Upsets, deals mark Caesars Palace WSOPC

Caesars Palace

The WSOP Circuit is back in Las Vegas this week at Caesars Palace. Here's a look at the results of the first three events.

Event 1 - $500+$50 No-Limit Hold'em

Sometimes you can come to the final table with the chip lead and cruise to victory. Unfortunately for Anthony "Big Boy" Romanelli, Event 1 at Caesars Palace wasn't one of those occasions.

Romanelli, a pro player and retired brick mason, entering with over 20% of the total chips in play, appeared to have by far the best of it from the time the final table started, and his lead only grew as the table played out.

When play was three-handed, Romanelli dealt a crushing blow to WSOP bracelet holder Mike "Little Man" Sica on a strange hand. On a flop of J-2-4, Sica bet $40,000 and Romanelli called.

When the turn came a six, Sica bet $90,000 and Romanelli pushed in $155,000, thinking he was calling Sica's bet. The floor ruled that Romanelli had to raise the full amount, to $180,000, because he had put in more than half a raise.

Sica called the forced raise and then moved in with his last $65,000 on the river when a six came. Romanelli called with 8-2 for a pair of deuces, good enough to send Sica home in third place.

In all, Romanelli knocked out four of his eight opponents en route to heads-up play. By the time he faced off with Alaska high school teacher and basketball coach Brandon Blake, he was holding more than $1.2 million of the $1.5 million chips in play.

Of course, even the best-laid plans can be brought to a grinding halt by the right combination of aggression and cards, as Romanelli found out.

Just four hands after heads-up play began, he was standing on the sidelines as runner-up. His K-Q lost to Blake's A-2 to bring the chip counts back to even, and then he had the misfortune of running his A-9 into Blake's A-10 on the final hand.

Blake's win over a field of 508 runners is certainly the highlight of his poker career: his previous biggest finish was a 22nd-place finish in a WSOP $1,000 rebuy event. Newly flush with cash from the victory, he says he has his eyes on a return to the WSOP this summer.

1st Brandon Blake
Palmer, Alaska
2nd Anthony Romanelli
Valley Stream, N.Y.
Mike Sica
N. New Brunswick, N.J.
James Cox
Cary, N.C.
Michael Best
Lone Tree, Colo.
Lorie Bodfield
Laughlin, Nev.
Tim Frederickson
Long Beach, Calif.
John Stanfield
Overland Park, Kan.
Cristian Avendano-Barrera
Las Vegas

Event 2 - $1,000+$60 No-Limit Hold'em

Ben Fineman came to the WSOP Circuit to play poker and ended up riding a roller-coaster instead.

The 24-year-old Las Vegas-based professional poker player, originally from Philadelphia, built his starting stack up to $38,000 through the first four levels of Event 2. Then he managed to distribute the majority of those chips to his opponents, leaving him short-stacked heading into the second half of the day.

Fineman persevered, though, employing a highly aggressive style to run over his opponents and claim the chip lead heading into the final table.

Once he faced down his final eight opponents, Fineman shifted gears once again and played tight-aggressive poker. His strategy served him well, as he really only had to get involved in three big pots - one of them against former WPT Foxwoods champion Raj Patel - to make it down to the final two.

Fineman entered the heads-up match with a lead of $790,000 to Mike Peters' $160,000.

Peters managed to draw the match out for 31 hands, but he never made up enough ground to mount a serious challenge to Fineman. He got in with the best of it before the flop on the last hand, holding A-9 against Fineman's suited A-4, but a flush came for Fineman to end the tournament.

The win wasn't Fineman's first big cash at Caesars Palace. He took down a $1,000 event there in the 2007 Caesars Palace Poker Classic, good for $65,485. He also won $100,431 in last year's $3,000 NLHE event at the WSOP.

Benjamin Fineman
Las Vegas
Michael Peters
Toledo, Ohio
Adam Murphy
Muskego, Wis.
Panayote Vilandos
Houston $16,092
Charles Thorneycraft
Port Harbour, Ontario
Raj Patel
Rocky Hills, Conn.
Joshua Ewing
Berkeley, Calif.
Artuyun Nalbadyan
N. Hollywood, Calif.
Yong Ho Harrison
Honolulu $4,598

Event 3 - $500+$50 Limit Hold'em

Anyone who plays poker online has probably registered for a tournament at some point without realizing they'll be playing Limit Hold'em instead of No-Limit. Dan Kaesser of Las Vegas made that mistake, but he made it live at Caesars Palace - and then went on to win Event 3 of the WSOP Circuit anyway.

Only 81 players showed up for the Limit game, making Kaesser's workload a little lighter than it might have been otherwise. He came into the final table in a comfortable second place in the chip standings and never found himself in any real danger throughout the day.

Kaesser entered heads-up play with $255,000 in chips to Ronie Nesheiwat's $71,000, and held on to take down the title and top prize. The championship ring, meanwhile, went to Nesheiwat in a heads-up deal.

On a side note, Event 3 was the first WSOP Circuit event for Jimmy "Gobboboy" Fricke, the American online phenom who finished runner-up to Gus Hansen in the 2007 Aussie Millions main event.

Fricke turned 21 just three days before the final table, making him legal and ready to start taking down prize money in U.S. casinos. His $2,750 prize for a fifth-place finish at Caesars Palace is a humble beginning to what promises to be a great live poker career in America for Fricke.

Dan Kaesser
Las Vegas
Ronie Nesheiwat
Tinley Park, Ill.
Corey Edelman
Las Vegas
Scott Silverman
Lone Pine, Calif.
Jimmy Fricke
Mahomet, Ill.
Chris Winchester
Las Vegas
Erhart Edquist
San Diego$1,964
Michael Lena
Indio, Calif.
Theodore McCollom
Seabrook, Texas

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