Two South Mississippians Edge Out Poker Pros In Tournament

On Sunday, the number of players in the Beau Rivage Gulf Coast Poker Tournament had whittled down from 258 to six.

And a Gulfport man was one of the last ones standing.

"I was really good at math at a very young age. And I played some poker, and I learned that if I know more about the math than my opponents, that I could do well," said Tom Franklin.

Franklin's math skills have served him well. The Gulfport resident went into the final round of six players as the small chip leader.

"I've got a million, and so do two other guys, and the others are right behind us. It's really punched up. This is one of the best ones I've ever seen. There's no distinct leader like $2.2 million. We're all right there," Franklin said.

Franklin has been a professional poker player for 35 years. He moved to Gulfport 15 years ago, but travels often to play in tournaments.

"I think I've been blessed. I've been lucky to be able to do what I do and have my family with me. We've traveled the world, my family and I, playing poker all over the world," Franklin said.

On Saturday, Franklin knocked Biloxian Bobby Mahoney out of the tournament.

"Tom Franklin, yeah, he had two tens, and I had two sevens. I was getting short on chips, so I pushed it all in, and here I am on the outside, looking in," Mahoney said.

But Mahoney did not go home empty-handed. He placed 15th overall in his first professional poker tournament.

"I had a $500 dollar investment, and I turned it into $24,000, so that's pretty good," Mahoney said.

Organizers say more than 6,000 people showed up just to watch, and this event will shine the national spotlight on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and all it has to offer.

"This is the first of its kind. It's actually the largest and the first televised event ever to be on the coast. Something Biloxi needed to bring new tourism to the area," said Ken Lambert, Jr., Director of Poker Operations at Beau Rivage.

The Beau Rivage plans to hold another poker tournament within the next year. Franklin says if he wins the $750,000 top prize, he plans to buy his mother a new car.