Tunica, MS (February 3, 2014) — Jonathan Gaviao earned his first gold ring along with $181,757 in prize money in the Harrah’s Tunica Main Event Monday evening. Gaviao, a 23-year-old College Station, TX resident, bested 577 entries to earn his spot among this season's Main Event winners and secure his seat in the National Championship.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s always nice to win a ring and make a little bit of money. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The victory is just most the recent in a string of successes for the young pro. Barely two weeks ago he finished 14th in the record-breaking 1,428-entry Circuit Main Event at Choctaw Casino. He earned $24,098 for that performance, but came up well short of the gold hardware Circuit grinders play for.

With that deep run under his belt, Gaviao made the trip to Tunica to try his luck in another Circuit finale. Late on Day 2, it appeared the trek was paying off when he picked up pocket aces to knock out two players and take a sizable chip lead. From there, he still had a long way to go, but the stars were undoubtedly aligning.

“I felt really confident when we got down to four-handed and I took over the chip lead,” Gaviao said of his run. “I felt like I was playing really well. I knew that whatever happened happened for a reason and I was alright with that. Whether I won or lost; there’s more important things in life.”

Gaviao rode his confidence and laid back attitude all the way to the winner’s circle marking his second deep run in as many years at the Harrah’s Tunica Main event.

“Everyone’s got their special place and I guess Tunica is mine,” Gaviao said.

Gaviao is a 23-year-old professional poker player from College Station, TX. He attended Texas A&M University but is currently on a hiatus for missionary work. The victory marks his third WSOP-related cash and moves him over $210,000 in career earnings. In addition to some run good and undeniable skill, Gaviao cited his faith and the perspective it shed on the situation as a reason for his success.

“I’m just going to be thankful,” Gaviao said of what he’ll take away from his championship. “Getting to look back and know that God’s good. Win or lose, he’s always good… You can take away all the money and I’ll still have everything I need.”

Tunica has been a longtime presence on the WSOP Circuit schedule, so it comes as no surprise some of the best players in the Mid-South turned up for the marquee event.  Among the participants were November Niners John Dolan and Dennis Phillips, bracelet winners Loni Harwood and Jonathan Taylor and 2003 WSOP Main Event winner Chris Moneymaker.
 
This year's Harrah's Tunica Main Event drew 577 entries, generating a total prize pool of $865,500. The top 63 finishers each earned a payday of at least $2,830. Some of the notables who made the money, but missed out on the final table were Mark “Pegasus” Smith (63rd), five-time ring winner Kyle Cartwright (58th), Katherine Bowen (50th), Josh Mancuso (41st), three-time ring winner Phillip Hui (39th), Jacob Bazeley (30th), Blake Barousse (24th), BJ McBrayer (21st), John Holley (20th) and 2008 November Niner Dennis Phillips, who just missed the final table in 12th place.

The headliner of the final table was ring winner Cord Garcia, who was making his third career Circuit Main Event final table appearance and his second Main Event final table this season. The young pro managed to post a seventh-place finish, bringing his career Circuit earnings to over $160,000.

Myers was the other ring winner at the table, but the talk of the tournament amongst the final nine was Brad Lipsey, who finished Day 2 atop the chip counts thanks to several large pots that went his way, including the hand that eliminated Garcia. A table talker and aggressive player, Lipsey made his mark, but he might be better remembered for his time away from the table. Lipsey was missing in action for the first hour of play on Day 3, blinding off almost a million chips in the process. He showed up eventually and managed to build his stack back up a bit, but ultimately exited fourth.

The final table took less than six hours to play from nine players down to a winner thanks to aggressive tough play from Gaviao, Myers and several other Circuit regulars in the line-up. One of the fastest Main Event final tables we’ve seen this season, it was no easy feat for Gaviao to prevail and take the title.

The next stop won’t be getting any easier for Circuit grinders, but it will certainly be lucrative. The Circuit sets up shop at the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, FL starting on Wednesday with an opening event with a $500 buy-in, multi-entries, and a $1 million guarantee. More information on the stop is available on WSOP.com.
 
Here are the final table results of the 2013/2014 Harrah's Tunica Circuit Main Event:

1st: Jonathan Gaviao - $181,757
2nd: Carter Myers - $112,420
3rd: Charles Hopkins - $82,205
4th: Brad Lipsey - $61,000
5th: Jackson White - $45,897
6th: David Lee - $35,009
7th: Cord Garcia - $27,073
8th: Bryan McMullin - $21,222
9th: Timothy Tracy - $16,860

Full results available on WSOP.com.