Majestic Star Casinos - Gary, IN Recap

Big Payday for Former House Painter

Gary, IN – Determined to secure a better future, 51-year-old Bob Whalen quit working as a house painter five years ago and concentrated on making a living playing poker.  The Cudahy, Wisconsin man began spending 50 to 60 hours per week playing in local casinos and never looked back.

“I haven’t had much money all of my life,” Whalen revealed, “I figured I could make more money playing poker.”

Finding plenty of noteworthy success along the way, his career move proved especially lucrative Monday afternoon at Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana.  Playing for a first-place prize of $129,967 on The Heartland Poker Tour, Whalen’s eight kicker was enough to make him the latest champion on the nationally-syndicated TV show, his biggest win to date.

When heads up against recent college grad Zachary Sheline, both men found themselves with a pair of queens after the flop.  Sheline’s inferior six kicker put him in second place, earning $64,984.  With a replenished bankroll and a small statue for good luck, the Wisconsin 23-year-old is Vegas bound for his own shot as a professional player.

Monday’s televised final table marks the tenth time The Heartland Poker Tour has stopped at Majestic Star Casino.   The riverboat casino in Gary, Indiana is making a name for itself with those hungry for a big win on TV.  “Because we’ve hosted the HPT multiple times, we run a smooth operation,” says Majestic Star Poker Room Manager Dominic Niro.  Heartland Poker Tour President Todd Anderson agrees.  “Our tournaments here run like a well-oiled machine,” he says, “The players know that and appreciate it.”  The HPT first visited Majestic Star Casino in 2006 and drew record attendance.  A stop at Majestic Star Casino in 2007 holds the record for the largest payout in the production company’s history.  Over $835,000 was awarded at that event.

Aspirations to win big on TV motivated Nick Andricopulis to enter.  Although his pocket fives didn’t stand up against Whalen’s pocket tens, the restaurant owner from Palos Park, Illinois was pleased with his $38,990 third-place finish.  “I’m living the dream,” he said before heading back home to run Nick’s Barbecue Ribs.

Another entrepreneur in the restaurant and bar industry, Mike Farah, is determined to win a big tournament at some point in his life.  “It’s my turn,” the Grand Rapids, Michigan man said as he took his seat at the final table.  A third queen on the flop for Whalen proved otherwise when Farah went all in with king-queen.  His $30,326 paycheck for fourth place will help renovate a new bar he is opening soon.

The unexpected guest at the table Monday was 63-year-old granny and homemaker Bonnie Ravetto.   Grateful for the financial support of her husband throughout their marriage, Ravetto is hoping to return the favor with her poker winnings.  Laid off just two months ago, Frank Ravetto watched from the rail as his sweet-as-pie wife cleaned house against more experienced players.  After boldly doubling up a couple of times with all-in calls, a pair of aces against her king-two put her in fifth place with a $25,993 addition to her retirement fund.

Nearly a third her age, college student Bryan Schultz of Carpentersville, Illinois finished sixth with ace-six against ace-king.  His $21,661 prize is one of many big poker payouts already on his resume.  When the 22-year-old graduates from Illinois State University later this year, he will no doubt put his accounting degree to good use.