East Chicago, IN (August 18, 2014) - After getting through a record field of 538 entrants for Heartland Poker Tour in the Chicago area, tour regulars Stan Jablonski and Aaron Massey squared off in a lengthy heads-up battle at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago. The two finally got all of the chips in the middle with Massey holding two pair and Jablonski drawing to the straight. The turn and river failed to produce for Jablonski, making Massey $177,502 richer as HPT's latest champion.
The Elmwood Park, Illinois poker pro came into the day with the chip lead and never looked back, applying pressure on the competition from start to finish. After the victory Massey said, "I don't have any words to say how I feel right now... I really wanted to win. I just kept firing away and firing away until I finally won the title."
The second-place finish adds to a long list of HPT success for Jablonski. This was his fifth Final Table with the tour. In impressive fashion, the Bullhead City, Arizona native started the day in last place before climbing his way up the ranks and finishing runner-up for $108,504. The business owner was in great spirits after his six-figure score. "I'm feeling great," he said. "I enjoyed every minute of it."
In addition to Massey and Jablonski, several other notable players filled the Main Event seats at Ameristar East Chicago. Among them were NBA veteran Shawn Marion, 2013 HPT Player of the Year Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler, and HPT veteran Craig "The Legend" Casino. Current Player of the Year contenders Edward Ochana and Colin York also fared well, finishing 34th and 21st respectively.
Mike Vanderwoude was able to quietly climb his way to a third-place finish for a payday of $71,924. The self-employed commercial real estate agent hopes to return to East Chicago in the future to make another run at a tournament win. "I really hope HPT has a long-term relationship with Ameristar," said the Crown Point, Indiana man.
"I'd come back in a minute," said loan officer David Berman. In the first elimination of the day, Berman fell to Vanderwoude. The Solon, Ohio native made his way to the Final Table on a $375 investment and was more than happy to walk away with $15,434 for his ninth-place finish.
Fourth-place finisher James Richison was very complimentary of the Ameristar East Chicago stop as well. "This event has been first class all the way. Very organized. Everyone has been extremely friendly." The Fort Wayne, Indiana resident plans on using the $50,007 he earned to help put his children through college.
With over $500,000 in career earnings, business owner Mike Mustafa is no stranger to the game of poker. Like Berman, he found himself among the final nine players after earning his Main Event seat through a $375 qualifier. Though he was unable to record his first major tournament win, Mustafa was still able to amass $37,428 for his fifth-place finish. The Orland Park, Illinois native enjoyed his time at Ameristar. "I'll definitely be back. It's one of the nicer casinos that I've been to."
After putting all of his chips in the middle with queen-six before the flop, James Nelson of Wheeling, Illinois needed some help to beat Mustafa's ace-king. The cards did not improve his hand and Nelson exited in sixth place for $28,940. The attorney and real estate broker plans to use the winnings to treat himself to a trip for his upcoming 50th birthday.
Chicago, Illinois resident Paul Vivacqua was excited to have made it as far as he did in his first HPT event. Unfortunately, a title wasn't in the cards this time around as Vivacqua's pocket nines ran into the pocket aces of James Richison. The telecommunication sales clerk finished in seventh place and earned $23,537 for his efforts.
Adam Zimowski has been a professional poker player for several years, finding most of his success at the cash tables. He came into the day second in chips, but was never able to get traction. The Racine, Wisconsin man was knocked out in eighth place for a score of $19,293. "My kids keep asking me why I'm never on TV, so I entered this tournament for that reason," he said.
Heartland Poker Tour is the most televised poker show in the world, airing brand new episodes nearly every week of the year. From here, the tour will make its way out west for the 2nd annual Gold Rush Series in California. For a full list of upcoming stops, visit HPTpoker.com.