New Jersey Poker Pro Tops 482-Player Field and Pockets 30 Grand

Las Vegas, NV (January 20, 2012) – The first major poker tournament of the new year rolled into Las Vegas with the start of the World Series of Poker Circuit, currently taking place at Caesars Palace.  This marks the seventh consecutive season the Caesars Palace poker room has hosted a WSOP Circuit visit.  This is the ninth of 18 scheduled stops during the current record-breaking season.

As was expected, the first tournament event attracted a big field -- totaling 482 players.  Event #1 was a two-day $300 (+50) No-Limit Hold’em competition.  Play began on Thursday at noon and concluded late on Friday night.  The total prize pool came to $140,262.  The top 54 finishers were paid.  All players who cashed received WSOP Circuit National Championship ranking points – used to potentially qualify for seats in the season-ending championship, to be played in Las Vegas.

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

The first day’s action resulted in the elimination of 452 aspiring champs.  There were only 30 survivors who resumed action on Day Two.  After another four hours of play, the field was trimmed down to the final table.  The ten finalists and their starting chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1:  John Carrero (San Diego, CA) – 250,000 in chips
SEAT 2:  Steve Morgen (Hi Nella, NJ) – 252,000 in chips
SEAT 3:  Andrew Youngblood (Las Vegas, NV) – 1,100,000 in chips
SEAT 4:  Matt Peters (Lake Stevens, WA) – 489,000 in chips
SEAT 5:  Ben Palmer (Las Vegas, NV) – 600,000 in chips
SEAT 6:  Robert Whalen (Cudahy, WI) – 420,000 in chips
SEAT 7:  Kenika Terlep (Honolulu, HI) – 398,000 in chips
SEAT 8:  Jonathan Gerrick (Las Vegas, NV) – 749,000 in chips
SEAT 9:  Dan Di Zenzo (Vernon, NJ) – 305,000 in chips
SEAT 10: Kenny Muck (Reynoldsburg, OH) – 311,000 in chips

The final table featured one former WSOP Circuit gold ring winner – Robert Whalen.  He won his previous victory last year at Caesars Palace and was hoping to go 2 for 2 in wins.

The finale also included retired John Carrero, fresh off an impressive runner up-finish to La Sengphet (the ladies all-time wins leader) just ten days ago at the first-ever WSOP Circuit held at The Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles.

But the chip leader was Andrew Youngblood, who had nearly a quarter of the total chips in play when final table action began. 

Amazingly, six of the final ten players were making what amounted to their first cash ever in a WSOP-related event.

The final session began at 5:30 pm local time.  Play finished at midnight making the total duration about 6.5 hours.  The official order of finish was as follows: 

10th Place – Kenny Muck, the player with the perfect name for a poker player, was the first player eliminated.  He lost his chips holding a monster, which came at the worst possible time.  Muck was dealt pocket kings, when ended up getting hammered by pocket aces.  That put the poker player from Reynoldsburg, OH on the rail in tenth place.  This was Muck’s first time to cash at the WSOP Circuit.

9th Place – Kenika Terlep, a heavy equipment operator from Honolulu, HI hoped to do some heavy lifting by stacking as many big pots as possible.  But in the end, it was Terlep who was hauled away from the final table in ninth place.  He was eliminated about 90 minutes into play.  This was his first in-the-money finish in a WSOP event.

8th Place – Matt Peters calls himself the “Home Game Grinder.”  The 25-year-old student from Lake Stevens, WA didn’t grind much as this final table however, as he ended up in eighth place.  Not only was this Peter’s first time to cash in a WSOP-related event, it was also the first tournament he’s entered.  Beyond poker, Peters has quite a personal story.  He is a licensed skydiver.  He also bicycled across the United States (traveling 4,600 miles) two years ago.

7th Place – Jonathan Gerrick, a 27-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, departed at the seventh-place finisher.  Like many of his colleagues who made the money, this was Gerrick’s first attempt playing in a WSOP-related event.  However, he has more than a dozen previous cashes elsewhere, mostly in local Las Vegas tournaments.
6th Place – Steve Morgen, from the Philadelphia suburbs, arrived as one of the shortest stacks.  He moved up a few places and ended up in sixth place.  Morgen, a payroll specialist, previously finished high in a major event held at the Parx Casino (Philadelphia).  However, like all four of his predecessors, this was his first occasion to cash at the WSOPC.
5th Place – John Carrero, a veteran and retiree from San Diego, CA, enjoyed another impressive run in this tournament after a second-place finish at the previous WSOPC stop in Los Angleles.  Carrero, who has played in only three WSOPC events, now has two final table appearances and more than $20,000 in earnings. 
4th Place – Bob Whalen hoped to win a second gold ring, but came up a few places short.  The winner of an event here at Caesars Palace last April, Whalen appeared to be a serious threat at one point but then faded during the fifth hour of play.  The former painter-turned-poker pro with previous wins on the Heartland Poker Tour in addition to numerous other major cashes – including a 79th-place finish in the 2008 WSOP Main Event -- added $10,097 to his poker bankroll.  Whalen lives in the Milwaukee area.

3rd Place – Ben Palmer, a 28-year-old poker pro from Las Vegas, enjoyed his first WSOP Circuit cash after making the money 11 times at the WSOP summertime classic.  His winnings now total nearly six figures after collecting $13,621 for third place.  His overall career tournament winnings now exceed $300,000.

2nd Place – Andrew Youngblood arrived at the final table with a significant chip advantage.  He was the player to beat and certainly had opportunities to win.  But Youngblood was unable to close out the victory and finished as the runner up.  His consolation prize amounted to $18,645 in prize money.

Youngblood is a 28-year-old poker pro originally from Dearborn, MI.  He now resides in Las Vegas.  Youngblood has an impressive WSOP record, with eight cashes ($126,697 in winnings).  Moreover, he now has six WSOP Circuit cashes, adding another $100,000 or so to his expanding resume. 

When heads-up play began, rival Dan Di Zenzo enjoyed about a 2 to 1 chip advantage over Youngblood.  The final hand came about 40 minutes into the duel and proceeded as follows:

Di Zenzo:      
Youngblood:  (cards not seen) 

Di Zenzo won the final showdown with two pair – kings over eights.

1st Place – Dan Di Zenzo was the champion and won his first career WSOP Circuit gold ring.  He collected $30,151 in prize money for the victory.

Di Zenzo is a 25-year-old poker pro originally from Vernon (Sussex County), NJ.  He has recently relocated to Las Vegas to play full time.  This was only the second WSOP Circuit event he has entered.  However, he did previously cash last year in an event at Harrah’s Atlantic City.  Di Zenzo has also cashed twice in the WSOP summer competition.

With his victory, Di Zenzo 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 Caesars Palace’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 (Jan. 27-30).

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 Palace continues through January 30th.  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



This marks the seventh consecutive year that Caesars Palace Las Vegas is hosting the widely-popular World Series of Poker Circuit, which is currently in the midst of its most successful season.  Attendance is currently running about 20 percent ahead of last year (which set a record).

Caesars Palace is already home to many of the game’s most popular and exciting poker events – including the Caesars Classic, NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship, and last year’s inaugural WSOP Circuit National Championship.  However, between the dates of January 19-30, the primary focus will be on 12 gold ring tournaments with the $1,600 buy-in Main Event coming January 27-30.

“Caesars Palace has always carried with it a special aura -- whether we’re talking about gambling, entertainment, or poker,” said Andy Rich, Director of Poker Operations for Caesars Palace.  “We’ve always been the ‘where it’s at” in Las Vegas.  Over the next 12 days, we’re rolling out the red carpet for thousands of poker players who are expected enter our events and play for a gold ring.  As the saying goes, ‘you can’t get a hit if you don’t stand up to the plate and take swing.” 

This marks the first time ever that the WSOP Circuit has come to Las Vegas so early in the season.  In previous years, WSOP Circuit events have taken place in April.  However, with so many exciting activities happening in Las Vegas early in the year, more players than ever before will have the opportunity to participate in a WSOP Circuit event, many for the first time.
To encourage more players to give the WSOP Circuit a try, Caesars Palace is offering $70 buy-in Turbo Super Satellites, with $50 re-buys each morning starting at 10 am.  These Turbo Super Satellites will be held prior to the start of gold ring events (most of which start at noon).  The dailies will guarantee at least ten seats to be given away for that day’s event.  In short, it’s a less expensive way for many players to come in early and win a seat for a gold ring event at a fraction of the cost.

In addition, daily No-Limit Hold’em tournaments (non-gold ring events) take place most days at 9 am ($70 entry fee, with 3,000 in starting chips), 7 pm ($110 entry fee, with 10,000 in starting chips) and 10 pm ($85 entry fee, with 7,500 in starting chips).  The bottom line is – no poker room in Las Vegas (or anywhere for that matter) will host more tournaments over the next 12 days.  Moreover, cash games will be running inside the poker room around the clock.
Caesars Palace boasts one of the most luxurious poker rooms in the game.  The multi-million dollar facility located adjacent to the world-famous sportsbook and Pure nightclub has a special tournament room, which is adorned with the portraits of many of poker’s most legendary players.   
This is the ninth WSOP Circuit stop of the season, following previous tournaments held in several other locations throughout the U.S.  The 2011-2012 season includes a total of 18 WSOP Circuit stops.

All tournament players become eligible to compete in the WSOP Circuit National Championship, which takes place at season’s end.  The top 100 players who qualify based on a points system will compete in a nationally-televised championship, which is expected to be played in late May.  Two guaranteed seats will be awarded at Caesars Palace and will go to the “Best All-Around Player” and the Main Event champion.

In previous year’s, some very notable names have won gold rings at Caesars Palace and added to their legacy as the best players in the game.  Previous WSOP Circuit Main Event Champions crowned at Caesars Palace include:

2006 – John Spadavecchia
2007 – Cory Carroll
2008 – Allen Cunningham
2009 – Justin Bonomo
2010 – Andrew Lichtenberger
2011 – Christopher Johnson

The complete WSOP Circuit schedule at Caesars Palace can be seen here.  Special room rates for players are available.