Majestic Star Casino Recap
The Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana hosted the largest tournament in Heartland Poker Tour history this past weekend with a total prize pool of over $800,000. After several days of qualifiers and a sold out main event field of 422 players, the three day main event concluded Monday when the final six squared off in front of the TV cameras in the Majestic Star poker room. After nearly six hours of play, Dan Zogman, 47, an employee of a local Home Depot store, took down the monster 1st place prize of $227,811. Proudly wearing his ‘donkeys can’t be bluffed” t-shirt (a gift from his wife), Zogman conquered the final table, surviving several all-ins, avoiding outs, and finding a little luck on the way.
“This is incredible,” said Zogman, insisting the HPT title was more important than the money. “Winning a Heartland event has been a goal of mine for some time. I guess it’s time to set a new goal.”
Zogman’s wife, and poker player in her own right, sat in the front row during the TV taping, talking on the cell phone to poker buddies and their kids, giving those who couldn’t be in attendance the play by play.
“We’ve already booked our trip to the next HPT event in Minnesota,” said the newly crowned champion, who made the plans Sunday night after making the final TV table that afternoon.
The final table started about 1pm central time with all six players within a few hundred thousand chips of one another. Zogman was in the middle of the pack to start but quickly picked up some chips and settled in as one of the chip leaders early on. Although many hands stand out as memorable, the crucial hand took place with three players remaining. Zogman managed to dodge 14 outs twice and eliminated accomplished professional Scott Bohlman, who finished third.
“That was a big hand,” said Zogman, who would have been crippled had he lost. “I felt I was in the lead with middle pair and was right, but I didn’t know he’d have so many outs!” he said of Bohlman who flopped bottom pair and a flush draw.
Destiny seemed to play into Zogman’s hand all the way to the finish when, after forfeiting the chip lead to eventual 2nd place finisher James Kasputis, he turned a straight with his 4/5 offsuit, while heads up and doubled up through Kasputis’ top two pair.
Kasputis, who owns a local charitable poker company out of Rockford, managed to finish second and take home $113,906, despite spending a good portion of the day as the table’s short stack.
“I got in trouble early when my jacks ran into kings,” said Kasputis “but I tightened up and picked my spots, and almost won the thing.”
For the Majestic Star Casino, this was by far the biggest poker event in their history and spanned 10 days. A total of 1481 people played in the daily qualifiers to the main event, which after 123 direct buy-ins swelled to its maximum capacity of 422 players.
“We were overwhelmed,” said Dom Niro, poker room manager. “The turn out was phenomenal for this event. We’re going to have to figure out a way to get more people into the main event when the HPT comes back in December.”
Niro, who runs the 21 table poker room, had decided to flight this HPT event which doubled its capacity, but didn’t anticipate selling out.
“We sold out back in March when 210 was the max, so I didn’t really think we’d double the field,” said Niro. “I guess we may have to add another flight in December.”
For the Heartland Poker Tour, the Fall is full of events, having recently added two more events to it’s October schedule. In the coming months, the HPT will be making stops in Grand Casino Mille Lacs (MN), Northern Lights Casino (MN), the Golden Gate Casino in Black Hawk Colorado, and return trips to Deadwood (SD), Meskwaki (Iowa), Casino Del Sol (Tucson AZ) and finishing the year back at the Majestic Star in Gary Indiana.
“It was a really great event” said Todd Anderson – HPT co-founder. “Dom and his staff do an incredible job running such a huge tournament with only 21 tables and limited space. We enjoy coming to this place because the people here really love their poker and it’s always action packed.”
Anderson mentioned that the 2008 calendar for the Heartland Poker Tour is nearly full, with three more trips back to Majestic Star already booked.
“The tournaments are going extremely well and we’re getting the kind of crowds you love to see” said Anderson. “Mostly people with real jobs, and real lives, who love to play poker and have a good time. Look at Dan Zogman. That guy has a regular job and just won $227,000 on a four hundred dollar buy in to a qualifier. That’s pretty cool.”
Starting this fall, more “Heartland” events will be available to the poker playing public with the introduction of the Heartland Poker League (HPL), a new weekly concept that will operate in concert with the HPT. The HPL will be conducted much like a weekly dart league or bowling league, and will be held in a dozen or so casinos. Players can play weekly and track their progress on the HPL website. At the end of the twelve week league cycle, each casino league will award a seat into the HPT’s December main event valued at $2700.
“We’re really excited about the HPL,” said co-founder Greg Lang. “It will give players a chance to play in a real poker room setting and essentially be playing for over 100% payback when you factor in the $2700 HPT seat. By 2008, we’re hoping to grow the HPL into a national league with participating casinos in almost every U.S. state.”