California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort

Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Lincoln, CA
January 13-26, 2014
Total Prize Pool: $778,325
Congratulations to Exequiel Fernando for winning $179,020
and the HPT Championship Package!

View the Photos from this Event

California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort Quick Summary

Please check out the full event write up below.

California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort Top 9

First Place

Exequiel Fernando
Elk Grove, CA

Second Place

Ed Miller
Granite Bay, CA

Third Place

Ngoc Bui
San Jose, CA

Fourth Place

Tony Nguyen
Sacramento, CA

Fifth Place

Neil Blumenfield
San Francisco, CA

Sixth Place

Phuoc Nguyen
San Francisco, CA

Seventh Place

Ben Sarnoff
San Francisco, CA

Eighth Place

J.C. Tran
Sacramento, CA

Ninth Place

Grantland Hillman
Oakland, CA


California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort Top 54 Finishers

1. Exequiel Fernando $179,020
2. Ed Miller $109,424
3. Ngoc Bui $72,541
4. Tony Nguyen $50,436
5. Neil Blumenfield $37,749
6. Phuoc Nguyen $29,188
7. Ben Sarnoff $23,739
8. J.C. Tran $19,458
9. Grantland Hillman $15,567
10. William Chao $12,609
11. Gregg Wilkinson $12,609
12. Mitch Higgins $12,609
13. Colin York $9,418
14. Mike Jacob $9,418
15. Andrey Rakhmanin $9,418
16. Paul McCaffrey $7,239
17. Karthecharan Nagarajan $7,239
18. Arish Nat $7,239
19. Kfir Nahum $5,526
20. Jeremy Moore $5,526
21. Mariano Alaniz $5,526
22. Huan Cung $5,526
23. Alfred Ahlm $5,526
24. Pavel Vusik $5,526
25. George Vellucci $5,526
26. Jason Armfield $5,526
27. Erkut Yilmaz $5,526
28. Daniel Viavant $4,514
29. Michael Riddle $4,514
30. Craig Casino $4,514
31. Calvin Vang $4,514
32. Jason Smith $4,514
33. Mark Danai $4,514
34. Andrew Sapiro $4,514
35. Daniel Ratcliffe $4,514
36. Robert Mather $4,514
37. Marcello Adamo $3,658
38. Ian Remmel $3,658
39. Matthew Gouge $3,658
40. Dean Freedlander $3,658
41. Kelsey Hendricks $3,658
42. John Norberg $3,658
43. Daniel Evans $3,658
44. Eric Edwards $3,658
45. Jeffrey Spruitenburg $3,658
46. Mahmoudreza Heshmat $3,347
47. Nicolas Plaza $3,347
48. Yotam Shmulov $3,347
49. William Chao $3,347
50. Robert Raymus $3,347
51. Matthew Pearce $3,347
52. Carey Pickus $3,347
53. Timothy Rutherford $3,347
54. Philip Alexander $3,347

California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort Recap


California Man Turns $720 into $170k on HPT


Lincoln, CA (January 27, 2014) – Heartland Poker Tour started their milestone tenth season with another Cinderella story as 37-year-old engineer Exequiel Fernando rallied with a short stack to take home $179,020.  The Elk Grove, California man invested just $720 in the nationally-televised event at Thunder Valley Casino Resort.  Runner-up Ed Miller had the lead in the final hand with pocket kings.  A five on the flop for Fernando’s pocket fives ended the tournament.  Miller, a 50-year-old car salesman from Granite Bay, California, collected $109,434.


”I have been watching (HPT) on TV for the last couple years,” said the champ, “It’s great that they have come to the Sacramento area. It gives someone like me a chance.”


HPT carved a niche in the industry with the mission statement, “Real People, Unreal Money.”  HPT’s diverse following means recreational players often play alongside accomplished pros in weekly episodes of the nationally-syndicated show.  “HPT’s tournament structure is a tremendous value for any player,” said Thunder Valley’s Poker Room Director Ben Erwin.  “Over 500 entrants agree.”


November Niner J.C. Tran found himself back in the spotlight at a TV table on Monday.  A Sacramento resident, Tran said, “To me, winning this thinghere at home would mean something special.”  After doubling Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco earlier in the day, he needed a double himself to get back into the game. Tran hoped queen-ten would be the hand to do it as he shoved all in.  He met his match against Phuoc Nguyen’s pocket tens and walked away in eight place for $19,458.  Blumenfield took Tran’s chips all the way to fifth place for $37,749.


When the episodes filmed at Thunder Valley air this spring, Ngoc “Joey” Bui will steal the show.  He was the life of the party for most of the day until his ace-two ran into Fernando’s ace-king.  The 40-year-old from San Jose took home $72,541 for his third-place finish.

The live audience went wild in a dramatic hand perfect for TV.   Phuoc Nguyen moved all-in over the top of a previous raise by Fernando. Nguyen held a pair of threes against Fernando’s ace-jack. The all-diamond flop brought the first bit of excitement with ace-jack-ten. The crowd erupted when the the queen of diamonds was dealt next, giving Phuoc Nguyen the flush.  Fireworks continued on the river when a jack gave Fernando a full house and eliminated Nguyen.  He took home $29,188 for his sixth-place finish.


Ben Sarnoff stretched a short stack as long as he could, finishing in seventh place. Sarnoff got all his chips in holding pocket kings on a ten-seven-high board. Unfortunately for him, Miller held a ten and a seven for two pair. The 55-year-old lawyer from San Francisco collected $23,739


It only took two hands for short-stacked Grant Hillman to get eliminated. He moved all-in with ace-four getting called by Blumenfield who had ace-jack. The bioinformatics manager from Oakland, California collected $15,567 for ninth place.


HPT is scheduled to have another record year with at least two dozen tournaments.  Their newest fan will likely turn up on the tour at least a couple times this year.  “$179,000 is a lot of money,” said HPT’s latest champion, “I will be able to play a lot more tournaments and keep my family happy.”