Ray Gasses wins 1st Prize worth $66,000 - WSOP Circuit Event #1
Aug 12, 2005  
by Jason Kirk  

This year's first World Series of Poker Circuit event is officially the largest since Harrah's created the tournament series last year. 873 players bought in for $340 apiece for a chance to claim the $66,000 going to the first place winner. Only 720 of those players were seated when the tournament began, due to space limitations in the tournament area. The other 153 came in as alternates, only sitting down to play as other players were knocked out. These players were at an automatic disadvantage but still came out in droves to play in Tunica's first WSOP Circuit event, a testament to the popularity of the game today.

The cards got in the air at noon, and play continued until a little after two in the morning when 10th place finisher Christophe Dandrea of Nashville, Tennessee, was knocked out. The final nine players bagged up their chips, signed them off into management's possession, and went back homes (or to their hotel rooms) to rest up for what would be the biggest live tournament day ever for almost everyone involved.

In order of their seating, the final table participants were:

Harrell "Big Doc" Hardin, from Gastonia, NC, is a chiropractor who's been playing poker for 5 years. He's a no-limit tournament specialist who finished 7th in the $1000 No Limit tournament at last year's New Orleans WSOP Circuit. He came to the final table with $47,000 in chips.

Tim "The Tornado" Hirsch, from Haubstadt, IN, is a farmer who's been playing poker since he was 12 years old. His main game is no-limit hold'em, though he did take 15th at the $500 Limit Hold'em tournament at last year's World Poker Open here in Tunica. He had $46,000 in chips.

Johnathan "Internet" Tillman is a registered nurse from Columbia, SC. He's been playing poker for 3 years and this event was his first live tournament. He mostly plays 1-2 no-limit hold'em and $100 online tournaments. He had $83,000 in chips.

Brad Wilson has been a professional poker player for the last year and a half. He plays in $1000 no-limit and 30-60 limit hold'em games, and has made the final table of the Party Poker $200K Guaranteed tournament twice. He had $369,000 in chips.

Ray Gasses, from Newnan, GA, is in real estate and has been playing poker for ten years. His regular game is 15-30 limit hold'em, and he has made the final tables of several online tournaments. He started today as the chip leader with $391,000.

Vincent Mack is a pool hall owner from Melbourne, FL, and has been playing poker for 2 years. No-limit hold'em is his main game, and this was only his second live tournament. He began with $81,000 in chips.

Mitchell Smith is a business owner from Winnsboro, NC. He's been playing for 15 years, his main game is seven card stud, and he is a member of Poker School Online. He made several final tables at the Palms Summer Series this year. He came to the final table with $69,000 in chips.

J. Bryan Coons of Moss, TN, is a mailman who's been playing middle-limit poker for the last five years after picking up the game 21 years ago. He plays a wide variety of games, including limit and no-limit hold'em, hi-lo stud, and triple draw lowball. He also placed 12th in last year's Mid-America Open $200 No-Limit Hold'em event here in Tunica. He had $93,000 in chips.

Robert Schulz, from Horn Lake, MS, is a professional poker player who's been playing for 6 years. His main games are 20-40 limit and 2-5 no-limit hold'em, and he's won 7 local tournaments so far this year. He started with $148,000 in chips.

The action at the final table started off with a bang, with Mack moving all-in and Tillman calling him down. Mack's pocket queens held and crippled Tillman. On the next hand, Tillman moved in with Jack-eight offsuit, only to lose to Schulz's pocket aces. He was also behind to Lewis' pocket kings, and took home $5,080 for finishing in 9th place. Two hands later, Hirsch moved all-in with Ace-three of clubs and was called by Smith with Ace-Queen of hearts. Hirsch received no help on the board and won $7,620 when he finished 8th. Another two hands later, Coons called Gasses' all-in bet with Ace-King offsuit. Gasses showed Queen-eight of diamonds and caught a queen on the river. Coons finished in 7th and won $10,160.

Things slowed down for a while and the remaining players settled in. Forty-five minutes later Lewis made a steal attempt with King-Queen offsuit and called when he was raised all in by Schulz. Schulz showed Ace-King offsuit, and the unhappy won $12,700 for finishing 6th when he couldn't catch a queen. Another twenty minutes passed before Hardin was eliminated in 5th place. His AJo didn't improve against Schulz's pocket eights, and he took home $15,425 for a very solid performance.

Four-handed play continued after a ten-minute break, and Ray Gasses held $490,000 for the table chip lead. Vincent Mack and Robert Schulz were neck-and-neck with $385,000 and $360,000 respectively, and Mitchell Smith held on with $38,000. That didn't last long - on the first hand after the break Smith called Gasses' raise with Queen-nine offsuit and lost unimproved to King-six of hearts. Smith won $17,785 for his tenacious final table play.

Once the table was three-handed, the table was left with the three most aggressive players. They traded chips back and forth for well over an hour. The turning point came when Gasses moved all in on a steal with King-three offsuit and Mack woke up with pocket jacks. A king hit the flop, Gasses had his opponent covered, and Mack took 3rd place for a $20,325 payday. When heads-up play started, Schulz and Gasses were nearly even, but the deck went cold for Schulz and Gasses took advantage, bludgeoning Schulz with raises and building up his stack. On the final hand, Gasses moved all-in preflop with pocket jacks and got Schulz to call with Ace-six offsuit. The pair held and Gasses took home first prize and the gold ring. Schulz received $35,060 for his strong performance.

Ray Gasses said afterward that he is now planning to play as many of the tournaments at the Circuit as he can win his way into, and will definitely be playing in the Main Event. When asked if there were a player he most wanted to knock out, he confidently said "all of them" - and then said he'd particularly like to play with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. It remains to be seen whether he can repeat his performance sometime in the next two weeks, but for the time being he is the only World Series Circuit champion in Tunica. That's an honor worth savoring.

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