Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel-Tama, IA Recap

HPT Championship Marks Turn of Hard Times for Illinois Man

Tama, Iowa- Heartland Poker Tour’s latest televised tournament marks the turn of a hard period for Kurt Fraser.  The professional online poker player faced the devastating loss of his mother and grandfather earlier this year, but brighter skies are ahead for the Schaumburg, Illinois man and his family.  An upbeat Fraser rallied with the encouragement of poker friends holding signs of support on the rail Sunday night, winning the championship worth $75,091.   

“I know my mom is going to be watching too,” the 26-year-old said before taping.  “She taught me a lot in life that translates to poker.  Everyone has their own battles to get through.”
Fraser battled his way from the short stack to first place, ultimately winning with middle pair, holding king-eight against ace-five when the flop came ten-five-eight.  He vowed to donate a portion of his prize in honor of his mother to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  He’s also likely to spoil the newest member of the family.  Fraser’s sister, due tomorrow, is expecting a baby boy.
“This moment means a lot to me and to our family”, the new champ said while clutching his cash.
Poker skill is in Tony Moses’ family.  The Minneapolis warehouse worker got advice before the final table from his cousin, Matt Alexander, a 2010 HPT champion.  Also from the Twin Cities, Alexander took down a March event at Shooting Star Casino in Minnesota for $48,521.  Mentored by his cousin, Moses’ strategy going into the final table was to “pick my spots and hope I pick ‘em right.” The spot he got was third place, earning him $22,528 to “reinvest in gambling.”

Alexander, who played the main event at Meskwaki without success, won’t need to dip into his bankroll for HPT’s next event at Soaring Eagle Casino Resort.  All champions in 2010 freeroll into HPT’s final event of the year, the Championship Open.  The Michigan event, although open to any player, is the final shot for the season’s winners to become HPT’s Player of the Year.  Based on a point system, the last champion standing in Michigan is likely to take the coveted title which comes with a year of HPT buy ins. 

On a weekend when most poker A-listers were in Las Vegas sweating the much-anticipated World Series of Poker, 2009 November Nine alum Darvin Moon instead chose to spend his time off the beaten path in Tama, Iowa.  Despite repeated invitations by ESPN, Moon said, “If I’m not playing, I have no reason to be there.”  Just a year ago, Darvin was in one of nine hot seats playing for the most-coveted prize in poker, ultimately finishing second against Joe Cada.  HPT fans and players appreciated the opportunity to play with Moon at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel.

“I wanted my picture with him,” said James Fisher of Austin, Minnesota, “but I was happy he wasn’t at my table.”  Knocked out in 60th place, Moon said, “I was outplayed.”  Meanwhile, Fisher progressed to the final table, finishing second for $37,545.  The 59-year-old property manager donned a black and pink Minnesota Roller Girls t-shirt for his national TV appearance as a nod to his daughter who skates on the derby team as “Sparkle Ninja.”  Fisher got his picture taken with the always-casual Moon as the WSOP second-place finisher congratulated HPT’s second-place finisher.

Moon will return to the Heartland when he joins a handful of poker celebrities at HPT’s Championship Open later this month.  Scotty Nguyen, Tiffany Michelle, Maria Ho, and Bernard Lee are all scheduled to attend and play the main event and a charity tournament benefitting Disabled American Veterans.

Tony Hager of Johnston, Iowa says Darvin Moon’s participation is the reason he decided to play his second HPT event.  “Just being able to play with someone with WSOP final table experience is cool,” he says.  Moon made headlines when he turned a $130 satellite entry into $5.18 million and a spot in poker history.  Also spending $130, Hager, a mortgage broker, was happy with his investment in the HPT.  The 26-year-old plans to use the $15,019 from his fifth–place finish to play more HPT events and make a donation to the tour’s charity partner, DAV.

Sunil Aggarwal was hoping an HPT victory would take him sky high.  The aerospace engineer planned to use part of his prize money to finance a pilot’s license.  Trip queens against his pocket sevens left the Marion, Iowa man grounded in sixth place with $12,516.  Entering for just $500, Aggarwal’s profit still leaves room to “buy some luxury,” he said.

It was Tim “Sour” Krause who made the best investment at the table.  The salesman from Fremont, Nebraska entered for just $85, and left with $17,522 in fourth place.  “I have nothing to lose,” he said before play at the final table started, “It’s all gravy now.”  A bonus prize for Krause was “a little bit of redemption.”  Although supportive, Krause joked, “My family was starting to wonder about my poker career.”