Mahnomen, MN- It’s not
uncommon for superstitious poker players to have wallet-sized photos of their
kids or grandkids next to their chip stacks for good luck. Matt Alexander
of Robbinsdale, Minnesota relied on himself. A framed four-by-six glossy
of the 28-year-old player did the trick Sunday night during the latest taping
of Heartland Poker Tour.
“Right after I had my picture
taken, I started running good,” Alexander said. As the Main Event kicked
off Saturday, an HPT staff photographer snapped souvenir photos of
players in the field. Sensing a good vibe, Alexander purchased the photo
for ten dollars, finishing out the tournament with his framed headshot propped
in front of him. It turned out to be a good investment. Alexander,
who works as a restaurant host, won $48,521 in first place with pocket aces.
“Matt seemed destined for
second place,” said HPT On-Air Tournament Director, Jaymz Larson.
Low on chips when he went heads up against Bryan Reisner of Channahon,
Illinois, Alexander doubled up multiple times just before his aces ended the
match. Reisner, finishing second, took home $24,260. “I have
absolutely no plans for the money,” said the 25-year-old self-described
“professional student.” When asked what he’s studying in college, Reisner
answered with the same uncertainty, “I have no idea what I want to do with my
life.” One thing he is certain of, he said, is “if you play enough
tourneys, eventually you will win one.” Reisner is planning to play the HPT
tournament next weekend at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama, Iowa.
North Dakota farmer Wes
Gronhovd played his first-ever HPT tournament, claiming luck got him to
the final table. His luck ran out when he shoved on a board of
jack-jack-five with pocket tens and ran into quad jacks. A
month from planting his crops, Gronhovd will use his $11,322 fourth-place prize
to play more poker.
Longtime HPT player
Tom Stambaugh hoped Sunday’s tournament at Shooting Star would finally be his
turn to win. Since playing in the first-ever Heartland tournament
in Minnesota five years ago, the sixth-grade teacher made two previous final
tables. His hopes were crushed when he moved all in with ace-jack and ran
into ace-queen, yet Stambaugh left smiling. “One of the most important
rules of poker,” the Nevis, Minnesota man said, “is to leave your ego at the
door.” In fifth place, Stambaugh walked out the door $9,704 richer.
Todd “Tyrone” Larson has also
been a regular at HPT events since the tour’s humble beginning in
Minnesota, making the televised final table for the first time Sunday.
The live bait broker from the Land of 10,000 Lakes was short-stacked when he
moved all in with seven-eight suited. When a ten came on the flop for
Reisner’s king-ten, Larson left in third place. Not satisfied with his
$14,556 prize, he also declared he will try again next week when Heartland
Poker Tour goes to Iowa.
The Heartland Poker Tour
aims to give “everyday people” a chance to play for life-changing money on a
nationally-televised stage. Now filming season six, Executive
Producer Greg Lang credits “real people” for making the show compelling.
“With serious money at stake,” he says, “the players face intense pressure
under the lights and in front of the cameras. The TV audience gets to see
how they hold up.”
jack dealer Steve Madsen made his most agonizing decision before stepping into
Shooting Star Casino. He regrettably passed up the opportunity to take
his two-year-old daughter to the circus for the first time, instead playing for
a chance at life-changing cash. The prize money could replenish the
family’s nest egg at a time when they need it most. After the economy
claimed his wife’s job, the Madsen’s savings dwindled. Paying just $250
to play, the Hillsboro, North Dakota man scored some chips early in the
tournament when his aces held up against kings. “If I win, I’m
going to have to buy my daughter an elephant for the backyard I think.”
Madsen isn’t fencing the yard just yet. He shoved all in with ace-king
against Stambaugh’s pocket queens, leaving him in sixth place. Winning
$8,087, Madsen settled on a more practical gift for his daughter from the HPT