Now, Mr. Black can add a World Series of Poker Circuit tournament victory to his many accomplishments. The 67-year-old resident of Pollack Pines, CA overcame a large field of 352 players and won the second event ($550 buy-in no-limit hold'em) on this year's schedule at the Harvey's Lake Tahoe Casino and Resort.
The tournament was held over a busy holiday weekend. Since this year's tournament series began on Friday, most of the Harvey's poker area has been standing-room only, as what tables were not used in tournaments were filled to capacity with cash games.
After 343 players were eliminated on the first day, nine finalists returned to the feature table to continue on day two. The survivors included six Californians, two Nevadans, and one Texan. The Lone Star State's Thomas Anderson enjoyed a slight chip advantage when play resumed. But four rivals were close behind. Blinds started at 3,000-6,000. Players and chip counts began as follows:
Seat 1: Merwick Black 220,000
Seat 2: Tom Master 264,000
Seat 3: Steve Saahtout 200,000
Seat 4: Mason White 176,000
Seat 5: Joey Odem 60,000
Seat 6: Thomas Anderson 287,000
Seat 7: Kirk Ray 68,000
Seat 8: Jim Verdi 56,000
Seat 9: Baron Weller 83,000
Players were eliminated in the following order:
9th Place - Just three hands into play, one of the shortest stacks busted out. Kirk Ray moved all-in with K-9, which lost to Baron Weller's pocket eights. Ray failed to catch an overcard, which resulted in a quick ninth-place finish, Kirk Ray, a school teacher from Visalia, CA collected $2,902 in prize money.
8th Place - A short time later, Mason White took a tough beat when he was all-in holding pocket queens against Baron Weller's A-K. It appeared White might double up when the flop came 5-4-4. But a dreaded king rained down on the turn, catapulting Weller into the lead with a higher pair. Ten seconds later, a blank on the river put White out of the tournament. White, who works as a poker room manager and who also cashed in one of the $1500 buy-in hold'em events at this year's World Series of Poker, earned $4,012 for eighth place.
7th Place - Joey Oden arrived low in chips but still managed to move two places up the money ladder. The pharmacist from Carson City busted out about a half hour into play. But the resulting payout of $5,378 was an easier pill to swallow. This was Oden's third time to cash in a WSOP-related event.
6th Place - Next, Jim Verdi was down to just 16,000 in chips, barely enough to make it through a round of blinds and antes. He moved all-in with K-Q suited. But Tom Master practically beat him into the pot with his chips and instantly flipped over his A-A. True to form, the aces held up, knocking Verdi out of the event. Verdi has an interesting occupation. He works full time as a whitewater videographer here in the Lake Tahoe region. Sixth place paid $7,170.
5th Place - Steve Saatout hung around just long enough to capture fifth place. He went low on chips and was eliminated with a weak hand, which lost to Tom Master's pair of aces. Saatout, who works in real estate, picked up a nice commission of $9,048.
4th Place - Thomas Anderson had to be disappointed with his showing at the final table. The Texan enjoyed the chip lead from the start of day two, but ultimately went out on a hand he will surely be thinking about in the days and weeks to come. Anderson went broke when he was dealt A-9 and flopped a nine. Top pair (nines) and top kicker (an ace) is normally a very favorable situation in hold'em. But when the opponent holds an overpair, it is reduced to the classic trap hand and is nearly impossible to fold. Anderson ran into pocket kings held by Baron Weller, and busted out in fourth place. Anderson picked up $12,121 for his effort. Interestingly, Thomas' brother -- J.T. Anderson - played in and also cashed in this event (14th place).
3rd Place - The three finalists were all local poker players. This added some excitement to the closing stages of the tournament, as each player was cheered on by several friends and family in the audience. Baron Weller
enjoyed about a 2 to 1 chip lead when play commenced. The players battled back and forth for about an hour, due in part to the significant jump in prize money - 18K for third, 26K for second, and 44K for first. A large number of chips in relation to the blinds and some conservative play meant the next major confrontation did not occur until Tom Master was getting low and had to make a bold move on a draw. After the turn showed K-Q-5-5, Maser (with A-10) tried to move Weller off his hand. The aggressive play did not succeed, as Weller had 5-4, good for two pair. Maser needed to catch a jack for a straight, but missed. That meant a third-place finish for the local retired attorney who lives just a short distance from the Harvey's Casino. Maser, who has also cashed in half a dozen other WSOP events, settled for $18,011 in prize money.
2nd Place - Heads-up play lasted for about twenty minutes. Mr. Black seized the chip lead, more the result of winning several smaller pots rather any standout confrontation. However, the final hand of the tournament did stand out and was the decisive final blow to Baron Weller, who had played marvelously over two days. Weller was dealt A-10 and raised. He was re-raised all-in by Mr. Black, holding 5-5. Weller decided to call and faced what is often referred to as a "race" -- meaning the hands were about equal in strength, although the pair was a small favorite. The final board of the tournament showed Q-4-2-6-2 giving Mr. Black the victory and making Baron Weller the second-place finisher. Weller, age 32, who works as a rescue paramedic in South Lake Tahoe, collected $26,888 in prize money.
1st Place - First place paid $44,477. Not bad for two days of poker playing. But Mr. Black seemed genuinely more excited by the satisfaction of winning his first major tournament than receiving anything monetary value.
For thirty years, Mr. Black worked on many of the nation's most prestigious aerospace and aviation programs. He worked for companies that built everything from guided missiles, to satellites, to spacecraft. Indeed, if tournament poker is considered "rocket science," then Merwick Black is an all-around champion.
For more information, please contact:
Nolan Dalla -- WSOP Media Director at (702) 358-4642
Or visit our official website: www.worldseriesofpoker.com
World Series of Poker Commissioner - Jeffrey Pollack
Tournament Director - Janis Sexton
Harrah's Lake Tahoe Race and Sportsbook Manager - Steve Schorr
Harvey's Lake Tahoe Poker Room Manager - Vince Contaxis