Poker pro Keikoan wins Harveys Lake Tahoe Championship |

Poker pro Keikoan wins Harveys Lake Tahoe Championship

Provided to the Tribune

Provided to the Tahoe Daily TribuneMatt Keikoan

STATELINE – When Matt Keikoan won his first gold bracelet at the 2008 World Series of Poker, he instantly knew the victory was a major breakthrough.

Yet Keikoan insists that his half-a-million dollar win 18 months ago was not life-changing. As a player with financial backers as well as the responsibilities of being a father to a 7-year-old daughter, he felt compelled to try even harder, by entering even more tournaments and sustaining his momentum on the circuit. That translated into the rather obligatory decision to attend the biggest annual tournament series in Northern Nevada, held at Harveys Lake Tahoe, which is relatively close to his home in San Rafael, Calif.

Keikoan won the latest WSOP Circuit championship early Tuesday morning at Harveys Resort and Casino. The 41-year-old poker pro collected $106,435 for his victory. He was also presented with a gold ring, the ultimate token of achievement for winning a WSOP circuit championship.

“I live only about three hours away from here,” Keikoan said following his victory. “I used to come here all the time on vacation when I was a kid. I really love it here at Lake Tahoe.”

This year’s main event championship (event No. 18) at Harveys attracted a modest-sized field of 64 players, generating $299,400 in prize money. The top-nine finishers, which meant only the final table participants, collected payouts. All the no-limit hold’em action took place over a two-day period inside the poker room and special events area, which was packed with players and spectators.

Keikoan did not start out as the favorite. When final table play began, the chip leader was poker pro and fellow former WSOP gold bracelet winner David Woo. But the top-two finishers, including Keikoan, came from among the shorter stacks, starting off in sixth and seventh places, respectively. Woo did not fare well, ultimately finishing in seventh place. Also present was two-time WSOP circuit gold ring winner Ari Engel, who came in fourth.

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It took over eight hours to play down to the final two, which ended up being Keikoan vs. Justin Hallstrom, a 33-year-old police officer from Lodi. Keikoan enjoyed about a 5-to-1 chip advantage when the duel began. The action lasted another hour before the final hand was dealt at about 3 a.m. Hallstrom, sensing he had to make a bold move and try to double up, moved all-in with A-5. Keikoan looked down and saw A-K and snap-called. A king on the flop all but ended Hallstrom’s shot at a comeback. Keikoan ended up scooping the final pot of the tournament with a pair of kings.

“I’m really excited to win, but I’m also really tired,” Keikoan said. “There were some good players here. But I always feel comfortable playing at Lake Tahoe because I have come here to the circuit each year it’s been held. It’s kind of a home-field advantage for me, I believe.”

Hallstrom played marvelously throughout the long ordeal, but he was never quite able to catch the key hand that might have enabled him to overtake the determined former WSOP winner. Hallstrom, who previously won a major event at North Lake Tahoe back in 2006, collected a nice payout totaling $56,886.

Finishing in third place was John Goodger, an English-born author and residential developer now living in Montreal. Goodger was a force throughout the tournament, but finally went out holding a top pair, which lost to Keikoan’s two pair. Goodger moved all-in after flopping a pair of kings, but Keikoan managed to hit bottom two pair on the flop, which made for Goodger’s worst nightmare. Goodger, the author of the novel “The Druperman Tapes,” which is an action-adventure story set in Las Vegas, earned a nice tournament royalty amounting to $39,820.

Engel, an online poker pro from Las Vegas, received $28,144 for fourth place. Tommy “The Mad Cyprian” Vedes finished in fifth place and earned $21,557. Finishing sixth was Roger Sippl, a retired part-time poker player from Woodside, Calif., who collected $17,066.

Sacramento’s Steve Kujubu took 10th place.

With all 18 events now completed at this year’s WSOP circuit at Harveys, the tournament series attracted a grand total of 2,664 entries and awarded $1,109,768 in prize money. Last year’s circuit at Stateline attracted 2,163 entrants.