Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel-Tama, IA Recap

Persistence Pays Family Man $77K


Tama, Iowa (April 4, 2011) - Family man Tom Hujda made the weekend trip alone from Illinois to Iowa’s Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel with one goal: to win enough playing Heartland Poker Tour to buy his two young children a swing set.  After several unsuccessful HPT attempts over the years, any amount would be cause for a family celebration.  Often bringing his wife and kids along on his poker excursions, the 46-year-old Hujda always left empty-handed, never before cashing on HPT.  Hujda persisted, grateful to his supportive wife and enjoying the game despite his losses.  Persistence paid off Sunday night for Hujda, HPT’s newest champ, who left with $77,897, likely enough to buy the best swing set in New Lenox, Illinois.


Hujda, a small business owner, had one of those days that just seemed like destiny.  After making the final table as chip leader, he eliminated a player on the second hand when his ace-king outdrew the pocket jacks of pro player Everett Carlton, sending him home to Minnesota with $12,983 in sixth place. 


“I had such a great time today,” said Hujda, recalling his chip lead throughout the night.


Ultimately heads up with former HPT champion Jesse Green, Hujda seemed to have complete control holding a 4.5- to-1 chip lead.  In the kind of drama HPT’s television audience craves, local farmer Green was able to turn the tables on Hujda and take over the lead.  Tension escalated after an all in re-raise by Hujda, with Green spending several minutes contemplating before making the call.  Green’s pocket sevens dominated the ace-four of Hujda and it looked to be déjŕ vu for Green, who won an HPT event at Meskwaki in 2008.    A river away from his second championship, Green’s sevens held up until a dramatic ace hit the board.


“It just happens,” said Green showing no signs of disappointment.  “Every poker player can tell a story.  I’m just very happy to have come this close.”  Another $38,948 propels his lifetime HPT winnings to six figures.

Green was responsible for another early elimination in the televised final table. In the fourth hand, William Liss, a part-time poker player and full-time college student, lost a race with pocket eights against ace-king.  The fifth-place finish means $15,579 for books or bankroll.


In fourth place was math teacher and basketball coach John Joachim from Waverly, Iowa.  Joachim, who has an impressive HPT record of previous cashes, struggled as the short stack throughout the final table.  After flopping middle pair, he pushed his chips into the middle, only to run into Hujda’s pocket tens on a seven-five-two board.  The 28-year-old adds another $18,176 to his HPT profits.


Sunday’s final table was a homecoming for crowd-favorite Dan Stromer.  Until resigning last fall, Stromer was the well-respected General Manager of Meskwaki for several years.  Now caring full-time for his ailing mother in Nebraska, he returned to his casino home to do something he could never do while on the payroll, play the HPT.  Cheered on by many former employees, his run ended in third place for $23,369 when Hujda’s pocket eights edged out his pocket sevens.


“Dan always made us look good by running great tournaments at Meskwaki,” said HPT Executive Producer Greg Lang, “Now it’s our turn to make him look good on national TV.”  The Iowa event will be produced into two one-hour episodes and aired nationwide in early May.  Station information is available at


Projected to award over one million dollars this month, HPT heads to Golden Gates Casino & Poker Parlour in Black Hawk, Colorado for another televised main event next weekend.  Just a week later, another huge turnout is expected at Majestic Star Casinos in Gary, Indiana as momentum continues to escalate among HPT’s loyal players.


“I’ll be back,” said runner up Jesse Green.