Deadwood, SD – Mark Alinder had better luck at the poker table in Deadwood, South Dakota than Wild Bill Hickok. The 37-year-old salesman from Fargo, North Dakota, won the latest Heartland Poker Tour Championship at the historic Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall and took home $74,169. Over 130 years ago and about as many feet away, legendary Hickok was shot and killed by rival Jack McCall while playing poker. When his eight-nine out-flopped a five-seven, Alinder fared better than the notorious Old West gunfighter.
“Winning here is awesome,” Alinder said, “I qualified for the main event right away, so I had time to walk around Deadwood and soak up the history.”
Learning poker by reading books and playing with friends, Alinder got a taste of the Heartland Poker Tour last month in Minnesota. Although he didn’t cash at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs event, Alinder had his eye on the prize when he decided two weeks ago to make the trip to the Black Hills.
Sunday’s victory was a thrilling end to a fun week for players in this tiny tourist town just up the highway from Mount Rushmore. Energy in Deadwood ran high during the weeklong HPT tournament with its signature qualifying structure. Hundreds of St. Patty’s Day revelers and poker players, as well as a handful of burlesque dancers, turned out for a Heartland Poker Tour stop like no other. A lively Main Street proved to be a winning hand, even for those who didn’t make it to the final table.
“We love it here,” said HPT Executive Producer Greg Lang. “Deadwood shows our players a good time.”
Two-to-one chip leader Rich Edinger also made the five-hundred mile journey from Fargo. The criminal defense attorney lost his case but won $37,085 in the number-two position.
No stranger to the poker business, 39-year-old Jay “Silver Fox” Taylor finished a respectable third after Edinger crushed his set of jacks with a king high flush. Taylor owns and operates a card room in Billings, Montana, giving him a unique perspective on the game and premature gray hair. His $22,251 win is his best ever in a live poker tournament.
Also earning a personal best was Brandon Tweeton, a friend of the Heartland Poker Tour with thirteen events under his belt. He scored his first seat at the final table and walked away in fourth position after his ace-ten fell short against ace-king. The 30-year-old father of two from Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, will put his $17,306 prize to good use when his third child is born in August.
With four kids of his own at home, cattle rancher Chris Burke says it’s easier to make money at the poker table than it is on the ranch, despite his fifth-place finish. The 34-year-old from Corsica, South Dakota, walked away with $14,834 after his pair of threes went up against double aces.
Another South Dakotan was the first to walk away from the final table. Resident poker fanatic Tony Albright went all-in with ace-seven against trip jacks. The 43-year-old general contractor plays weekly in Deadwood and recently built a home for himself in the Black Hills “from the poker room down.” The bad beat didn’t tarnish Albright’s love of the game. He walked off the HPT set with $12,362 and found an open seat at a nearby cash game.