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With the World Series proper on hiatus until November those seeking a WSOP fix were delighted to see the return of the stalwart WSOP Circuit events this week in Indiana. Unfortunately for Harrah’s, it seems that only a small number of players could find the energy or the cash to compete, the final 84 competitors one of the smallest circuit fields ever. Nevertheless the competition was fierce for the nine paid places, seeing as in order to make the money you had to reach the final table. Taking place in the Horseshoe Southern Indiana Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana, this was the first of 10 events in the fifth season of the WSOP Circuit.

The chip counts going into the final table were

Samuel Oberlin — 229,500
Jamin Stokes — 189,500
Len Ashby — 177,000
David Kopacz — 151,000
Jerry Martin — 139,500
Joey Couden — 128,000
Derek Whelan — 117,500
Dean Schultz — 114,000
Ray Lynn — 17,500

You might think, looking at that list, that Ray Lynn is missing a zero from his total – but you would be mistaken. He began to mount a valiant come back, tripling up with a set of 5’s early on, but it wasn’t to be. Before long he ran foul of the A-Q of Joey Couden, dominating his own K-Q. The board was of no use to anyone and Ace high triumphed over King high, Lynn out in ninth.

In April 2007 the same venue was holding a similar WSOP Circuit event, featuring repeat final-tabler Dean Schultz. That year he finished 8th, so it must have been bittersweet deja-vu to find himself eliminated in the very same position a year an a half later. With only a short-stack to his name, he set out his stall with A-5 and was well behind to the A-J of Jerry Martin. A Jack on the turn trumped a meaningless 5 on the river to see Schultz leave the table 8th for the second year running.

Two quick-fire eliminations shortly after Schultz’s exit cleared the table down to 5 players. Derek Whelan got himself embroiled in a three way pot with big stacks Samuel Oblerin and Jerry Martin. Oberlin, holding K-J, made a bet pre-flop and Whelan called for all his chips – Martin also made the call with Q-J. Things looked promising for Whelan, as his A-2 put him marginally ahead but unfortunately for him a Jack on the flop sent him home in 7th.

Shortly after, Jamin Stokes made the rarely advisable move all-in with pocket 10’s. As always seems to be the case he ran into K-K – this time belonging to David Kopacz. He was down but not out, but Kopacz sealed the deal the very next hand. A straight race 7-7 against A-9 ended with an ace on the turn.

With the flop a seemingly innocuous J-5-5, onlookers may have been forgiven surprise when Len Ashby and Joey Couden ended up all-in. A battle of the blinds on the flop, Couden had originally checked, but once Ashby led out he quickly moved all-in over the top. An insta-call from Ashby spelled trouble and Couden was distraught to find that his pocket Aces had been cracked by 10-5.

Despite Ashby’s success in eliminating Couden, it was he who would be the next to leave – in 4th place. Making an unorthodox preflop raise with 9-8 off earned him a call from Jerry Martin and his K-J. A flop of K-7-6 helped both players and a meaningless 3 on the turn prompted both players to put it all in the middle. The straight outs were sadly absent on the turn and Martin contributed more to his ever growing stack.

He reinforced his dominance even further a few hands later, knocking out David Kopacz in third place. Holding the hand that would later end the tournament, Martin was well ahead with Q-Q against Q-8 and the matter was settled when the case Queen fell on the flop.

At the start of heads up play Martin was holding just over a million in chips, compared to the 230,000 of Samuel Oberlin. Having quietly wormed his way down to the final two he looked set to fold as Martin’s run continued. However he seemed to have saved his energy for the right moment as he doubled up in the first hand with the prophetic pocket queens. Before long the stacks were relatively even, and the lead began to swap back and forth. However, eventually the ladies would decide a winner.

Oberlin raised preflop and Martin made the call. A flop of 4-J-5 was the last of Martin’s tournament as he moved all in with top pair, only to find himself just behind to the Q-Q of Oberlin. An 8 and an Ace on the river were blanks and Oberlin collected the WSOP Circuit ring as well as the $143,064 first prize.

Full payouts were:

1: Samuel Oberlin — $143,064
2: Jerry Martin — $79,480
3: David Kopacz — $43,714
4: Len Ashby — $31,792
5: Joey Couden — $27,818
6: Jamin Stokes — $23,844
7: Derek Whelan — $19,870
8: Dean Schultz — $15,896
9: Ray Lynn — $11,922