Ameristar St. Charles Casino - St. Louis, MO Recap
St Louis Man Turns $185 into $130K
St Charles, Missouri – Diligence is the mother of good luck, said Benjamin Franklin, and a St Louis man now has plenty of Benjamins to prove it. For just $185, Shawn Brown entered the largest poker tournament Missouri has ever seen. Playing his way up the ranks, the 27-year-old scored “the luckiest streak of cards I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. With admitted luck and patience, Brown became the latest champion on the nationally-televised Heartland Poker Tour.
“If I win”, Brown said before filming began on the set of the Heartland Poker Tour, “I’m going to start a poker bankroll.” The new champ, who learned poker by playing free games, patiently waited months for his shot at the $130,708 first-place prize. When Ameristar St Charles announced plans to host the televised event, Brown was all in.
“Our show was created for players like him,” Executive Producer Greg Lang said of Brown, who works in the family sign business. The HPT attracts poker enthusiasts to compete on a national stage for “life-changing money” with the motto, “Real People, Unreal Money.”
For Brown, the money seemed more surreal the more he thought about what he might do with the windfall. “I’ll definitely throw a bigger birthday party for my son next month,” he said after an ace on the river made ace-jack his winning hand. “And I can pay off the mortgage on my home,” he realized.
Holding pocket kings, heads-up opponent Eric Errante of St Louis left with $65,354 and a couple of good stories to tell. Shortly after play at the final table began, an ace on the river for Errante eliminated the first player to go, Josh Skaggs of Dardenne Prairie, Missouri. The short stack from the start, Skaggs never expected to win more than the $21,785 sixth-place prize, until he went all in with pocket kings.
Earlier in the day, Errante also knocked out well-known poker pro Dennis Phillips in 17th place. Just a year ago, Phillips became an overnight celebrity when he finished third at the World Series of Poker, qualifying through a $200 satellite tournament in St. Louis. His total winnings exceed 4.7 million dollars today, in contrast to Errante’s record at the felt. Before Sunday, the 28-year-old had never cashed in a live tournament.
“That’s what we love about poker,” said HPT President Todd Anderson, “Anyone can play alongside the superstars of the game and have a shot at winning.” Known for being dedicated fans of baseball, hockey, and football, the people of St. Louis proved Sunday they are also fans of poker. The televised taping of the Heartland Poker Tour drew a standing-room only crowd on the Missouri riverboat. Four of the final six players are from St Louis, each bringing an enthusiastic cheering section.
Friends of 27-year-old Renee Boelloeni watched from the rail as she played her first big tournament since learning the game five years ago. When Brown shoved with a flush against her straight, Boelloeni finished in a respectable third place for $39,212. Planning to pay off credit card debt, she said, “This will definitely change my life right now.”
Fourth-place finisher Matt Duffy agrees. “This will mean the world to me,” he said of his $30, 499 prize, the largest by far in his career. The Ridgway, Illinois man left the life insurance business three years ago to play poker full-time. Making it to the televised final table for the HPT means fulfilling a career goal. “I want to play on TV,” he said, “and I want to play on TV a lot!”
Duffy will have another chance when the HPT returns to Ameristar St. Charles to film in 2010. “Response was great and the tournament was flawless,” said Anderson, “Ameristar impressed us and our players.”
Likely to return next time is 24-year-old Patrick Fogleman, but he won’t come alone. A stuffed monkey peered out from his zipped-down sweatshirt throughout the entire two-day Main Event. The trusted good-luck charm is not just monkey business to the pro who relies on it every time he plays. Insisting he always wins holding the stuffed toy, the superstitious Springfield, Illinois man won $26, 142 in fifth-place Sunday. Fogleman wasn’t all business, however, after his ace-six lost out to ace-jack. HPT roving reporter Katie O’Keefe got a smile out of him when she teased, “Was it a zoo at the table?”