HPT Championship Open @ Soaring Eagle-Mt. Pleasant Recap
Online Pro Steals HPT Championship Open
Mt Pleasant, MI - In the toughest field of the year, 27-year-old Phil DeLaney outlasted 296 players at the final tournament of the season for the nationally-televised Heartland Poker Tour. The Championship Open event at Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in central Michigan brought in seventeen previous champions from throughout the year. After a six-hour final table, DeLaney’s queen-eight paid him $127, 058 when a queen appeared on the flop.
“This year I was as broke as I’ve ever been,” said the online pro from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, “It’s completely ridiculous that I’m now holding $127,000.”
DeLaney found himself heads up against another twenty-something pro, Kyle Whiteaker, who sat down at the table as the short stack. The White Lake, Michigan, 24-year-old spends up to sixty hours each week in local casinos making a living off cash games. “If I’m going to work hard at anything,” he says, “I might as well do something I love.”
Only one of the season five champs made it to the final table Sunday. Had Iowa farmer John Kurfman won, he would have become Player of the Year. With pocket sevens against DeLaney’s ace-king with an ace on the flop and a jack on the turn, Kurfman went out in fifth place. His $25,412 will buy more cows, he said, and allow him to play more cards.
The Player of the Year honor officially goes to Jeremy Dresch of Fridley, MN. Late this year, Dresch became the first two-time champ on the HPT, winning two tournaments back-to-back. As POY, Dresch receives buy-ins for every stop on the tour in 2010. The Heartland Poker Tour will kick off season six this January with a “Vegas Vacation,” flying in two hundred players on ExpressJet private charters.
A couple of Sunday night’s players already have plans to bring their prize money to Las Vegas. Ben Castle, a real estate developer from Hinsdale, Illinois, will have $38,118 to play with at Red Rock Casino Resort Spa. Ace-jack against DeLaney’s pocket queens knocked Castle out in third place for the second time on the HPT. About a year ago, Castle took third at an event in the Chicago area for $42,000.
Another familiar face heading to Vegas, Bruce “The Hammer” Swart finished third when the HPT visited Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in August. “I was overwhelmed & nervous last time,” said the Chief Financial Officer, determined to focus on having fun the second time around. Even after Kurfman cracked his pocket tens with ace-king & an ace on the flop, he said, “I enjoyed every minute.” Finishing sixth Sunday, his $21,176 will go towards college tuition for his daughter. After his August win, Swart paid off all of his family’s debt, including credit card bills and taxes for the restaurant and bar he owns with his wife. “Just like the Heartland motto says, this is life-changing money for our family.”
New to Heartland Poker Tour, Dr. David LaGattuta played his first HPT event while his wife Christmas shopped in the area. With few chips left in front of him early Sunday, the physician from Grayling, Michigan, figured his run would be short. “You might as well come get me,” he said in a call to his wife. The doc recovered and made it to fourth place, winning $29,647 for the next shopping trip.