The 2013/2014 World Series of Poker Circuit held its second $1,675 Main Event of the season at the IP Biloxi this weekend. That tournament attracted 302 players, creating a $453,000 prize pool, and on Monday the final nine players returned to battle it for a $106,455 first-place prize. After eight levels of play, Martin Zentner emerged victorious to capture the top prize and secure a spot on the National Championship.
The IP Biloxi final table actually contained a celebrity of sorts in “Boston” Rob Mariano, perhaps the most popular player ever in the history of the hit reality TV show Survivor. Mariano first appeared on Survivor way back in 2002 in Survivor: Marquesas. Four seasons later, he’d be back on Survivor: All Stars, where he finished as runner-up to Amber Brkich, who would later become his wife on the two-hour CBS prime-time special, Rob and Amber Get Married. Mariano also appeared in Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains in 2010 and Survivor: Redemption Island in 2011, winning the latter for a $1 million prize.
Mariano and his wife have also competed on The Amazing Race and appeared in 2007’s Rob and Amber: Against the Odds on Fox Reality Channel, which was set in Las Vegas and followed Mariano’s attempt to become a professional poker player with the help of Daniel Negreanu.
Mariano actually doubled early at the final table and avoided becoming the first elimination of the final table, a position that went to Jonathan Thomas in Level 25 (8,000/16,000/2,000). According to the WSOP Blog, it happened when Gil George opened for 35,000 from middle position and Thomas shoved for 131,000. George called with the and was out in front of Thomas’ . The board ran out and Thomas hit the rail in ninth place for $9,826.
Later in the same level, George eliminated Michael Putaansuu in eight place. It happened when Putaansuu got his chips in with the and was up against George’s . The board ran out and that was all she wrote for Putaansuu, who took home $12,313 for his performance.
After Nolan Burton and George fell in seventh and sixth place respectively, Daniel Lowery joined them on the rail in fifth. It happened after the dinner break in Level 29 (20,000/40,000/5,000) when Mariano opened for 100,000 from the button and Lowery moved all in for 260,000 from the big blind. Mariano made the call with the and needed some help to overcome the of Lowery. The flop didn’t do it, but the turn did. Mariano paired his ten to take the lead, but Lowery had picked up a flush draw. The dealer burned one last time and put out the to send Lowery to the rail in fifth for $26,510.
Soon thereafter Mariano took over the chip lead, and he extended it when he eliminated Raymond Weaver in fourth place for $35,311. That set up a wildly entertaining three-handed affair that lasted through Level 31 (30,000/60,000/10,000). During that time the chip lead exchanged hands several times, and eventually Mariano bowed out as the third-place finisher. It happened when he opened for 120,000 from the button and Zentner called from the big blind. The flop saw Zentner lead for 100,000 and then call when Mariano shoved for 975,000.
Both players had flopped top pair, but Zentner’s king kicker had him well out in front. Neither the turn nor river helped Mariano and his torch was snuffed in third place for $47,805.
Heads-up play began with Zentner holding a slight chip lead over Hank Sitton, and while Zentner quickly pulled out to a healthy lead, Sitton would not go down without a fight as he doubled up a remarkable five times!
In the final hand, Sitton limped the button and then called off for 1.56 million after Zentner had moved all in from the big blind.
The flop made things very interesting as Zentner paired his six but Sitton picked up a flush draw to go along with his pair of deuces. The turn was no help to Sitton, which meant he needed either a deuce or heart on the river to stay alive. The dealer burned and put out the . With that, Sitton was felled in second place for $65,821 while Zentner claimed his first gold ring, the $106,455 first-place prize and a seat into the 2014 National Championship.
It’s also worth noting that former November Niner Ylon Schwartz captured the Casino Championship title at the IP Biloxi, meaning he has also secured a spot in this year’s National Championship.