theatre goes.  Hilton kept taking from start to finish.  His behavior brought out the most from the sizable crowd of spectators, who played along with Hilton’s act like they were extras in a movie comedy.  Hilton was certainly the player everyone was watching and he early pulled off the ultimate gambit of glory, being able to drink, laugh, tell jokes – at the same time while inning a major poker tournament.  Nonetheless, Hilton certainly enjoyed himself and had $24,621 worth of prize money to erase any disappointment.

When heads-up play began, McGuinness enjoyed a significant chip advantage over Hilton.  The final hand came only about twenty minutes into the duel and proceeded as follows:

McGuinness:  Td 3h     
Hilton:  Kd Jh 
Flop:  Qs Jc 9s     
Turn:  3c 
River:  Kc 

Hilton was down by about a 5 to 1 margin when the last hand was dealt.  After the flop came with middle pair (along with an inside straight draw), Hilton shoved.  McGuiness had plenty of chips and made the call with an outside straight draw.  One the river, McGuinness caught the perfect card, making his straight.  He was declared the new champion.

1st Place – Michael McGuinness became the first WSOP Circuit champion crowned this year at Caesars Atlantic City.  He won his biggest payout ever – totaling $39,790 for the victory.  He was also presented with his first gold ring following a runner-up finish in his previous WSOP Circuit final table appearance.  His victory including a stunning comeback at the final table, rocketing from ninth place when play began, up to first place.

With his victory, McGuinness 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 Caesar’s Atlantic City’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 March 10-12).

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 Caesars Atlantic City continues through March 12th.  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



The World Series of Poker Circuit is taking place at Caesars Atlantic City, one of the East Coast’s premier gaming and entertainment destinations.

Indeed, this marks the seventh consecutive season that Caesars Atlantic City has hosted a WSOP Circuit stop.  The luxurious casino resort has been a flagship of poker action since the first WSOP tournament took place, back in 2006.

This year’s “12 Rings in 12 Days” series is taking place March 1-12.  As has been the case for all previous major poker events, all action is held inside an expansive grand ballroom located on the second floor, adjacent to the main casino.  In past years, the entire ballroom has been packed to capacity with players, as many of Caesars Atlantic City’s events have sold out.  Attendance for Atlantic City’s WSOP tournaments has consistently remained high, despite the spread of poker and tournaments to other venues in nearby states and plenty of healthy competition throughout the Northeast.

This will be the 12th of 17 stops of the 2011-2012 World Series of Poker Circuit season.  Just three months ago, Harrah's Atlantic City hosted the first of two New Jersey appearances by the WSOP Circuit and its players.  Attendance surpassed what many observers were projecting, which leads one to believe a repeat of a successful tournament series is inevitable.

Aside from great poker tournament action and live games, there’s plenty to do on the Jersey Shore during March.  The casino-resort is located adjacent to the world most famous Boardwalk on the Atlantic Ocean.  While the WSOP is in town, Atlantic City is hosting its famous “Restaurant Week,” which is a seven-day celebration of great cuisine.  Atlantic City Restaurant Week takes place March 3-10.  Many restaurants within a short distance of Caesars Atlantic City are participating in the food and wine festival.

There's a lot at stake for poker players who will make their way to the Jersey Shore.  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.

To see the complete Caesars Atlantic City tournament schedule, please visit HERE.

Stay tuned to for the latest reports and updates from Caesars Atlantic City. will carry a LIVE VIDEO STREAM of every final table, starting most afternoons.