St. Louis, MO - Ameristar St Charles - $2,500 Recap
Wins Second HPT Title and $162k
pro also earns Player of the Year honors
St. Charles, Missouri (December 12, 2017) – Ari Engel is a
name that has been synonymous with winning since he entered the live poker
scene over a decade ago. The decorated poker pro has amassed over $5 million in
earnings on the felt. On Tuesday, he added a second HPT title to that resume
topping a field of 316 at Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles to win the
tour’s Championship Open. Engel earned $162,154 for the victory.
Engel had a roller coaster of a day, starting play at the
final table with the chip lead only to be the short stack with six players
left. He battled his way back and eventually beat out fellow pro Jake Bazeley
for the win.
“I got lucky in a few spots and kind of maneuvered my way
there,” Engel said. “The players were really good. It takes a lot of skill, but
it takes a lot of luck to get there. You can never assume you’re going to win
By winning the year-end tournament, Engel also earned just
enough points to overtake Gary Herstein and become HPT’s Season XIII Player of
the Year. For that accomplishment, Engel will receive complimentary buy-ins to
six HPT Main Events along with hotel accommodations in 2018.
“That’s amazing,” said the new champ. “Such a great added
bonus to be player of the year. I’m really happy.”
Engel won several key pots from Bazeley early in the heads
up match without going to showdown. From there, he was able to chip away slowly
until he had a commanding lead. On the final hand, the two got the remaining
chips in the middle with Bazeley’s king-queen ahead of Engel’s eight-four. A
four came on the turn and Bazeley was unable to hit a king or queen on the
river. The Cincinnatti man collected $102,647 for the runner-up finish.
The $2,500 Championship Open drew notable players from all
over the country. At one point, there were seventeen past champions in the
field. The 316 entries created a total prize pool of $704,996. During the
course of the 10-day series at Ameristar St. Charles, there were more than
3,400 total tournament entries.
Chicago’s Niel Mittelman was making his first appearance
under the bright lights of an HPT final table. The veteran poker pro made the
most of the opportunity, climbing his way to a third-place finish. Mittelman
earned $68,737 for his efforts.
St. Charles’ Neil Patel was the last local in the hunt for
the title. Late in the day, Patel lost a huge pot when his ace-ten fell short
to Engel’s queen-king after the two went all-in before the flop. He was
eliminated by the eventual champ shortly thereafter. Patel finished in fourth
place, good enough for $47,940.
Gil George has been playing HPT events for years. Tuesday
marked the retiree’s fourth appearance at a final table with the tour.
Unfortunately, George is still looking for his first win as he was knocked out
in fifth place. He’ll take home $35,955.
Local attorney Bill Byrnes won two satellites into the
event earlier in the week. After selling one, he technically had $0 invested in
the tournament. Byrnes played his way to a sixth-place finish and earned
$28,200 for his weekend’s worth of work.
Josh Turner has a track record of running bad at HPT final
tables. The St. Louis poker pro has made several deep runs in recent years but
has yet to capture his first win with the tour. The title remained elusive
Tuesday as Patel’s pocket eights held against Turner’s ace-queen. Turner was
sent to the rail in seventh place with $23,829.
Harold Evans had the shortest chip stack of the final nine
players when the day began. He made his move early with pocket jacks only to be
outdrawn by Bazeley’s ace-queen. Evans, a used car dealer from Newburgh,
Indiana, finished in eighth place. That was good for a $19,740 payday.
The first elimination of the day was past HPT champion
Paul Belken. He became the eventual champ’s first victim when he put his
tournament life at risk with ace-four only to be called by Engel’s pocket
kings. Belken was sent to the rail in ninth place with $16,990.
This event closes out another successful year for HPT. The
tour awarded well over $14 million in prize pool money coast to coast
throughout the year. The first event on the 2018 schedule is in Chicagoland in
early January. Dates and schedule details for that stop can be found at HPTpoker.com.