Shooting Star Casino-Mahnomen, MN Recap

A Chip and a Chair Leads to Championship

Mahnomen, MN- No one expected Brandon Dosch to last long during the taping of Heartland Poker Tour at Shooting Star Casino Hotel & Event Center.  With 2.3 million chips in play, the customer service rep from Fargo, North Dakota was by far the short stack with just 65,000 chips.  No one made the trip to cheer him on, his girlfriend instead choosing to go to the Vikings game.  Dosch persisted, however, catching cards, doubling up, and finding himself heads up against another Fargoan, Ryan Botner.

 An ace on the river for Dosch’s ace-four beat the five on the flop for Botner’s five-nine, delivering the championship for Dosch.  Most often playing free poker in local bars, Dosch’s first crack at the HPT earned him $40,601.

“Anything can happen at the final table,” Botner said, satisfied with his second-place finish.  “I wasn’t expecting to be here,” he said, noting he got in the tournament for $250, “I’m normally a cash game player.”  The financial rep took home some serious cash, $20,300 for his second HPT attempt.

The third time was a charm for North Dakota farmer Les Haagenson of Leeds.  He played the HPT twice previously, but never cashed.  Also in for just $250, Haagenson walks away with $9,474 in fourth place.  Earlier in the week, Haagenson played an HPT bounty tournament and eliminated on-air talent Fred Bevill and Jaymz Larson before winning the event.  After an exciting weekend of poker, the 61-year-old farmer plans to harvest corn fields tomorrow.

“I used to have more hobbies,” Haagenson said, “but I got too old for them.  Poker suits an older person just fine.”
In contrast, the young gun at the table, Adam Whiting, also played HPT for the third time this weekend.  With his dad watching from the rail, the 24-year-old went all in with jack-ten of clubs.  When Botner hit a flush draw on the turn, the Bemidji, Minnesota native landed in third place.  His first cash on the HPT netted the black jack dealer $12,180.

The best track record on the HPT belongs to engineer Mark Wadekamper.  The father of three has cashed on each of his four attempts and also made the televised final table last year, finishing fifth for nearly ten grand.  Pocket twos versus pocket fives got him $8,120 in fifth place again.

“If anyone should follow the tour and play every event, it’s this guy,” said HPT’s On-Air Floor Director Jaymz Larson, “He cashes every time.”
Wadekamper is modest about his poker success, saying he owes it to luck. “I’ve lost before and I’ll lose again.”  A true Minnesotan from Lonsdale, Wadekamper says it is hunting and fishing that keep him from playing more often.

The Heartland Poker Tour aims to give “everyday people” a chance to play for life-changing money on a nationally-televised stage.   Available in over 100 million US households, HPT filmed its 150th episode Sunday.  HPT producers credit “real people” for making the show compelling. 

“Most of our players never imagine playing for this kind of money on national TV,” says Executive Producer Greg Lang, “It’s fascinating to watch how they hold up under the bright lights and in front of the cameras.”  Case in point is Dosch, the champ, who learned to play poker from watching it on TV.  Admittedly nervous on set, he overcame his jitters to accomplish one of the most impressive comebacks in HPT history.

In a departure from their usual demographic, HPT hosted one of the most recognizable personalities in poker over the weekend.  Greg “Fossil Man” Raymer traveled to Mahnomen, Minnesota to film pro tip segments for HPT and host the production company’s five-year anniversary bash.  The 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event Champ also played the main event, but got knocked out late in day one with ace-eight against ace-queen.

“Having Greg Raymer here was surreal,” said sixth-place finisher Mike Hlebechuk of Fargo, North Dakota.  Outlasting the famous pro and winning $6,767 makes for a weekend the bar manager will never forget.  “It’s anyone’s game,” he said.