Photo Caption: The first WSOP final table of the year took place on Monday night at the Rio in Las Vegas -- with the conclusion of the Casino Employees Championship.
First Gold Bracelet at 2012 WSOP Goes to Chiab Saechao
Las Vegas, NV (May 28, 2012) – The first World Series of Poker tournament of the year concluded tonight with the crowning of a new poker champion, whose victory was a surprise even to the winner.
Chiab Saechao, from Visalia, CA, won the Casino Employees Championship, which is a special competition limited exclusively to employees of the gaming industry. He collected $70,859 in prize money. Saechao was also presented with his first WSOP gold bracelet, which is the ultimate prize in poker.
Saechao is a full-time employee at the Tachi Casino, in Lemoore, CA -- which is located in California's Central Valley (near Fresno). This marked his first time to cash in a major poker tournament and first time to compete in the Casino Employees Championship. Afterward, Saechao revealed that he only intended to play in cash games at this year's WSOP, but instead decided to try out one gold bracelet event -- ultimately ending up with the top prize.
This was classified as WSOP schedule Event #1, since it’s the first gold bracelet of 61 to be awarded this summer in Las Vegas. The tournament was played over two consecutive days and nights, during a busy Memorial Day weekend. The final hand was a thrilling conclusion to the hard-fought tourney, as victor Saochao spiked a ten on the turn (good for trips) against his opponent's top pair and top kicker. Saochao ended up making a full house -- tens over queens -- while the second-place finisher closed with three-queens.
The runner up was Patricia Baker, from Little Torch Key, FL. She nearly broke the three-year consecutive string of all-male stag gold bracelet winners by becoming the first female since Vanessa Selbst to win a gold bracelet in an event other than the Ladies World Championship. Instead, she accepted a nice consolation prize amounting to $43,754.
Just prior to the start of the Rio’s first event, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel took the main stage and began things in grand style. Keeping with ritual that has become an annual tradition, all casino employees in the room were thanked for their dedication and professionalism.
Next, longtime poker dealer Richard Turnbull, from Reno, NV was introduced. He is an 85-year-old veteran of World War II – during which he served proudly in the U.S. Navy. Turnbull started dealing poker 37 years ago and has since worked at the Fremont, Las Vegas Hilton, MGM, and Sahara. Effel jokingly introduced the honoree by saying, "Turnbull has dealt more bad beats than Mike Tyson." Then, Turnbull gave the crowd a rousing rendition of the customary announcement which begins all WSOP events. "Shuffle Up and Deal" boomed across the room at 12:10 pm and cards flew into the air for the first time on the tournament floor.
The Casino Employees Championship began with 732 players. After the first day, only 46 players survived. Second day action took place on Memorial Day, lasting until well past midnight.
The Event #1 prize pool totaled $329,400. The top 81 finishers were paid. A list of all in-the-money finishers can be seen HERE.
Some of the more notable names who cashed included WSOP Executive Ty Stewart, who oversees much of poker's biggest show on earth. Shattering the myth once and for all that poker is a game of skill, Stewart not only miraculously made the money, but was also within a pot of two of making the final table. He finished 19th.
Also in the money was former PokerStars executive Dan Goldman, now a consultant to a Native-American casino in California. He took 22nd.
The Casino Employee’s Championship has been the launching pad on most WSOP calendars since it returned to the official schedule as a gold bracelet event, back in 2000. The tournament was initially called the “Dealers World Poker Championship" back then, since the tournament was only open to casino dealers at the time. The following year, all casino employees became eligible. The inaugural event attracted only 109 entries. It doubled in size the next year due to the expanded eligibility.
From 2000 to 2003, the Casino Employees Championship was played as a Limit Hold’em tournament. Since 2004, the event has been a No-Limit Hold’em tournament. The largest turnout in history for this event took place at the 2006 WSOP when 1,232 players entered.
Saechao hereby becomes only the 13th person to win a gold bracelet in this tournament since its return in 2000. The previous list of previous winners of the Casino Employees Championship includes:
Sean Drake (2011)
Hoai Pham (2010)
Andrew Cohen (2009)
Jonathan Kotula (2008)
Eric Narciso (2007)
Chris Gros (2006)
Andy Nguyen (2005)
Carl “Coach” Nessel (2004)
David Lukaszweski (2003)
David Warga (2002)
Travis Jonas (2001)
Dave Alizadeh (2000)
The official report of this tournament, with more news and official data, will be posted soon to WSOP.com.
* Records indicate that this event was played sporadically at WSOPs held during the 1980s. In fact, the late Ted Binion (yes, that Ted Binion) won this event twice, back in 1983 and again in 1985.