Oklahoma - Downstream Casino Resort Recap
Heartbreak in the Heartland
Quapaw, OK – (February 27, 2012) Robert Bratton was as close to the finish line as he’s ever been for anything he’s ever attempted in his entire life. “I start a lot of things and never finish them,” said the 28-year-old construction worker from Rogers, Arkansas. “It’s an awful trait.” It took an abundance of follow-through for Bratton to simply make it to Heartland Poker Tour’s latest stop at Downstream Casino Resort. Commuting to the casino from his home 100 miles away, Bratton was late for the start of the tournament when his “low-quality car” wouldn’t start. Along the way, the junker died and needed a push to get running again.
But Bratton made it to Downstream and ran into a fortunate sequence of hands in a thirty-minute stretch. Aces paid off for him, then he was dealt queens. Minutes later, he had kings. By the time just six players remained for the televised Final Table, Bratton was the chip leader. His first-ever first-place finish was in sight. He thanked “the best girlfriend ever” for encouraging him to play.
Enter Terry Presley. A familiar face across the felt in the Downstream poker room, Presley had a warning for the other players at HPT’s Final Table. “I didn’t come here for sixth-place money,” said the 44-year-old plumbing contractor from Huntsville, Arkansas. “If I catch any cards today, these guys are in trouble.” Presley didn’t catch all the cards, but he did get ace-queen when Bratton was all-in pre-flop with jack-two. First-place money was what Presley was after and $76,892 was what he got.
In second place, Bratton was left to push-start his car home with $44,670 in the trunk.
Pro Brian Davis knows the highs and the lows of playing poker for a living. At one time, the 30-year-old went broke and had to get “a real job.” A five-dollar loan from a friend got him back in the game when he turned it into $30, then $24,000 after reinvesting $22 in a tournament. Back in business, the Norman, Oklahoma man played his first HPT over the weekend, investing once in the Main Event. Although HPT’s new structure allows players to re-enter into multiple flights if they bust, all six players at the Final Table needed just one shot. Business was good for Davis, who earned $24,166 at Downstream in fourth place.
Missouri Auctioneer Bob Hughes set his sights only on making it to 21st place to earn at least a small cash. As day two progressed and he surpassed his goal, he raised his aspirations, hoping to win enough to pay off his mortgage and maybe even go on an African Safari. With king-queen against king-ten on a king-queen-nine board, he thought of also paying off his car. A dreaded jack on the river ended his run in fifth place for $18,454. He’ll apply it to his mortgage, but “we just won’t get the house AND the car,” he said.
First-time dad-to-be Garrett Smith was playing for diaper money at the Final Table. As the short stack, his plan was to “double up or go home.” It was the latter, even with advice from buddies Shaun Roberts and Joey McCaig, who finished first and second respectively at previous Downstream stops. The 26-year-old from Clinton, Missouri earned $15,437 for junior’s nest egg in sixth place.
Both Roberts and McCaig returned for a shot at more “life-changing money” but left empty-handed. HPT producers saw many familiar faces over the weekend, including well-known pro Gavin Smith. Although Smith busted late in Day One, several players of note remained. Ethan Riddle, the 21-year-old student who finished fourth at HPT’s last Downstream stop, survived to 19th place for $3,076. It appeared Sean Sananikone would return to the Final Table three years after he won a $127K HPT championship at Downstream. Near the front of the pack throughout day two, Sananikone ultimately bubbled the TV table for $11,277.
Acquainted with HPT through business, Southwest Poker News founder Chris Cronin made his way to Oklahoma to play the tour for the first time. Just days before heading to Downstream, Cronin took down a tourney in Arizona for $50k, making the cover of his own magazine. He grinded to 11th place Sunday, then stayed to cover the action and photograph the champ for next month’s cover.
Both fame and fortune are part of the appeal of HPT, says Executive Producer Greg Lang. “We provide a rare opportunity for amateurs and pros alike to take a shot at cash and glory on a national stage,” he said. HPT is available on TV to over 100 million US households through national syndication. Third-place finisher Mark Kehrees of Alexander, Arkansas said his family looks forward to watching him win $27,827 when the episodes filmed at Downstream air nationwide in May, but he’ll have the best seat in the house. “They’ll be excited, but probably not as excited as I am,” said the 49-year-old contractor.
Since 2005, HPT has awarded over $33 million at 99 tournaments. Heartland Poker Tour will celebrate its 100th event with a stop in St. Louis next month. The event is expected to draw hundreds of poker enthusiasts from throughout the U.S., including famed pros Phil Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer, and Dennis Phillips. Popular WSOP runner-up Darvin Moon will also play the Main Event, along with Bernard Lee of ESPN’s Inside Deal. HPT will utilize both Lumičre Place Casino & Hotels and River City Casino March 2-11 to accommodate the large turnout. Details and broadcast information are available at HPTpoker.com.