Ronnie George, a Homebuilder from Georgia, Constructs a Chip Castle in Biloxi
First Major Poker Tournament of the New Year Attracts More Than 1,000 Players
Anyone questioning how the current economic downswing might be impacting poker is advised to check out the latest attendance figures from Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The 2009 Southern Poker Championship began with a massive turnout, as 1,005 poker players jammed into the luxury casino located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The year's first major poker tournament anywhere in the world attracted so many entries and filled so many seats that alternates had to be taken.
The $340 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em poker tournament was played over two consecutive days. Only the top 63 finishers collected prize money. The total prize pool amounted to $282,455. All the action took place on two floors spread throughout the casino, with the final table being played stage side inside the grand ballroom.
The tournament winner was Ronnie George, from Douglasville, GA. He is a 50-year-old homebuilder. George owns Advanced Builders, which constructs about 30 new homes per year. George stated matter-of-factly that since the economy has hurt his business, he has been playing poker much more frequently in his spare time. George's labor paid off handsomely as he collected $65,109 as the latest poker champ. George was also presented with a fabulous white gold bracelet encrusted with diamonds, which is coveted prize awarded to all winners at this year's Southern Poker Championship.
George was barely on the radar screen when he came back to continue play on day two. Brad Edwards, from North Carolina arrived at the final table with a considerable chip lead. Two ladies also made it into the finale, with Ilene Matz and Jessical Dawley each determined to win the first major poker tournament title of 2009. Players were eliminated in the following order:
10th Place - Ilene Matz, an advertising executive from Atlanta arrived at the final table with the shortest stack. She survived over an hour and doubled up a few times. But Matz ultimately went bust and ended up in tenth place. This was her second time to cash in a casino poker tournament.
9th Place - Kevin Fields, a car salesman from Forsyth, GA drive away in ninth place. On his last hand he was low on chips and moved all-in with A-Q, which lost to Dieter Fiek's A-K. A king flopped, which essentially sealed Field's fate.
8th Place - Jeremy Sanders, from took a bad beat on his final hand of the tournament. He was all-in with K-Q and had top pair (kings) as the board showed K-J-6. Larry Dale Wright held second pair (jacks) with J-10 as his hole cards. Then, a third jack came on the turn, which gave Wright three-of-a-kind. Sanders failed to improve which meant the poker pro from Columbus, GA was the eighth-place finisher.
7th Place - Dieter Fiek, a Peruvian-born contractor from Kennesaw, GA went out in dramatic fashion. On his final see-saw hand, he held K-10 against Larry Dale Wright, with Q-J. A ten flopped, temporarily giving Wright the lead. But a jack on the turn swung the advantage back in Fiek's favor. The hand was punctuated by a dramatic ending as another ten fell on the river, giving Wright the pot with trip-tens. This marked Fiek's first time to make it to a live final table.
6th Place - Jessica Dawley was top female finisher in this event. She went out with A-6 against Ronnie George's A-9. Both players flopped an ace for top pair, but George's higher kicker booted Dawley out of the tournament. Dawley formally served in the U.S. Air Force. This was her highest tournament cash ever.
5th Place - Larry Dale Wright's good fortunate finally ran out when he was short-stacked and had to commit with J-9 on what turned out to be his final hand. He was dominated by Ronnie Goerge's A-K. Niether player made a pair, which meant the ace-high played. Wright has enjoyed success in recent tournaments. He finished 9th in the APPT championship held two years ago in Australia, and took 65th place in the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2008.
4th Place - Tom Becnel encountered the worst possible time to pick up A-K as he moved all-in with the premium hand against Ronnie George. Unfortunately, George had K-K, leaving Becnel drawing against slim odds. Down basically to just three outs, an ace failed to rescue Becnel, which meant a fourth-place finish for the 72-year-old retiree from Louisiana.
3rd Place - Brad Edwards, a North Carolina-based winery owner, became the third-place finisher when he shoved all-win with A-5 and was called by Larry Alexander, holding 4-4. Edwards failed to connect with a pair, which eliminated the player who had started the day as the chip leader. Third place paid $21,184.
2nd Place - Larry Alexander was the chip leader when heads-up place began. But he tried to pull a bluff at a horrible time, and lost most of his chips when Ronnie George called the big raise and tabled a nut flush. That proved to be the key hand of the tourney. Down to his last few stacks, Alexander moved all in a short time later and lost when his opponent made a higher pair. Alexander, a 60-year-old construction worker from Grand Bay, AL collected $33,895 in prize money.
1St Place - Ronnie George started the final table ranked in eighth place out of ten players. He managed to avoid getting into drawing situations and had the best of it just about every time he confronted an opponent.
"I come here every year (to Mississippi) to play," George said. "I am so happy to win. I had made a few final tables before, but never got close to winning. It feels great."
When asked about his plans for with the 65-grand in prize money he had just pocketed, George snapped back, "I don't have any idea. But my wife - she's got plenty of plans."