STATELINE, Nevada -- Northern Nevada has a long and rich poker history. The predecessor to the World Series of Poker was actually an invitation-only poker tournament held in Reno, back in 1969.
The "Texas Gambler's Convention" moved to Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas the following year and the rest, as they say, became poker history.
During the 1980s, Reno and Lake Tahoe alternated as hosts of the second-largest poker tournament in the world. "Amarillo Slim's Super Bowl of Poker" was played at the Reno Hilton and Caesars Tahoe numerous times. In addition, several other major tournaments have been played in the Sierras, mostly in Reno.
In 2005, the first World Series of Poker Circuit came to northern Nevada. That year, the championship was broadcast on ESPN. In fact, Harvey's Lake Tahoe has been one of only three casinos nationwide to host a WSOP Circuit event during all five seasons.
Harvey's Resort and Casino, located on the Nevada side of the California border only a few steps away from the shores of South Lake Tahoe, has a busy 20-table poker room. In addition to offering regular tournaments, the room is filled with steady cash game action. Normal games range from $3-6 Limit Hold'em up to $10-20 blind No-Limit Hold'em. The most popular game for locals tends to be the $2-3 blind No-Limit Hold'em game. Two local Tahoe players, Darin Honorof and Barron Weller were the first to push for no-limit poker games at Harvey's which were implemented six years ago. Other players have since come and gone from Tahoe enjoying much success, including Dustin Fox, Jeremy Joseph, and others.
The second annual Sierra Poker Classic took place at Harvey's during the first two weeks of April. The series, labeled as an official World Series of Poker Satellite Event, included 13 tournaments, including the first-ever "Crazy Pineapple World Championship," won by Tom Christopher, from Las Vegas. Several snowstorms in the area produced a modest turnout. But for those who trekked to Tahoe to ski and play poker, the conditions were ideal.
"We have a wonderful turnout every year at our World Series of Poker Circuit event which is held in November," said Vince Contaxis, Harvey's Poker Room Manager. "Many players were begging us to hold another event in the spring that was similar. So, we decided to host the Sierra Poker Classic, which is a scaled down version of the WSOP Circuit, with lower buy-ins that will appeal to almost all poker players."
The Sierra Classic's $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em championship attracted 55 entries, generating $80,025 in prize money. Each of the top nine players collected payouts. All the action took place over a two-day period inside the Harvey's Lake Tahoe poker room and tournament events area, adjacent to the Hard Rock Cafe.
The winner was Erkut "Eric" Yilmaz, who won his first major poker tournament. Yilmaz is a 32-year-old poker pro originally from Istanbul, Turkey. He has lived in the United States for seven years and has settled down in Sacramento, where he concentrates mostly on playing in cash games. Yilmaz officially collected $28,449 in prize money. The top nine finishers were as follows:
9th Place – Mitch Mitchener, a 49-year-old construction superintendant from Bonner Springs, KS who works in sand and gravel. He came to the final table as the shortest stack. Mitchener busted out about 30 minutes into play when his A-10 lost to Michael Cooper's 2-2. Mitchener collected $1,801 for ninth place.
8th Place – Tae Kim, a 36-year-old data base consultant a software business owner from Tahoe City, CA. He came to the final table slightly below average in chips. Kim moved all-in with the best hand, holding pocket jacks versus Erkut "Eric" Yilmaz's pocket eights. But incredibly, Yilmaz made quad-eights on the hand, eliminating Kim. The avid skier, golfer, and poker player from the north shore of Lake Tahoe collected $2,561 in prize money.
7th Place – Ed Miller, a 45-year-old auto dealer from Granite Bay, CA. Miller took a terrible beat when he had 8-7 and flopped top two pair. Eric Yilmaz had pocket nines, and watched as two tens fell on the turn and river, good for a higher two pair. Miller received $3,521 as the seventh-place finisher. Miller was a WSOP Main Event qualifier last year, after winning a satellite tournament at Harrah's Lake Tahoe.
6th Place – Greg D. Alaways, a 57-year-old self-employed business owner from Chico, CA. Alaways was short stacked and moved all-in with A-9 against David "D Ro" Rowan's pocket jacks. Rowan ended up making jacks full on the hand, which eliminated Alaways. He pocketed $4,561.
5th Place – Michael "Coop" Cooper, a 48-year-old professional gambler from San Francisco, CA. Cooper was knocked out with pocket tens against Marc Danai's pocket kings. Cooper has cashed four previous times at the WSOP and has also done well at previous WSOP Circuit events at Harvey's Lake Tahoe. He collected $5,762 for fifth place.
4th Place – Marc Danai, a 44-year-old software engineer from San Jose, CA. Danai was a force for a couple of hours, but ultimately busted out when this A-9 was topped by Gene Rindy's A-5. After both players flopped an ace, all the chips went into the pot, But Rindy caught a five on the river to make two pair. Danai received a payout totaling $7,522.
3rd Place – David "D Ro" Rowan, a 21-year-old poker pro from S. Lake Tahoe, CA. Rowan was the short stack while three-handed play went for more than an hour. He managed to survive several all-ins but took a bad beat on his final hand of the tournament with A-K against Gene Rindy's A-9. A nine came on the turn, busting out Rowan, who won one of the preliminary events at the Sierra Classic. Third place paid $10,643.
2nd Place – When heads-up play began, Eric Yilmaz enjoyed a 3 to 2 chip lead over Gene Rindy. The two players back and forth a few hands before a deal was made. Yilmaz was declared the winner. In Rindy's defense, had there been a "Best All Around" award given for this tournament series, he most certainly would have won it. Rindy ended up with two seconds and a first-place finish this week. Second place officially paid $15,205.
1st Place – Eric Yilmaz was cheered to victory by his brother who sat in the audience. Yilmaz held the chip lead from start to finish, and was clearly the most dominant player at the final table. "I'm the best poker player in Sacramento," he declared prior to sitting down at the table. Now with this victory, Yilmaz could add that he is – at least for now – the champion of Lake Tahoe, as well.
The next WSOP Circuit event takes place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas from April 11-29. The final WSOP Circuit event of the 2008-2009 season will be held at Harrah's New Orleans, from May 7-21.
|Harveys Resort & Casino is located on the pristine shores of America's largest alpine lake. The property features 740 deluxe rooms and suites, six restaurants, and 52,500 square feet of casino excitement.|
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