Magnolia State shining at World Series of Poker

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Hello from Las Vegas! The 43rd annual World Series of Poker is well under way, with some of the world’s best competing against first-time hopefuls for the jewelry, fame and massive cash prizes. The events, overall, are down from last year’s record-breaking attendance. It’s still early, though, and with more players arriving every day, numbers are sure to increase.

The Magnolia State is making a strong mark, with familiar faces cashing just about every event.

Honorary Mississippi player Jacob Bazeley had a strong finish in Event 2: $1,500 no-limit hold’em, cashing second for $322,924. Though Bazeley “claims” Cincinnati as his hometown, we’ve grown accustomed to him making an appearance at every Biloxi and Tunica tournament. If you’ve played a tournament at the Beau Rivage or Harrah’s Tunica any time recently, you’ve played against Bazeley.

In that same event, Larry Williamson from Brookhaven, Miss., cashed 174th for almost $3K. Capt. Tom Franklin from Gulfport, Miss., pulled off a $5K cash in Event 5 (pot-limit hold’em) with his 25th-place finish.

In the “Honorary Mississippian” category, I claim Frank Kassela as well. He’s from my hometown of Germantown, Tenn., but claims Tunica as his “local” poker spot. That is, when he’s not in Vegas wracking up final tables. He’s found success in two events this year with a 14th-place finish in Event 4 (stud/8, $8,027) and 15th in Event 16 ($1,500 six-max, $17,323).

As you know, Omaha is a big deal in the South. Our Omaha players are a tight-knit group who often compete against each other as much for bragging rights as anything else. A local Biloxi favorite, Tim Burt, finished 27th in Event 8 ($1,500 Omaha/8) to bring home $7,989.

David Nicholson, also of Biloxi, finished 81st in the same event for almost $4K. These guys routinely go neck-and-neck in these events; a little good-natured rivalry between friends. This year, at the WSOP Circuit event at Council Bluffs, Iowa, they finished second (Burt) and third (Nicholson) in the pot-limit Omaha event.

Speaking of the Omaha group in Mississippi, if you’ve played a hand of PLO in Tunica or Biloxi then you’ve played against Galen Kester. For our local tournament series, he’s a fixture at the PLO cash games. This year, his success transferred to Vegas with a 10th-place finish in Event 11 (PLO) for $15K.

Event 9, a NLHE re-entry tournament, had plenty of southern players vying for a piece of the seven-figure prize pool. Notables Kyle Cartwright (Memphis/Tunica) and Tyler Smith (Biloxi) earned small cashes. Smith also cashed 117th ($5,295) in Event 14 a NLHE shoot-out.

I had every intention of updating Mississippi readers about promotions going on around the state, but we’ve had so much success in Vegas, I don’t have the room! I hope the “run-good” continues and we bring some bling back home.

Don’t forget, coming up at the end of August (Aug. 24- Sept. 3) we have the Gulf Coast Poker Championship at the Beau Rivage, part of the MGM Mississippi Series, leading to the culmination in January at the Beau Million Dollar Heater. More information can be found at BeauPoker.com. Good luck and I’ll see you at the tables!

— Jennifer Gay is Ante Up’s Mississippi Ambassador. She can be contacted at facebook.com/aceofjewels or at jennifergay80@hotmail.com.