Golden Gates Casino - Black Hawk, CO Recap

Colorado Resident Wins HPT Championship and Mom’s Approval

Black Hawk, CO –Early in his college career at Colorado State, William Givens quickly grew tired of losing all of his money to his buddies at home poker games.  More of a craps player, Givens made a point to learn poker so he could compete with his friends.  After graduating from college and the school of hard knocks, Givens won the latest Heartland Poker Tour Championship, securing a hefty $144,765 prize.

His college poker buddies were on hand to watch from the rail Sunday night at Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour.  Eager to celebrate, they tried to entice the 24-year-old to fly with them to Las Vegas for a spontaneous adventure immediately after the taping concluded of the nationally-syndicated Heartland Poker Tour.  Determined to be smart with his windfall, Givens instead went home to share the news with his mom.

“She wasn’t happy when I started playing poker,” Givens said, recalling the time his mother cut him off financially to persuade him to give up the game. “Now she’s on board,” he said with a smile.  LaVonna Givens insisted her son set aside a major portion of Sunday’s prize in an investment fund for his future.  The new champ agrees that mom knows best.  “I want to have something to show for this down the road,” he says.

Preparing for his career both in and outside the classroom, Givens graduated in 2008, playing poker professionally ever since.  His degree in sociology might give him an advantage sizing up his opponents at the felt.  A minor in economics certainly helps him keep track of his bankroll.  The most valuable lesson, however, was figuring out how to beat his friends at poker.

“Even after losing some of the battles, you have to stay focused on winning the war,” Givens said in a phone interview Monday.
Givens lost many battles in the tournament set in scenic Black Hawk, Colorado.  At one point, he was the chip leader, but found himself as the short stack late in the tournament.  He nearly missed his opportunity to play on the televised set, before recovering and becoming one of the final six. 

The Centennial, Colorado man figured he was already a winner before the tournament began.  Having done well at a cash game, Givens used his winnings to purchase a $360 qualifier seat for the HPT, going on to win a $1650 main event seat.  Before the start of the main event, he did it again.  Winning $400 in a cash game, Givens bought another qualifier seat, again winning another main event seat, which he sold for profit.

Givens lucky streak did not ensure an easy “war” for the new champ.  Pro player Dennis Waterman of Sedona, Arizona did not go down without a fight.  An accomplished player, Waterman has over two hundred tournament victories under his belt and five World Series of Poker final tables.  When Givens limped the small blind with a call, Waterman went all in with a king-jack and the trap was set.  With ace-king and an ace on the turn, Givens claimed victory and Waterman claimed $72,383 in second place.

Third-place finisher Stewart Gillespie took home $43,430 and perhaps some on-the-job-training.  The Aurora, Colorado man hopes to create his own poker show someday.  When Todd Anderson and Greg Lang founded the Heartland Poker Tour in 2005, they too relied on poker winnings to keep the company going.  Now in their fifth season, the business partners from Minnesota shared some advice with Gillespie and wished him well.  “The poker community would benefit from more televised play,” said Executive Producer Lang. “As the popularity of televised poker continues to grow, the fields get stronger.” 

Perhaps hoping to make an impression on the Minnesota-based production crew, Daniel Gray of Littleton, Colorado wore a Minnesota Vikings jersey at the final table.  Not well-served by his lucky jersey, Gray was the first player knocked out, earning $24,128 in sixth place.

The most heartbroken at the table, however, was probably Paul Schiff of Westminster, Colorado.  He had a dominant lead throughout the tournament before ultimately finishing fourth for $33,779.  “He was a strong player who ran into some bad beats,” said HPT President Todd Anderson, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a championship some day.”  

Anderson also noted strong play by Daniel Woodward.  The bar owner from Denver earned $28,953 in fifth place.  “We’d like to see him back in Black Hawk next time around,” Anderson said.  The Heartland Poker Tour is scheduled to return to Golden Gates Casino and Poker Parlour in Season VI, slated for April 2010.  The tour will conclude its fifth season with five more stops over the next seven weeks.  Log on to for upcoming dates.