Casino Hits Jackpot for $293K in HPT Record Event
Black Hawk, CO – (October 3, 2011) The aptly-named Craig Casino emerged as the winner out of a record-breaking field of players pursuingHeartland Poker Tour’s largest payout to date, securing the coveted victory with pocket jacks. The ex-cop turned entrepreneur takes $293,270 home to Winfield, Illinois after busting out of the tournament twice.
For the first time in its seven-year history, HPT allowed players to re-enter the Main Event if knocked out in one of four flights at Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour. The re-entry option helped to build a prize pool exceeding one million dollars, an HPT record.
Champ Craig Casino persisted after two knockouts and found himself severely crippled late in day two. After losing a half million chips in one devastating hand, he mistakenly began to collect his belongings before another player, ESPN.com’s Bernard Lee, alerted Casino he still had two chips left. Within minutes, Casino turned the measly 20,000 in chips into a massive lead and went to the Final Table with nearly 8 million chips.
Casino maintained his chip lead at the TV table, but had a worthy opponent in runner-up Mary Flurkey of Golden, Colorado. When her ace-eight ran into Casino’s jacks, she missed the opportunity to become HPT’s third female champion. Considering her biggest win to date was $2500, she was quite satisfied to claim $146,633 in second place.
Greg Lang, one of HPT’s founders, noted the second-place money was greater than the entire prize pool at the tour’s first event in 2005. “Our first prize pool was $100,000,” he said, “Tonight, we awarded over $1,000,000. We owe thanks for the support of many dedicated folks along the way.”
Since humble beginnings in Minnesota, HPT built a loyal following with the mission “Real People, Unreal Money.” Total payouts to date now exceed $30.5 million. No stranger to Golden Gates, nine previous HPT stops at the property were hugely popular with steady growth year over year. The recent turnout represented a massive thirty-five percent increase over HPT’s previous Black Hawk event in April of this year.
“A one million dollar prize pool is a milestone for both Colorado and the Heartland Poker Tour.” said Golden Gates VP & General Manager Shannon Keel. “Golden Gates Casino and Black Hawk are now on the map of notable places to play poker in the country. We look forward to the next HPT event in the Spring of 2012.”
HPT has little time to celebrate their million-dollar milestone in the mountains. The crew heads straight to Florida for a nationally-televised Main Event at Daytona Beach Kennel Club and Poker Room this weekend. Qualifying events were already underway in Florida as players migrated to Colorado.
Along with players from throughout the US, poker media personalities also descended on Black Hawk to offer non-stop coverage of the action as the prize pool escalated. The team from QuadJacks.com and Kevin “Kevmath” Mathers kept a close eye on all 668 contenders. One of poker’s most-recognizable broadcasters, Lon McEachern of ESPN’s World Series of Poker coverage, made the trip to Colorado but enjoyed the tournament from the felt. On his first HPT attempt, McEachern failed to cash but vowed to hit another event soon. Inside Deal host Bernard Lee, with two HPT final tables on his resume this year, made a third attempt and finished in the money.
Hearing of the mounting prize pool via Twitter, WPT Player of the Year Andy Frankenberger grabbed a last-minute flight from New York just in time to play the fourth and final flight of the Main Event. Although Frankenberger advanced to day two, he failed to cash. Pro Joe Sebok and CBS Survivor contestant Jim Rice each earned a min-cash. HPT viewers saw Rice finish third earlier this year when the poker tour visited Golden Gates in April.
Many of HPT’s most-recognizable faces made the trek across the Heartland, including Minnesotan Jeremy Dresch and Michigan grinders Dash Dudley and Jordan Jayne, who have six HPT final tables and five championships between them. All made deep runs but didn’t find themselves back on HPT’s TV set Sunday. It was déjŕ vu for Colorado’s Jimmy Frisk, who finished fourth for the second time at Golden Gates. Picking up $67,345 this time, he said, “There is no comparison to HPT. It is the biggest poker tournament in the state of Colorado.”
HPT picked up a new fan in Dan Hirleman of Tempe, Arizona. “This is my first HPT and I love it.” The first time was a charm for the third-place finisher, who now has 87,217 reasons to love the HPT.
Local Darren Hicks has profited at HPT events during previous stops, but earned his first spot at the TV table Sunday. When the latest episodes air nationwide in December, he’ll finally get a glimpse of himself, although not for long. The short stack was the first to go, earning $47,172.
Heartland Poker Tour is available on TV in over 100 million US households, in addition to widespread distribution throughout Europe, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. In the Denver area, HPT airs as often as twenty times per week on Altitude Sports, MAVTV, and other networks.
For many players, the chance to elevate their status on national TV is a major advantage to HPT events. The lights and cameras held no appeal for Colorado’s Phil Martin. “I’m not here for the publicity,” the fifth-place finisher said before claiming $57,108, “I’m here for the cash.”