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Wisconsin Student Wins $1.51 Million in Binion World Poker Open

28 January 2005

TUNICA RESORTS, MS (Jan. 28)--He took a week off from classes at the University of Wisconsin to take in some side action at the 6th Annual Jack Binion World Poker Open. He didn't know he would soon be swimming with some of the most aggressive poker sharks in the world last Thursday night.

John Stoltzman, only 23 and set to graduate from Wisconsin with a degree in philosophy this spring, shocked the growing world of poker with a stunning victory in the WPO named after the legendary Binion.

His victory in the Texas Hold 'Em championship event, for which a record 512 players competed, came over one of the best final tables in the six-year-old tournament held jointly at GoldStrike and Horseshoe casinos here in the Mississippi Delta.

Only playing semi-professionally in live games and online for four years, Stoltzman had no intention of entering the $10,000 buy-in Hold 'Em championship event but his dad, Steve, a fireman in Sheboygan, gave him the $1,000 he needed to enter a qualifying satellite event which he won. On the way to the title, he beat Phil Ivey, another championship caliber player. It was precursor of events to unfold.

On the final table eyeing him like live bait, were three of the most feared players in the world. Canadian Daniel Negreanu was the winningest player on the World Poker Tour. Scotty Nguyen and Chau Giang, both post-war escapees from Viet Nam, have won many big money events and live action games between them.

"When I saw those guys looking me over I suddenly realized this was the first time I would compete head on with the best in the game and it sent a shiver down my spine," said Stoltzman. "I don't think they took me seriously and perhaps this made them over confident because I was so young and inexperienced at this level of play. "There was no doubt in my mind and those of the audience watching that I was the underdog on the table."

A key to his win, he said, was that he decided not to play their game but would try to hang around by winning small pots rather than the larger ones where they were trying to run over him. His patience paid off and on the way to the showdown with the tough and wily Giang, who once was a cook in a Chinese restaurant, he watched Nguyen go under on an "all in" hand against Negreanu. Stoltzman in turn then knocked out Negreanu, who appeared somewhat stunned by the turn of events.

But Giang was waiting and being the chip leader all night he appeared very confident he would walk away with the jackpot. It was old hat for Giang but new for Stoltzman who appeared calm and ready for the finale. After some fencing and a feeling-out period when both claimed significant ante and blind bets, Stoltzman brought the spectators to their feet when he said "all in" and put his big stack of chips at risk. Giang accepted the challenge and called Stoltzman's king-10 with ace-jack, putting Stoltzman as the underdog.

When the flop, community cards placed face-up for all to see, showed the first three cards, Giang smiled when he paired his jacks and he appeared to be the winner when he picked up another ace on the river card, the last community card. But his two pair was not good enough as the ace gave Stoltzman a straight and he raked in nearly two million of Giang's chips.

With about $5 million neatly stacked up in front of him, Stoltzman easily knocked out Giang with an all in ace-10 that beat his opponents jack-three and moved Ciang's remaining $200,000 to his side of the table.

His father, Steve, and girlfriend Jade Tran, erupted from their seats in joyous celebration as John rushed over to hug them. While John shouted, "I can't believe it," his father said he had faith in him all along.

Stoltzman plans to invest his winnings and take off after graduation for about a year to play in various tournaments to see how far his skills will take him and then will probably enter law school after that. 'We'll see," he smiled.

A record 8,702 total entrants played in the 20 events and the total prize money record was shattered with $12 million up for grabs. Dave Egleseder was the tournament director and co-tournament directors were Ken Lambert, Jr., of Horseshoe and Robert McGovern of GoldStrike. Lambert said the turnout was very satisfying for all involved and gave praise to the joint-committee and tournament staff for what he called "excellent planning and superb implementation." He said he expected the field and prize money to be even bigger next Jan. for the 7th annual WPO.

The final table of the WPO will be shown on the Travel Channel's series of World Poker Tour events this June.

FINAL TABLE PLAYERS, CHAMPIONSHIP EVENT

NUMBER OF ENTRIES: 512

PRIZE MONEY: $4,832,773

John Stoltzman, Madison, Wis., $1.51 million
1. Chau Giang, Las Vegas, $797,369
2. Daniel Negreanu, Las Vegas, $399,208
3. Scotty Nguyen, Henderson, NV, $346,682
4. Mike Mizrachi, Hollywood, FL., $297,156
5. Raja Kattamuri, Irving, TX. $247,630

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Best of Rudi Schiffer
Rudi Schiffer

Rudi Schiffer is a long time columnist and contributing writer for Jackpot Magazine, the South’s leading gaming publication, and for casinocitytimes.com, the world’s leading casino industry internet news distributor. He is also owner and co-host of the 20-year-old Goodtimes Radio Show, now simulcast on Fridays from 3-6 PM Central Time from Country Classic 1180 AM, Memphis networked with KMIS 1050 AM, and 103.9 KGLU FM from Kennet, MO covering parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. His radio show is also archived at audiovegas.com. A Boston University Journalism graduate, he resides in Memphis, TN. Known as the "Voice of Tunica" for his support the gaming jurisdiction for two decades, he was also recently named to Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine’s 3rd annual “The Power Players, Who’s Who” of Memphis.He is also a contributing writer for Southern Gaming & Entertainment and Mississippi Gaming.

Rudi Schiffer Websites:

www.AudioVegas.com
Rudi Schiffer
Rudi Schiffer is a long time columnist and contributing writer for Jackpot Magazine, the South’s leading gaming publication, and for casinocitytimes.com, the world’s leading casino industry internet news distributor. He is also owner and co-host of the 20-year-old Goodtimes Radio Show, now simulcast on Fridays from 3-6 PM Central Time from Country Classic 1180 AM, Memphis networked with KMIS 1050 AM, and 103.9 KGLU FM from Kennet, MO covering parts of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. His radio show is also archived at audiovegas.com. A Boston University Journalism graduate, he resides in Memphis, TN. Known as the "Voice of Tunica" for his support the gaming jurisdiction for two decades, he was also recently named to Memphis Business Quarterly Magazine’s 3rd annual “The Power Players, Who’s Who” of Memphis.He is also a contributing writer for Southern Gaming & Entertainment and Mississippi Gaming.

Rudi Schiffer Websites:

www.AudioVegas.com