Players tune up for
Circuit main event

Sep 18, 2006 4:28 AM

The final preliminary tournament — a $1,000 buy-in, no limit hold’em event — before the start of the championship event attracted 102 entries.

After 93 players were eliminated on the first day, the nine finalists returned to the feature table on day two. Among those knocked out on the first day was Howard "Tahoe" Andrew, a two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner. Incredibly, "Tahoe" has played every WSOP main event dating back to 1973. He finished 12th in this tournament. Kevin Janas enjoyed a decisive chip lead when play resumed, but he faced perhaps the toughest table lineup thus far at this year’s Lake Tahoe series.

Two players, Hans "Tuna" Lund and Vince Burgio had previously won WSOP gold bracelets. Evan Schwartz won an event here less than a week ago.

Final table play lasted for five hours, a slow pace of play dictated by lots of chips in play and some notable players with final table experience. Players were eliminated in the following order:

Robert "R.J." Kurey was actually eliminated on the previous night, on the final hand of play. Kurey is worth mentioning for the phenomenal run he enjoyed earlier in the tournament. Down to his last 250 in chips (players started with 2,500) with six tables remaining, Kurey was on the verge of elimination. Then, he went on a monster run. Kurey moved all-in five times and won all five hands. Ultimately, he made it into final nine in only the second tournament in which he has played. Kurey collected a respectable $1,979.

This was Evan Schwartz’s second final table here at Lake Tahoe. He won first place and over $35,000 in prize money in Event 2. However, he could do no better than eighth place this time, struggling throughout as one of the lowest stacks at the table. Nonetheless, Schwartz added $2,968 to his poker bankroll.

Seventh place went to Robert Brown. The business owner from Roseville, California started out with an average stack, but was never able to generate much momentum in the finale. Brown collected $3,958.

Alan Bittikofer went out next. The 24-year-old Internet poker player from Hayward, California won his entry into this tournament via a $120 single-table satellite in the Harveys Poker Room. Bittikofer parlayed that modest initial investment into a payoff totaling $4,947.

The final table had to be a big disappointment to Kevin Janas. The early chip leader, Janas took a few beats in the later rounds and watched helplessly as his stack evaporated. He finally busted out in fifth place. Janas, who works both as a poker room manager in the Bay Area and is also an actor, was cut from the final table script. He ended up with $5,936 in prize money.

The confrontation which decided fourth place was a clash of the titans. Two former WSOP gold bracelet winners, Vince Burgio and Hans "Tuna" Lund (with two wins), tangled and ultimately thinned the field by one player. Burgio was low on chips and moved all-in with K-Q, and was called by Tuna Lund, holding A-J. An ace on the river was overkill, giving Lund the pot. His earnings amounted to $7,915. Burgio has also won the World Lowball Championship three times.

Tuna Lund took a bad beat on his final hand of the tournament. He moved all-in pre-flop with A-7 and was called by Champion Douglas holding pocket tens. Lund looked to be in position to double-up when an ace flopped. But an ugly ten on the river stunned the crowd and gutted Tuna. With the tens, it was déjà vu all over again in this tournament. For third place, Lund received $9,894.

When heads-up play began, Champion Douglas held a 2 to 1 chip lead over Chris Braun. A dramatic shift in momentum occurred when Braun doubled up with pocket aces early in the duel. A half hour later, Braun won a critical "coin flip" situation when his A-9 bested Douglas’ pocket sixes. Champion Douglas (yes, reminiscent of Chris Moneymaker -- that’s his real name) finished as the runner up. He collected $16,820.

The winner was Chris Braun, from nearly S. Lake Tahoe, California (Note: S. Lake Tahoe is directly across the street, out the side door from the Harveys Resort and Casino). Arriving second in the chip count at the final table, Braun won a few key hands and repelled Douglas’ final rush, winning his first major poker tournament in the process. Braun has only been playing poker about 18 months. He won $32,058 for first place.