The first WSOP Circuit stop of 2009 kicked off last week at the newly rebranded and remodeled Harrah's Tunica, formerly known as Grand Casino Tunica. Here's a rundown of all the action so far.
Slugger Sewall Takes Event #1
Ronnie "Slugger" Sewell knows a few things about competition. The 52-year-old business owner from Shelby, N.C. has lifted trophies in more than 150 stock car races in his life.
Now he can add a gold ring to his collection of championship hardware after taking down Event 1 at Harrah's Tunica.
This was the second straight year that Sewell made a final table and heads-up match in Tunica. He fell just short in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event WSOP Circuit event last year.
Going down in second place was businessman and horse breeder Mark "Pegasus" Smith of Georgetown, Ky. Smith, winner of the October 2008 $5,000 championship event in Tunica and a 2006 preliminary event at Caesars Indiana, was chasing his third gold Circuit ring to tie him with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson for most all-time.
He came into heads-up play with a big chip disadvantage and busted out gambling on an open-ended straight draw.
Below are details of how the final table played out.
|2nd||Mark "Pegasus" Smith||$18,697|
|4th||Ricky Jr. Blackburn||$5,235|
|9th||Charles Kent St. Clair||$2,618|
(514 entries, $149,574 prize pool)
Event 2 - $340 No-Limit Hold'em
Perry Ernest is a financial adviser by trade, but he might want to consider taking up poker full-time. Already the owner of a gold ring thanks to a win in Event 1 at Horseshoe Hammond last year, Ernest joined a select group of poker players with his win in Event 2.
He became one of only 10 players to have won multiple gold rings, a feat even more impressive given that he had less than 3% of the chips in play with 10 players remaining.
On top of it all, the Napierville, Ill. resident considers himself to be primarily a cash-game player. Here's how the chips had fallen by the close of the final table.
(446 entries, $129,786 prize pool)
Event 3 - $340 No-Limit Hold'em
Players in Tunica were seeing double in Event 3 when Michael Ratcliff walked away with the gold ring. For the second straight event, a previous WSOP Circuit winner had claimed the top prize.
Ratcliff, a 53-year-old small business owner from Martinsville, Ind., had previously won an event at Horseshoe Southern Indiana in 2008. He entered the heads-up match with the chip lead and ended it in just two hands, catching a two-outer on the river to sink Kevin Miles in second place.
Ratcliff and his final tablemates finished up as follows.
(509 entries, $148,119 prize pool)
Event 4 - $550 No-Limit Hold'em
The final table of Event 4 saw Reginald Roberts get things started with a bang, taking out two players on the third hand when his pocket aces held up to jump into second place on the leaderboard.
Just three eliminations later, the remaining players made a deal and played for the ring, which ended up on Roberts' hand. The win was the first major score for Roberts, a business owner from Ozark, Mo., who plays tournaments and live No-Limit Hold'em ring games.
At the end of Event 4, things looked like this.
(469 entries, $227,465 prize pool)
Event 5 - $340 No-Limit Hold'em
Event 5 drew the largest turnout so far at Harrah's Tunica. Organizers had provided 61 tables in the casino showroom and another 18 in the poker room, but that wasn't enough to seat the players who turned up for a shot at a gold ring. The tables were filled and alternates were taken for three hours before registration was capped at 905 players.
Coming out ahead of that monster field was Nic Vita, a 26-year-old former professional pool player from Tunica who now focuses on poker. He entered the final table second in chips and survived a card-dead stretch at the beginning of final-table play to claim to by far the largest score of his young career.
His opponents fared as follows at the final table.
(905 entries, $263,355 prize pool)
Event 6 - $440 No-Limit Hold'em
Tunica has been good to Mark Fledderman, a businessman from Las Vegas. In 2005 he won a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event at the first WSOP Circuit stop ever held there, for the first six-figure score of his career.
After a slew of final tables in the intervening years in both Tunica and Las Vegas, he returned triumphantly to the mighty Mississippi and claimed his second gold ring in Event 6. This time around Fledderman's final-table victory took only 90 minutes to complete.
Brian Roberts finished runner-up in this WSOP Circuit stop when his J-6 fell to Fledderman's J-7 on a board of A♥ J♥ 7♠. Roberts, a factory supervisor from Ridgeville, Ind., was seeking his second gold ring to accompany the one he won at Caesars Indiana last year. Roberts also finished in fourth place in Event 4.
Fleddermann and Roberts and the rest of the table racked up prizes as listed below.
(390 entries, $151,320 prize pool)
Event 7 - $230 No-Limit Hold'em
Event 7 drew the second-largest field of this WSOP Circuit stop so far, although this time there was no need for alternates to fit the 621 entrants in the tournament.
Coming out ahead of them all was Kevin Waldie, a 25-year-old pro poker player from Louisville, Ky. The win marks the first score of Waldie's four-month-old professional career.
Finishing in second place and denied a second WSOP Circuit gold ring was Robert Castoire. The 53-year-old ship's officer from Cecelia, Ky. cashed four times at last year's WSOP Circuit stop in Tunica, including three final tables and a win in the $1,000 No-Limit Hold'em event.
When the pokering was done, the final tablists stood as follows.
(621 entries, $120,474 prize pool)
The WSOP Circuit continues at Harrah's Tunica. We'll have a recap of the remaining events for you next week, as well as live coverage from the premises when the championship event begins.