Golden Gates Casino-Black Hawk, CO Recap

 MN Man Wins $182K on National TV

Black Hawk, CO – An entrepreneur from Minnesota is the latest champion of Heartland Poker Tour’s Mile High Poker Open, taking $182,100 back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  Mark Dunbar upstaged 401 players in the Rockies for the coveted championship on the nationally-syndicated poker show. 

Dunbar’s uphill battle marked the first time an out-of-state resident won the HPT at Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour.  At seven previous stops in Black Hawk, 44 of 48 players to make the televised final table were Colorado residents.  Although records indicate players travel from over twenty states to play the HPT at Golden Gates, all seven previous champions call Colorado home.  With ace-nine against king-nine, Dunbar broke into the locals-only winners’ club.

“We’re proud of our area players,” says Gates General Manager Shannon Keel, “but we’re always happy to welcome players to the state of Colorado.”

Starting day two of the tourney, Dunbar’s chip stack ranked near the bottom of the pack of 61 remaining players and continued to melt away.  Climbing back and eventually going heads up against Denver pro John Beauprez, the St. Paul native proved to be as enduring as a Minnesota winter.

Dunbar’s success is especially timely for producers of Heartland Poker Tour.  Founders Todd Anderson and Greg Lang launched the nationally-syndicated poker show in Minnesota, where the company is still headquartered.  Next month, Anderson and Lang will celebrate HPT’s milestone of five years on TV with players, fans, and poker celebrities at Shooting Star Casino, Hotel, & Event Center in Mahnomen, Minnesota.

“Reaching every corner of the US, we’ve awarded over 24 million dollars so far,” says Lang, “It’s rewarding to see a piece of that go back to where it all began for the HPT.”

The latest event in Colorado’s popular gaming town will be produced into two one-hour episodes and broadcast nationwide in May.  Heartland Poker Tour is available on TV in over 100 million US households, in addition to widespread distribution throughout Europe and the Caribbean.  In the Denver area, HPT airs as often as twenty times per week on Altitude Sports, MAVTV, and other networks.

“I hope my family isn’t embarrassed to see Grandma playing poker on TV,” said 69-year-old Mary Huffman, “but I’m on top of the world right now.  I’m having so much fun.”  Huffman, who nearly chickened out of entering her first HPT event, was coerced by a poker buddy to make the trip from Nebraska.  Getting into the tourney for just $180, Huffman’s first try paid $42,420 in fourth-place.  “This is way cool,” said the upbeat retiree.

Public defender Matt Connell also found himself at the final table on his first HPT attempt.  The Boulder trial attorney hoped his experience cross-examining witnesses on the stand would translate into a good read on players at the felt.  All in with ten-four against ace-jack, court was adjourned for Connell.  He was awarded $54,540 in third place.

Another attorney at the table, Louie Cohen, was hoping to outlast Connell.  “I don’t generally like attorneys,” said the Denver lawyer, “so I hope he gets knocked out early.”  It was Cohen who was sentenced to fifth place when a pair of queens overruled his king-ten.  He settled for $36,360, his first cash after several HPT attempts.

Another first-timer, Dan Sullivan won his main event seat in a home game.  Making his poker buddies proud, the mortgage broker finished sixth for $30,300.  Having been within reach of $182,100, Sullivan is likely to take another shot when the Mile High Poker Open returns to Golden Gates in 2011.  

“This is life-changing money,” Sullivan said, “Anyone who says otherwise is bluffing.”