Golden Gates Casino - Black Hawk, CO Recap

HPT Champion Scrapes by to Win Mountains of Cash in the Rockies

Blackhawk, CO – The latest Heartland Poker Tour champion nearly missed his fortune when he arrived in Blackhawk, Colorado, a little short on cash.  Almost broke from first-of-the-month bills, 28-year-old Kyle Simpson was forty dollars shy of the $340 needed to enter a main event qualifier. Investing in slots before the tourney at Golden Gates Casino, he won the difference and went on to beat out 426 players in the main event. Until Sunday, the jet center technician planned to find a second and third job to make ends meet.  His plans changed when his final opponent went all in with a pair of fives. Picking up a second nine for himself in the flop, he landed the $191,340 top prize.

Fred Bevill, a popular on-air commentator for The Heartland Poker Tour, predicted the Morrison, Colorado, man would be the next champion after a brief conversation with him early in the tournament.  Simpson approached Bevill, introduced himself, and said, “I’ll see you at the final table.” 
“It wasn’t long before he was the chip leader,” Bevill recalled “I knew then he was here to win.”

Although convincing Bevill early on, the victory was still sinking in for Simpson as the HPT crew dismantled their set.    “I can’t tell you how much this win will change my life,” Simpson said with a wide grin, “It might give my mom a heart attack.”  Morrison credits his mom for teaching him to play cards when he was about eight years old.  Twenty years later, he vows to use some of his prize to help her financially.
With the mission of awarding “life-changing money”, The Heartland Poker Tour continues to gain momentum since its start in 2005.  Golden Gates Casino hosted 1,836 HPT players over fifteen days of satellites, qualifiers, and the flighted main event, despite threatening winter storms.  “Our dealers and servers work a lot of overtime during this event,” said General Manager Jef Bauer, “but we are all so proud to be the Colorado stop for the HPT.”
Historically, scenic Blackhawk hosts some of the biggest events on the Heartland tour.  “Colorado loves poker,” said Heartland Poker Tour Executive Producer Greg Lang, “It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the top end of the prize pool is staying in Colorado.”  All six players who made the final table reside in the state.
Lakewood resident Nick Macaluso, 53, is new to Colorado but not to poker.  The former poker room manager mostly prefers to play online, but made an exception for his first televised tournament.  Earning a second place prize of $95,670, it proved to be a good move.

In contrast, car salesman Tony Saccomano plays in-house often.  The twenty-four-year-old from Aurora went all in with queen-nine, only to be outdone by Simpson’s ace high.  With a large entourage of family cheering from the rail, Saccomano picked up $57,402 in third place.  Newly engaged, he plans to upgrade his honeymoon next June. 

Also from Aurora, Ed Walker, 38, placed fourth in his first major tournament.  Although he’s played poker for just two years, no amount of experience would prevent him from going all in with ace-jack, picking up another jack in the flop. His opponent’s pocket kings ended his game, earning him $44,646.

With thirty years of poker experience, fifth-place finisher Ron Mazzotti also had a bad beat.  Holding queen-two, he laid it all on the line when the flop produced another two.  The 49-year-old from Wheat Ridge walked away with $38,268 when the flop also delivered a second ace for Wilson. 

Hoping to prepare for The Heartland Poker Tour’s next stop in Blackhawk this July, Jason DeMeritt plans to reinvest his sixth-place prize back into the game.  The Denver resident celebrated his 36th birthday at Golden Gates Casino by buying a $340 qualifier seat and earning a spot at the final table.  Although his wish didn’t come true when his seven pair busted against a flush, DeMeritt’s first trip to the final table earned him a $31,890 birthday gift.