Missouri - River City Casino & Lumiere Place Recap
Will Thrills the Heartland
Reigning WPT POY Wins HPT’s 100th Event
St. Louis, MO (March 12, 2012) –Will “The Thrill” Failla gave spectators in St Louis a thrill over the weekend as he dominated Heartland Poker Tour’s 100th event at River City Casino, picking up $119,064. Holding a massive chip lead for most of the event, the reigning World Poker Tour Player of the Year was off to a good start right away. In the fourth hand of the tournament, he knocked out a player and warned all others to stay away from “The Thrill.”
“It’s good to be a good player, but it’s better to run good,” said the New Yorker. Luck was certainly on his side in a big hand that brought spectators to their feet with eight players remaining. All in pre-flop with ace-king against tens, the flop came ace-ten-seven. After a jack on the turn, Failla pleaded with the dealer to deliver a queen. When he got his wish, the crowd erupted in a thunderous roar.
Failla credits pro Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler for his latest win. “Allen Kessler dragged me here,” he said, “Everyone needs an Allen Kessler in their life.”
The score puts the WPT POY at the front of the pack in HPT’s Player of the Year race. Based on a point system, the POY earns Main Event buy ins and hotel stays the following year. Other notable players racking up POY points over the weekend include HPT past champs Shaun Roberts and Craig Casino. Roberts’ runner-up, Joey McCaig, also finished in the money in St. Louis.
Failla earned the coveted 100th HPT championship, a title 328 players were after. “Being the first champ or being the 100thchamp is fantastic,” said Robin Parks of Hillsboro, Missouri. In his pursuit, Parks planned to “stay focused, avoid mistakes, and get my money in good.” All went according to plan until Failla was again dealt ace-king while Parks held the tens at the Final Table. An ace on the flop secured Parks fate. With just $360 invested, he walked away with $28,575 in fifth place. “I’m not frowning on that at all,” Parks said.
As Heartland Poker Tour reached a major milestone in poker, some of the industry’s biggest names turned out to play the 100th event in St Louis, including Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, local hero Dennis Phillips, and HPT Tour Ambassador Darvin Moon. HPT producers were surprised to see Grammy-winning artist Nelly in the field for Flight 1A. A St Louis native, Nelly was the unofficial chip leader midway through the flight but busted before the Day 2 cut-off.
“Poker Brat” Phil Hellmuth played two Main Event flights but failed to advance to Day Two. Best known for holding a record eleven World Series of Poker bracelets, Hellmuth has held a prominent place in poker since his 1989 WSOP Main Event win at the age of 24. Although he won’t be seen at HPT’s Final Table, viewers will see him on the show. Hellmuth joins the 2012 Heartland Poker Tour broadcasts as host of the pro tips segment.
One of the most impactful players in the industry also marked the milestone. Chris Moneymaker is commonly regarded for revolutionizing the poker world with his 2003 WSOP win, creating a boom to the industry known as the “Moneymaker Effect.” Founded in the wake of the Moneymaker Effect, HPT has built a strong following from coast to coast. Since 2005, 100 champions have now experienced the thrill of an HPT victory on national television. The tour has awarded over 33 million dollars and produced 191 hour-long episodes.
“It’s phenomenal,” Moneymaker said of HPT. “They give you play. They give you chips. You get to experience what it’s like to be in a ten thousand-dollar event without putting up the big buy-in to do it. I can’t believe it took me 100 events to get out to my first one.”
Outlasting the accomplished pros in the field gave Henry Osterkamp confidence going into the Final Table. “I played with three world champions and beat them all,” the Chicago computer consultant said, “Why would I fear anyone now?” Osterkamp got through everyone in the field of 328 players except the other five at the televised Final Table. He collected $23,337 in sixth place. Runner-up Brian Nguyen of O’Fallon, Missouri shared Osterkamp’s confidence. “I fear no one,” he said. Nguyen’s confidence got him to second place for $67,390.
The episodes filmed at River City Casino will be produced into two one-hour episodes airing nationwide in June. Bill Matula of Ballwin, Missouri and his wife record every episode. When HPT announced plans for a televised event in his own backyard, Mrs. Matula suggested her husband get himself a catchy “poker name” and buy in. Investing just $190 for his shot at “life-changing money” on national TV, “Ballwin Bill” succeeded to third place for $42,863.
Chiropractor Gary Lambert set his sights on fourth place at the start of the tourney. When he advanced to the televised Final Table, his staff hung a note on the door of his Quincy, Illinois practice that read, “Sorry for the inconvenience. We are closed today so Dr. Lambert can play poker.” When he did finish fourth for $36,910 he said, “We celebrate life every day, but we’ll celebrate a little more today.”
The HPT team has little time to celebrate their 100th event as next month brings events #101, #102, and #103 in Nevada, Colorado, and Minnesota. For schedule and broadcast information, visit HPTpoker.com.