Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel - Tama, IA Recap
First Two-Time HPT Champ Wins Back-to-Back Tourneys
Tama, Iowa –Just a week after becoming a Heartland Poker Tour champion in Minnesota, Jeremy Dresch accomplished something no one has ever done before, although many have tried. The 35-year-old gas station owner became the first-ever two-time champion, winning another $71,705 at Meskwaki Casino Bingo Hotel in Tama, Iowa.
“We knew it was just a matter of time before a previous champ caught that elusive dangling carrot,” said HPT President Todd Anderson, “Jeremy caught us by surprise because he only chased it for a week.”
Now in its fifth season, The Heartland Poker Tour crisscrosses the country filming everyday people playing for life-changing money. With unflinching momentum, the HPT surpassed the $20 million dollar mark in total prize money awarded to date on Sunday. Dedicated poker enthusiasts follow the HPT from state to state, hoping for their share of the pot. As 2009 comes to a close, the race is also on for Player of the Year. The lucrative title is based on a point system and comes with a year’s worth of buy-ins for the entire tour schedule the next season.
“I think I got lucky last week in Minnesota,” Dresch said of his $55,490 win, “But I played extremely well today in Iowa.”
Those watching the action would agree. Starting day two of the main event, Dresch was the short stack of the 38 remaining players, with just 25,000 chips. “I was 75 percent certain I would finish in 38th place,” Dresch said in a phone interview Sunday night. By the time the final six players moved to the televised set, the Fridley, Minnesota man climbed to the coveted position of chip leader.
“He’s on a roll, no doubt,” says Anderson, “There seems to be no stopping him.”
Three weeks ago, Dresch made the final table at a tournament not affiliated with the HPT in Minnesota. Finishing fifth, he raked in $13,000 to kick start his unprecedented winning spree. “I don’t think of that tournament as a $13,000 win,” he says, “I think of it as a $60,000 loss because I didn’t win first place.” Still, he hoped it was the start of a good run after taking the first part of the year off from poker. “Losing was getting expensive,” he said of his now-cancelled hiatus.
When the nationally-syndicated show airs next season, fans of the Heartland Poker Tour will see Dresch play with a vengeance, knocking out three of the other five players himself. The heads-up match against Arkie Utsinger, Canton, Illinois, lasted just three hands. The lineman of 29 years walked away with $35,852 for his efforts. Now a restaurant owner, Utsinger said the prize money “means a lot to me at this point in my life." Ultimately, however, Utsinger traveled to tiny Tama, Iowa, to have a good time. "I've had twelve beers already today,” he joked, “I would have had 14, but I overslept.” Utsinger enjoyed eliminating the first player to leave the final table, fellow restaurateur Dave Carey of Marion, Iowa. As the short stack, Carey predicted he’d be out in the first hand. “My friends are idiots for driving out here to watch,” he said before play began. Surprising himself, he doubled up a couple of times and hung on until Utsinger’s king-high sealed his fate. A sixth-place payout of $11,951 was worth the trip, at least for him.
Fifth-place finisher Roger Coates’ biggest fan didn’t come out to watch the taping and she’s still deliberately unaware of his $14,341 win. Planning a surprise, the Mineral Point, Wisconsin, man is looking forward to his 7-year-old daughter’s reaction when the show airs. “Everybody plays for the cash,” says Executive Producer Greg Lang, “but an advance copy of the episode is often priceless.”
Brandon Steen, the owner of a car dealership, won’t keep the secret of his $16,731 payout from his wife and two children. The Waterloo, Iowa man says “my wife will have a large say as to how we spend the money." All in with ace-queen, Steen fell into fourth place against Dresch’s pocket queens.
Dennis Hasley of North English, Iowa, earned more than his $21,511 payday in third place. Hasley is a web developer with a website in the works dedicated to poker. His experience playing for life-changing money on a nationally-syndicated poker show will be a likely contribution to his upcoming informational site.
“The appetite for poker remains strong,” says Lang, “Wrapping up five years on the air, our syndication continues to climb and our events get bigger. Season six will showcase America’s passion for poker.” Producers of the HPT are planning a star-studded launch of the sixth season this January in Las Vegas.