Indiana-Ameristar East Chicago

Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago
East Chicago, IN
December 4-15, 2014
Total Prize Pool: $714,120
Congratulations to Mike Puccio for winning $164,249
and the HPT Championship Package!
Click HERE for results from preliminary events

Indiana-Ameristar East Chicago Top 9

First Place

Mike Puccio
Deerfield, IL

Second Place

Bledar Shaholli
St. Clair Shores, MI

Third Place

Joshua Turner
St. Louis, MO

Fourth Place

Shiva Dudani
Chicago, IL

Fifth Place

Ben Castle
Western Springs, IL

Sixth Place

Arris Kontos
Baldwin, MI

Seventh Place

Nicholas LaFata
Springfield, IL

Eighth Place

Yaroob Kaskorkis
Grand Rapids, MI

Ninth Place

William Miner
Chicago, IL


Indiana-Ameristar East Chicago Top 54 Finishers

1. Mike Puccio $164,249
2. Bledar Shaholli $100,405
3. Joshua Turner $66,556
4. Shiva Dudani $46,275
5. Ben Castle $34,635
6. Arris Kontos $26,780
7. Nicholas LaFata $21,781
8. Yaroob Kaskorkis $17,853
9. William Miner $14,282
10. Steven Anderson $11,569
11. Phil Mader $11,569
12. Dan Loizzo $11,569
13. Kevin Klafeta $8,641
14. Marc Bernal $8,641
15. Arthur Boatman $8,641
16. Olga Pritzker $6,641
17. Kenneth Baime $6,641
18. Oleg Badmayev $6,641
19. Kevin Andriamahefa $5,070
20. Gary Herstein $5,070
21. Robert Edelstein $5,070
22. Darryl Ronconi $5,070
23. Howard Simon $5,070
24. Robert Geith $5,070
25. Michael Weber $5,070
26. Joseph Dunn $5,070
27. Brian Brenneke $5,070
28. Jason Vassios $4,142
29. Zal Irani $4,142
30. Joseph Sidoryk $4,142
31. Allan Ellison $4,142
32. Michael Wosek $4,142
33. Josh Williams $4,142
34. Tim Barany $4,142
35. Chad Bienz $4,142
36. Brad Sailor $4,142
37. Bryan Moon $3,356
38. Gregory Wilson $3,356
39. Neil Harmon $3,356
40. Steven Fox $3,356
41. Paul Pramod $3,356
42. Sachin Bhargava $3,356
43. Jason Janega $3,356
44. Andy Rubinberg $3,356
45. Richard Selling $3,356
46. Yorell Groves $3,071
47. Mitko Gjakovik $3,071
48. Howard Hankin $3,071
49. Mark Dimberg $3,071
50. Keith Hanzel $3,071
51. Marcin Koscielniak $3,071
52. In Park $3,071
53. Luigi Lucaj $3,071
54. Scott Bohlman $3,071

Indiana-Ameristar East Chicago Recap

Illinois Man Wins $164k on HPT

Puccio 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


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