Black Hawk, Colorado (March 12, 2013) The poker room was abuzz last week at Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour during preliminary events for the latest Heartland Poker Tour stop. The chatter was less about the life-changing money at stake and more about the impending winter storm. Over a foot of snow and high winds hit during the Main Event, threatening HPT's most popular stop. Denver International Airport was shut down and the highways leading to Black Hawk, Colorado were closed. Known for their loyalty, HPT players found a way. For the fourth time in two years, HPT's following of mostly recreational players built a prize pool worth over one million dollars in Colorado.
Teresa Hemingway, a sales executive from Aurora, Colorado, took one of 671 seats sold in the Main Event. She invested just $360 to get there, winning her way in through a qualifier. Although she's played a couple of HPT events without success in the past, her third attempt proved to be a charm. Hemingway endured and ultimately prevailed over runner-up Jeffrey Yarchever to become HPT's third female champion. Her $360 investment turned into $226,463.
"It's just like you guys say," Hemingway told HPT's live host Jaymz Larson, "It's unreal money and it can happen to anyone." Yarchever of Laguna Beach, California, cleared the path for Hemingway. His aces eliminated Wyoming retiree Gary Germann in eighth place before taking out Christopher Valdez of Highlands Ranch, Colorado in seventh. Germann picked up $25,163 for his third HPT cash while Valdez took home $30,195 for his second cash on HPT. Yarchever next plowed down aspiring pro Danny Gonzales of Denver in sixth place for $35,932, his second HPT cash.
"He's a great competitor," said Hemingway of her heads up competition, "I could never get a read on him." In his first HPT event, Yarchever earned $139,904.
Robert Moore of Littleton, Colorado played three prior HPT events but came up empty-handed. He is way ahead now, having invested just $360 in his third-place finish worth $91,692. His prize will go to church, family, and home remodeling. The other Robert at the table will share too. Bob Sweeney of Denver will use part of his $63,711 prize to buy a car for his father.
The event in Black Hawk marks HPT's thirteenth visit to Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour and total payouts of nearly ten million dollars. Several past champions from Golden Gates were in the field over the weekend including Craig Casino, Matt Mason, Mike Harris, and Steen Ronlov, who all became regulars on the tour.
Since HPT's last visit to Black Hawk, HPT underwent several upgrades including a newly-designed tournament structure by pro Daniel Negreanu and a new televised Final Table seating nine players. Previously a six-handed table, the new custom-built table allows three more players the chance to play on national TV. One of the new seats went to short stack Ryan Odonnell of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He played his first HPT event, investing just $360 to earn his Main Event entry. Surviving to fifth place for $46,299, Odonnell will pay off student loans with his prize.
HPT's new nine-handed Final Table meant a marathon shoot for the players, HPT production crew, fans on the rail, and live viewers at HPTpoker.com. Well-known pro Gavin Smith hosted the live broadcast but turned over the microphone to Larson in time to make his flight home. In all, the Final Table lasted eight hours and 147 hands. The footage will be produced into two hour-long episodes to air nationwide in May.
It wasn't a long night for everyone. The sixth hand of the Final Table resulted in the elimination of Travis Northrope of Broomfield, Colorado in ninth place. The restaurant server played his first-ever HPT event at Golden Gates over the weekend. Earning $20,130 and a spot on national TV, he'll likely be back for more. With his prize money, he plans to pay off his car and take his girlfriend on vacation. The timing is right for the couple to take a road trip; HPT has upcoming events in Iowa, Indiana, and Missouri over the next few weeks.
"We're just getting started," said HPT Executive Producer Fred Bevill, "It will be a long and lucrative road on HPT this year." For a schedule of events, visit HPTpoker.com.