Indiana-Ameristar East Chicago Recap
Man Wins $164k on HPT
gets Title at Ameristar East Chicago
East Chicago, IN (December 15, 2014) – Landscape
contractor Mike Puccio topped a big
field at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago on Monday to earn the coveted Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) Title and $164,249.
The Deerfield, Illinois man admitted that playing his way to the nationally
televised Final Table was a nerve-racking experience.
“I’ve been excited and nervous for the last two
days,” said Puccio. “I haven’t been able to close my eyes.”
The tournament came down to a standoff between Puccio
and business owner Bledar “Blade” Shaholli
that lasted nearly three hours. In the end, the two players got all of the
chips in the middle with Puccio holding two pair to Shaholli’s ace-high.
Shaholli’s hand failed to improve and he was sent to the rail in second place.
The St. Clair Shores, Michigan man will still take home six figures as he
earned $100,405 for the finish.
Poker enthusiasts from across the country flocked
to Ameristar East Chicago for the series, which was the last of the year for
HPT. For a second time in four months, the Main Event prize pool swelled to
over $700k. Several notables were spotted in the field throughout the weekend.
Craig “The Legend” Casino and Greg “Fossilman” Raymer contributed commentary to
the 12-hour livestream as did Kirk Fallah, who owns a local charity poker business.
St. Louis, Missouri’s Joshua Turner was on a mission to win after finishing seventh at an
event outside of St. Louis a few months ago. “Feeling so amazing. Energy is
right where it needs to be,” Turner tweeted before the table began. The pro
poker player started off strong and at one point held the chip lead
three-handed. After a quick turn of events, Turner found himself out of the tournament in third place for $66,556.
Originally from Mumbai, India, Shiva Dudani now resides in Chicago.
Last time HPT visited Ameristar East Chicago, Dudani bubbled the nationally
televised table, getting eliminated in tenth place. This time, he earned a seat
in front of the cameras and played his way to a fourth-place finish. Dudani
earned $46,275 for his efforts. The poker player will use the money to “live
and eat a little better” when he visits Australia next month.
The player at the table with the most HPT
experience on Monday was real estate agent Ben
Castle. This was Castle’s twelfth cash and third TV table with the tour.
His highest finish to date was third place. Unfortunately for the Western
Springs, Illinois man, the Title still eludes him. After coming into the day as
the chip leader, Castle was sent packing in fifth place at the hands of Turner
for a $34,635 score.
Investment banker Arris Kontos came into the day with one of the larger stacks at the
table, but was never really able to get things going. His day came to a close when Puccio’s pocket
jacks defeated his queen-ten in a monster pot where both players got the chips
in before the flop. For the sixth-place finish, Kontos will take $26,780 back
to his hometown of Baldwin, Michigan.
Nick LaFata made his way to the table under the lights after
investing just $375. LaFata, an assistant manager at a home improvement store,
managed to turn that $375 into $21,781 when he finished in seventh place. The
Springfield, Illinois native enjoyed his first HPT experience. LaFata plans to apply his winnings toward the
purchase of a new home.
Yaroob “Ruby” Kaskorkis was making his
second appearance at a televised HPT Final Table in less than a month.
Kaskorkis finished ninth at a recent event in Michigan. The restaurant owner from
Grand Rapids, Michigan improved on that finish by one position this time. He
earned $17,853 for eighth place.
The first elimination of the day came when recent
college grad William Miner put his
remaining chips on the line with jack-eight against Dudani’s pocket queens. The
queens held up and Miner, from Chicago, was out in ninth for $14,282.
“It’ll be a nice Christmas,” the new champ Puccio
said. “I’ll tell you that.”
HPT players will take a break for the holidays
before returning to the felt on a week-long poker cruise next month. From
there, the tour will head west for stops in Northern California and Reno/Tahoe.
Full schedules and more 2015 tour dates are available at HPTpoker.com.