Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort - Mount Pleasant, MI Recap

Cash for Dash Ends Run of Bad Luck

Mt. Pleasant, MI – Three years ago, poker pro Dash Dudley lost his entire bankroll, and not at a poker table.  Five masked robbers broke into his family home, pistol-whipped him, tied up his parents and younger sisters, and robbed the Dudley’s in an armed attack.  Just as the family began to recover, their Lansing, Michigan home was devastated by fire.  The 24-year-old Dash, named after a character on the rags-to-riches sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies”, vowed to help his family if he found riches of his own on a different TV show, “The Heartland Poker Tour.”

The close-knit Dudley family was on hand Sunday night as the HPT filmed two episodes at Soaring Eagle Casino Resort in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.  Biting fingernails and snapping pictures from the rail, Dash’s sisters traveled from Florida, where they now attend college, to cheer on their big brother in the televised tournament.  Beating out hundreds of players in the field and surviving a rollercoaster heads-up match, Dash hugged his mother when his winning hand, eight-two, secured his victory and $116,215 prize. 

“It’s been our mission over the last five seasons of The Heartland Poker Tour to award ‘life-changing’ money,” said Executive Producer Greg Lang, “We all enjoyed being a part of this family’s good fortune.” 

The Dudley cheering section brought endless enthusiasm to an already high-energy match.  Twenty-year-old Elliot Hebden nearly stole the show, and all the chips, when he proved to have more lives than a cat.  Doubling up multiple times, Hebden’s improbable persistence shocked producers and Hebden himself.  “Making the comebacks was all luck,” he said, “I should buy a lottery ticket tonight.”

HPT President Todd Anderson disagrees, saying it was more than luck for Hebden, a poker dealer from Perry, Michigan.  “He’s a great player,” Anderson said, “I wouldn’t want to play against him.”  Finally caught with nine-seven all in, Hebden’s nine lives ran out when the turn produced a second eight for Dudley.  Normally in the dealer’s chair working for tips, Hebden earned $58,108 in second place.   

Hebden knocked out “lifetime” poker player Bruce Swart, 49, who took a chance with six-seven.  Both men paired up their high card on the turn, but Hebden’s higher eight-pair edged Swart into third place.  The Chief Financial Officer from Grass Lake, Michigan, took home $34,865.  “I’m not worried about a deficit at this point,” said the CPA.

Hebden also took out fourth-place finisher Al Rogers, 36, who went all in with top pair after the flop holding jack-eight.  The Westlake, Ohio father of two walked into Hebden’s two pair.  His $27,117 prize will help with baby number three, due in a couple of weeks.

The only familiar face at the final table was Carl Horvath of South Bend, Indiana.  The pro player took third at a televised HPT event a couple of years ago.  When poker began paying the bills better than his day job, Horvath quit working as a programmer and began traveling to live tournaments full time.  After at least a dozen attempts at HPT events since, Horvath, 47, was satisfied with his fifth-place $23,243 paycheck Sunday.

Determined to follow through on a career in accounting, college student Ryan Olisar plans to finish his degree despite his poker accomplishments.  “I don’t want to let my parents down,” the twenty-year-old from Naperville, Illinois said.  His dad, skeptical about success in professional poker, cheered on his son over the weekend at Soaring Eagle Casino Resort.  Playing his first-ever live tournament, the young Olisar collected $19,369 in sixth-place with his dad by his side.