Northern Lights Casino - Walker, MN

Northern Lights Casino
Walker, Minnesota
May 25-31, 2009

Total Prize Pool: $163,008
722 players in Qualifiers; 174 players in the Main Event
Congrats to Steve Malkovich for taking home the "HPT Champion Jacket" and $48,002!

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Northern Lights Casino - Walker, MN Quick Summary

Please check out the full event write up below.

Northern Lights Casino - Walker, MN Top 6

First Place

Steve Malkovich
Duluth, MN

Second Place

Durwin Matuska
Crosby, MN

Third Place

Michael Lewis
West Bend, WI

Fourth Place

Nate Avenson
Park Rapids, MN

Fifth Place

Mark Wadekamper
Lonsdale , MN

Sixth Place

Paul Katchmark
St. Cloud, MN


Northern Lights Casino - Walker, MN Top 30 Finishers

PlacePlayerCashPoints Earned
1. Steve Malkovich $48,002 1,000
2. Durwin Matuska $24,001 750
3. Michael Lewis $14,401 600
4. Nate Avenson $11,201 450
5. Mark Wadekamper $9,600 400
6. Paul Katchmark $8,000 350
7. Kimberly Katori $5,600 300
8. Chuck Guetti $4,800 250
9. Mark Dunbar $4,000 200
10. Jasen McGough $3,200 150
11. Roger Johnson $2,720 100
12. Mike Hepola $2,400 95
13. Mathew Christen $2,080 90
14. Patrick Lorang $1,760 85
15. Kim Giehler $1,600 80
16. Lance Harris $1,360 75
17. Chris Keller $1,360 70
18. Larry Laudon $1,360 65
19. Chris Pierce $1,360 60
20. Brian Johnson $1,360 55
21. Kevin Bollen $1,088 50
22. John Blizil $1,088 45
23. Ray Deegan $1,088 40
24. Tyler Brackey $1,088 35
25. Mohammed Al-Naseer $1,088 30
26. Tom Stambaugh $880 25
27. Don Foster $880 20
28. Paul Schroeder $880 15
29. Bobby Brown $880 10
30. Carl Rothausen IV $880 5

Northern Lights Casino - Walker, MN Recap

Nice Guy Finishes First in Minnesota

Walker, MN – After twelve failed attempts at other stops on the Heartland Poker Tour, Steve Malkovich pushed snooze twice on his alarm clock Sunday morning, reconsidering his plans to enter the latest HPT event at Northern Lights Casino in Walker, Minnesota.  The 35-year-old construction laborer eventually made it out of bed and went on to dominate the final table in the quickest victory in HPT history. 

Holding an untouchable monster chip stack, Malkovich of Duluth, Minnesota, described his game as “polite aggressive.”  The father of two learned it pays to be nice.  It paid $48,002 to be exact.  Malkovich wasn’t done being Mr. Nice when the cameras stopped rolling.  He immediately donated a portion of his prize to HPT’s charity partner, Disabled American Veterans.

There was plenty of “Minnesota Nice” at Northern Lights Casino Sunday night.   HPT President Todd Anderson said the Minnesota stops on the tour are a great opportunity for new players who are otherwise intimidated to play live tournaments.  “From the players to the dealers, there is definitely a kindness about the people we encounter in Minnesota,” Anderson says.  “It makes for a great tournament for all of our players and a rewarding job for our crew.”  

Rob Premo, VP of Table Games, wouldn’t have it any other way.  “Our top priority is to make sure every player enjoys the event, whether they cash or not.”

Second-place finisher Durwin Matuska was a new player just two years ago.  The retired auto worker still describes himself as a “learning player.”  He went all in when he hit two pair on the river, only to be defeated by a Malkovich set of sixes he slow played on the flop and turn.  Playing in a casino for the first time just a year ago, the Crosby, Minnesota man won $24,001 Sunday night.  

Matuska must be a quick learner.  He knocked out long-time card player Michael Lewis when both men had kings and nines.  A ten kicker for Matuska meant ten grand less for Lewis.  The financial consultant from Wisconsin will invest his $14,401 third-place pay out.

Lewis, who calls poker “a fun diversion”, outlasted Nate Avenson, who calls poker a job.  The professional player from Park Rapids, Minnesota earned an $11,201 paycheck when Malkovich came up with a wheel against his ace-ten.

Malkovich’s path of destruction began when he knocked out chip leader Mark Wadekamper, an account manager from Lonsdale, Minnesota with trip sixes.  Holding ace-six, Wadekamper went all in when another six appeared on the flop.  Playing since the age of eight, the 48-year-old won a bit more than the nickels and dimes he played for as a kid; he pocketed $9,600 in fifth place.  

Also gaining experience with ten-cent games as a high schooler, 23-year-old Paul Katchmark, graduated to an $8,000 payout in sixth place.   The banker from Brooklyn Park, Minnesota was all in with jack-queen when a five appeared on the river, giving Matuska a nine-high straight.  Sunday’s tournament was Katchmark’s first attempt at a Heartland Poker Tour event.  Making the final table right out of the gate, Katchmark’s aspirations to become pro look promising.

Champion Malkovich proves persistence pays off in poker.  He has a dozen Heartland Poker Tour attempts under his belt, including the very first HPT event in 2005 at the same casino where he finally went all the way.  Asked to describe how his experience was different at Northern Lights Casino four years later, Malkovich said, “It’s a lot more fun when you win.”