In what has to be one of the surprise stories of this poker year, a 22 year-old part-time poker player from Oak Forest, Illinois, Dan Livingston, has become the latest champion on the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, just outside Chicago.

Livingston, who recently quit his job working in an auto detailing shop, was among the 249 players who started the three-day $5,000 buy-in WSOP Circuit tournament on Friday. The final 27 players walked away with a portion of the $1.2 million prize pool.

Perhaps most notable of the players who cashed at the WSOP Circuit Event was burgeoning poker professional Dwyte Pilgrim. Since 2008, Pilgrim has made the WSOP Circuit his own personal playground, as he has captured over $355,000 in winnings. Not only has he won two championship rings, including the 2009 Harrah’s Rincon Main Event back in March, but his 19th place finish in Chicago was also his fifth in the last six WSOP Circuit Main Events. The Brooklyn, New York native has 16 cashes on the WSOP Circuit.

Another player of note was Chicago’s Frank “Round42” Rusnak. The newcomer to the tournament poker world was able to finish just off the final table in 12th place. Added to his five cashes during the WSOP this summer (including an 82nd place finish in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event), Rusnak has over $100,000 in live tournament winnings over the last three months.

When the final table in the tournament began on Sunday afternoon, several players were huddled around the one million chip mark. The leader at the start of play, Tom Floros, couldn’t relax due to the close competition from the remainder of the players at the table. Over the next 13 hours of play, Floros was able to stay in contention, but Livingston moved past him for the chip lead when play was down to four-handed action.

After Livingston eliminated Tad Mosele in fourth and Chris Gentile in third, he held a tremendous 10-1 chip advantage over Floros. Floros, to his credit, was able to tread water for 30 minutes before his chips went into the center. On a K-10-3 board with two diamonds, Floros committed the last of his chips with Q-10. Livingston held a flush draw with J-3 of diamonds and took the shot at eliminating his opponent. While the turn didn’t bring the diamond, the river did and Livingston was crowned the champion of the tournament.

Here’s how the final table played out on Sunday:

1. Dan Livingston – $291,749
2. Tom Floros – $180,287
3. Christopher Gentile – $119,556
4. Tad Mosele – $84,594
5. William Schweinebraten – $63,744
6. William Miner – $50,871
7. Joshua Goldstein – $42,881
8. Jacob Bazeley – $38,082
9. Mike Parisi – $35,533

Remarkably, both Livingston and Floros were in the tournament on freerolls. As part of a special promotion, the Horseshoe Casino Hammond gave away as many as four Main Event seats daily to players who were playing cash games on site. Each day for two weeks prior to the start of this year’s Chicago series, one poker table was randomly selected. Then, the players at the table received cards and one player nabbed an entry into the $5,000 buy-in Main Event. Both Livingston and Floros were recipients of a seat via this method, making their respective paydays a tremendous bonus.

As the final table of the WSOP Circuit Event in Hammond was playing out, the next tournament schedule had already begun. The Circuit has now swung to the south of Indiana with a stop at the Horseshoe in Elizabeth. On Halloween, the next three-day $5,000 buy-in Championship Event will take place and crowns a champion next week.

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