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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2008 | WSOP 2008 Circuit Events

Mickey Pickett wins WSOP Rincon Circuit Event NLH Championship

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2007-2008 World Series of Poker Circuit
Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort
Official Report

No-Limit Hold’em Championship Event
Buy-In: $5,000 (+150)
Number of Entries: 148
Total Prize Money: $706,800
February 5-7, 2008

Official Results

1st Mickey Pickett Little Canada, MN $229,002 *
2nd David Peters Rancho Santa Fe, CA 120,156
3rd Edward Sabat Lancaster, CA 70,680
4th Kenny Bedoya San Diego, CA 56,544
5th Cristian Avendano Quito, Ecuador 42,408
6th Gavin Smith Las Vegas, NV 35,340
7th Lee Watkinson Las Vegas, NV 28,272
8th Damien “Damo” Oborne Melbourne, Australia 21,204
9th Jon Eaton Las Vegas, NV 14,136
10th Scott Reese San Jose, CA 11,309
11th Evan Schwartz Oakland, CA 11,309
12th Doud Callier Everette, WA 11,309
13th Sang Hwang Alexandria, VA 9,895
14th Michael Dolan Nashville, TN 9,895
15th Matthew Hyman Corte Madera, CA 9,895
16th Vanessa Rousso Miami, FL 8,482
17th Peter Neff Oak Park, CA 8,482
18th Peter de Best Yorba Linda, CA 8,482

*plus $11,000 for 2008 WSOP main event entry

The Pickett Line

Mickey Pickett Wins World Series of Poker Circuit Championship at Harrah’s Rincon

Newly Crowned 23-Year-Old Poker Champ from Minnesota Stages Stunning Comeback Victory, Topping Final Table Which Includes Poker Pros Lee Watkinson and Gavin Smith

Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort (San Diego) – These days, twenty-something poker champions are a dime a dozen. Every month it seems, a young person wins a big tournament somewhere, only to quickly fizzle out and gradually disappear from the tournament poker scene. It brings to mind the old proverb that as tough as it is to climb to the top of one’s profession, it’s even tougher to stay there.

But Michael “Mickey” Pickett is quite possibly the exception. The 23-year old newly-turned poker pro from Little Canada, MN won the latest World Series of Poker Circuit championship, held recently at the Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort. He won in extraordinary fashion, overcoming a sizable chip disadvantage at the start of the final table. He also overcame a highly-skilled and experienced field of competitors en route to his biggest tournament cash ever -- at least, so far.

“Only five percent of all poker players make a profit,” Pickett declared following his improbable victory. “I don’t want to say that nobody should try and play poker for a living because that sounds hypocritical. But I think you have to start out with a plan and stick with it. That’s what I have done.”

When Pickett was still in his late teens, one of his early jobs was working at a golf course. He later attended Iowa State University for one year, before sensing poker provided a unique opportunity. At the age of 18, his brothers introduced him to limit hold’em, which was the only form of poker legally spread at his local cardroom near Minneapolis. Since the cardroom allowed 18-year-olds to play, the teenage Pickett spent many hours at the tables and looked upon the activity not as recreation, but a full-time job.

“From the start, I took this very seriously. I am really fortunate because I have a lot of close friends who help me to stay in line and be accountable,” Pickett said. “We talk a lot about poker hands and situations. The support network really helps me because instead of going on tilt, I think about what I have done and try to improve. If you take a beat, you have to forget about it and move on. I have learned that is the toughest thing for many players to do.”

For his first WSOP Circuit victory, Pickett pocketed $229,002 plus an $11,000 bonus prize – good for a guaranteed seat in the 2008 WSOP championship event to be held later this year in Las Vegas. He also received a commemorative gold and diamond ring, presented to each and every WSOP Circuit champion. Cheered on by the largest and most enthusiastic group of supporters in the audience which constituted his support network, it took Pickett about six hours to steamroll over the final table and claim victory.

The marked the fourth straight year the World Series of Poker Circuit has been played in Southern California. The Harrah’s Rincon Casino and Resort, nestled in the cool mountains 45-miles away from sunny San Diego, hosted the eighth of 12 WSOP Circuit stops on this year’s tour. The $5,000 buy-in championship event attracted 148 entries creating a total prize pool of $706,800. The top 18 finishers all received prize money,

Several notable poker pros and celebrities entered the prestigious event including former WSOP gold bracelet winners Lee Watkinson, Tom Schneider, Layne Flack, Brandon Cantu, Bill Edler, and Jeff Madsen. Celebrities included Dr. Jerry Buss and Frank Mariani, part-owners of the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. Former WSOP Circuit event winners included Evan Schwartz, Matthew Glantz, and the defending Harrah’s Rincon champ, Peter Feldman. Other poker notables who entered included Erick Lindgren, Gavin Smith, Nick DiLeo, Michael Banducci, Allen Kessler, Alex Jacob, Vanessa Rousso, Travis Erdman, and Chad Brown. The main event was rounded out by the reigning world poker champion Jerry Yang, who made history by winning $8.5 million at last year’s WSOP. Yang is from nearby Temecula, CA, which is about 25 miles away from Harrah’s Rincon.

“This is like home to me….this is my turf,” said Yang during an early break in the tournament. “I have seen a lot of my friends here and some of them have even come to watch me play. It’s really a great feeling to come back to Rincon as the world poker champion. I am so overwhelmed with how nice people have been to me and am so pleased to see Harrah’s Rincon host another World Series Circuit tournament.”

Despite Yang’s high praise, he did not survive past the first day. In fact, 121 players were eliminated in the tournaments first 12 hours – leaving just 27 players who returned on Day Two. It took only about five hours to whittle the field from 27 players down to nine, and hence the final table was set.

Local favorite Kenny Bedoya
dominated play during most of the first two days. In fact, he held a massive chip lead at the end of the first day, with about 450,000 in his stack while no other player in the tournament had greater than 270,000. Despite this, Bedoya arrived second in chips at the final table. The leader position was taken by a 21-year-old USC student named Edward Sabat. At the time, no one seemed to pay much attention to the quiet young man sitting in the number six seat who prefers “Mickey” to Michael, and who arrived seventh in chips.

When play began, the seating order and chip counts were as follows:

SEAT 1: Gavin Smith 197,500
SEAT 2: David Peters 442,000
SEAT 3: Damien “Damo” Oborne 124,000
SEAT 4: Jon Eaton 75,000
SEAT 5: Kenny Bedoya 701,500
SEAT 6: Mickey Pickett 121,000
SEAT 7: Edward Sabat 854,000
SEAT 8: Cristian Avendano 96,500
SEAT 9: Lee Watkinson 337,000

Blinds started at 4,000/8,000 with a 1,000 ante. The action was slow in the early stages of play. However, Jon Eaton – with barely enough chips to play about four orbits – was compelled to play aggressively with his short stack He put in a series of all-in raises and managed to double up early against Gavin Smith, netting about 60,000 more in chips. About 30 minutes into play Eaton’s luck ran out and he was the first player eliminated.

9th Place – Jon Eaton moved all in with the best hand when he tabled A-J against David Peters, holding K-J. However, the final board was a nightmare for Eaton, who watched in horror as an ace fell on the river, giving his opponent a Broadway straight. The board cards showed Q-8-5-10-A, allowing Peters to scoop the 180,000 pot. Eaton, a 24-year-old poker pro who started out writing tournament reports, then dealt at the 2006 World Series of Poker before turning pro, added $14,136 to his poker bankroll for ninth place.

8th Place – Damien “Damo” Oborne came into Day Three as the sentimental crowd favorite. The jovial Australian had come to America on vacation to watch the Super Bowl, and cheer on his favorite football team, the New York Giants. Encouraged by the Giants’ stunning upset victory last week, Oborne learned there was a WSOP Circuit event being played near San Diego. So, he decided to take a detour and enter the main event. What a terrific decision that turned out to be as “Damo” made it all the way to the final table. Unfortunately, he could not match the Giants’ on-the-field performance, but did manage to take $21,204 down under. Damo went out with A-5 against David Peters’ K-10. Despite being an early favorite on his final hand, a ten flopped and Damo was sent back packing back to his native Melbourne. That is, unless he decides to delay his return and go on to the next WSOP Circuit at Council Bluffs, IA. With Damo, one never knows what the future will bring.

7th Place – Lee Watkinson has experienced every emotion imaginable at a poker table – from the crushing humiliation of defeat and disappointment to the glory of winning a WSOP gold bracelet (he was the $10,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha championship in 2006). In fact, he was the only WSOP gold bracelet winner sitting at the final table. Many expected Watkinson to make a run. But it never materialized. Watkinson seemed to go card dead at the worst stage of the tournament, rarely playing a hand until his chip position dictated a bold play. From the cutoff position, Watkinson moved all-in with pocket fours, only to see nemesis Gavin Smith make an immediate call holding pocket tens. The higher pair held up and Watkinson was bounced from the final table. The outstanding tournament pro who finished eighth in the WSOP main event last year, added $28,272 to his poker bankroll.

Next, one of the key early hands of the finale took place when the two chip leaders went to battle. David Peters seized the chip lead when he won a big hand against Edward Sabat. Peters moved all-in on the river of the hand, and was not called (hand were not shown) which resulted in the first chip-lead change of the day,

6th Place – Gavin Smith has become one of poker’s most respected and popular players in recent years. Indeed, Smith has performed admirably at WSOP Circuit events across the country. He took second place at the Harrah’s New Orleans championship held two years ago. He also finished in seventh place in this same event last year at Harrah’s Rincon. This year, Smith improved that finish by one spot. In less-than-satisfying fashion, he went out pretty much the result of two crippling hands. The first took place when he tried to steal a pot, which did not succeed (Smith had to fold when Mickey Pickett called a large bet and then bet out after the next card). The final fateful hand of Smith’s tournament life took place when the Canadian native moved his last 90,000 into the pot with Q-10 and was called by Kenny Bedoya, with A-J. Smith failed to connect and ended up with sixth-place prize money of $35,340.

5th Place – Christian Avendano went out about three hours into play. The former military officer (and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy) had his hopes of fame and fortune sunk when he moved all in with pocket sevens on his final hand. Kenny Bedoya called and showed pocket eights, which held up. Avendano, now a businessman living in North Las Vegas, NV earned $42,408 for fifth place. This was his third time to cash at this year’s Harrah’s Rincon tournament series.

4th Place – Despite a nice run of cards, Kenny Bedoya’s
final table experience was about to take a dramatic turn for the worse. Hand 94 turned out to be a nightmare for Bedoya, and was arguably the most important hand of the entire tournament. On the turn, the board showed Q-7-6-5. Bedoya bet out 100,000, and Mickey Pickett raised 100,000 more. Then, Bedoya moved all-in and Pickett called instantly. Bedoya flipped over A-Q -- good for top pair and top kicker. But he was drawing dead when Pickett revealed 8-4, which made a straight. Bedoya, a tile-setter from San Diego, pocketed $56,544 for fourth place. In a flash, the final table had a new chip leader.

3rd Place – A few hands later, Edward Sabat – now in third place – decided it was time to race for his chips. He was dealt A-9 and moved all in from the big blind. David Peters called quickly and flipped over pocket eights. Neither player improved which meant the early chip leader was knocked out. Sabat, a 21-year-old accounting student currently attending USC, picked up $70,680 in tuition money.

2nd Place – When heads-up play commenced, Mickey Pickett enjoyed a slightly better than 2 to 1 chip advantage over David Peters. The two rivals battled for 90 minutes before a champion was ultimately determined. At one point during heads-up play, Peters turned the tables and reversed the chip lead. He won a key hand early when he spiked a queen on the river and made a pair. However, for Pickett the setback was merely temporary. He managed to win several key hands over the next hour which served as a chisel to Peters’ melting stack. The final hand of the tournament was dealt when Peters had J-9 and was all-in as the five-card board showed A-9-3-7-J. The two pair seemed strong, but Pickett flipped over 10-8, good for a straight, as cheers echoed from the audience.

As runner up, David Peters collected $120,156. He had arrived third in chips at the start of the day and had the cards fallen a bit differently, he might have won his second event at this year’s Harrah’s Rincon series. Peters managed to take $38,000 for first place in the third event of the Rincon schedule, which concluded last week.

1st Place – For the latest WSOP Circuit champ, this marked his second major tournament victory – although the $229,000 in prize money represented his largest poker win ever, by far. Last year, Pickett won a major tournament at the Fall Poker Classic at the Canterbury Card Club in Minneapolis.

“When we were at nine-handed, I was trying to stay out of the way of the bigger stacks and concentrate on the middle of the field,” Pickett explained when asked about his early strategy. “(Then) I made an adjustment about midway through the finale table. I started to watch what the other players were doing and began to play off of them.”

Pickett went on to explain that he was aware of how he was perceived by others at the final table. He even went so far as to say those perceptions affected his strategy.

“I knew coming in that (Smith and Watkinson) were the two players everyone was concerned about,” he said. “I also knew that (my opponents) thought I would play cautiously and just try to move up the money ladder and hang on because the money seemed to matter more to me. After all, no one here has seen me play in tournaments. So, I was able to use that and push some of the other players around by playing weaker hands at key moments, and that’s how I accumulated my chips.”

Pickett says he plans to play in a few major tournaments in the coming months. But he will also prepare himself emotionally and financially for the biggest prize, which will come later this year at the Rio in Las Vegas.

“I love playing at these Harrah’s Circuit events. They are really great for poker,” Picket said. “But every poker player’s dream is to play in and win the World Series of Poker.”

For more information, please contact:
Nolan Dalla -- WSOP Media Director at (702) 358-4642
Or visit our official website:

*Photo Courtesy of ImageMasters Photography*

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