California-Thunder Valley Casino Resort Recap


California Man Turns $720 into $170k on HPT


Lincoln, CA (January 27, 2014) – Heartland Poker Tour started their milestone tenth season with another Cinderella story as 37-year-old engineer Exequiel Fernando rallied with a short stack to take home $179,020.  The Elk Grove, California man invested just $720 in the nationally-televised event at Thunder Valley Casino Resort.  Runner-up Ed Miller had the lead in the final hand with pocket kings.  A five on the flop for Fernando’s pocket fives ended the tournament.  Miller, a 50-year-old car salesman from Granite Bay, California, collected $109,434.


”I have been watching (HPT) on TV for the last couple years,” said the champ, “It’s great that they have come to the Sacramento area. It gives someone like me a chance.”


HPT carved a niche in the industry with the mission statement, “Real People, Unreal Money.”  HPT’s diverse following means recreational players often play alongside accomplished pros in weekly episodes of the nationally-syndicated show.  “HPT’s tournament structure is a tremendous value for any player,” said Thunder Valley’s Poker Room Director Ben Erwin.  “Over 500 entrants agree.”


November Niner J.C. Tran found himself back in the spotlight at a TV table on Monday.  A Sacramento resident, Tran said, “To me, winning this thinghere at home would mean something special.”  After doubling Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco earlier in the day, he needed a double himself to get back into the game. Tran hoped queen-ten would be the hand to do it as he shoved all in.  He met his match against Phuoc Nguyen’s pocket tens and walked away in eight place for $19,458.  Blumenfield took Tran’s chips all the way to fifth place for $37,749.


When the episodes filmed at Thunder Valley air this spring, Ngoc “Joey” Bui will steal the show.  He was the life of the party for most of the day until his ace-two ran into Fernando’s ace-king.  The 40-year-old from San Jose took home $72,541 for his third-place finish.

The live audience went wild in a dramatic hand perfect for TV.   Phuoc Nguyen moved all-in over the top of a previous raise by Fernando. Nguyen held a pair of threes against Fernando’s ace-jack. The all-diamond flop brought the first bit of excitement with ace-jack-ten. The crowd erupted when the the queen of diamonds was dealt next, giving Phuoc Nguyen the flush.  Fireworks continued on the river when a jack gave Fernando a full house and eliminated Nguyen.  He took home $29,188 for his sixth-place finish.


Ben Sarnoff stretched a short stack as long as he could, finishing in seventh place. Sarnoff got all his chips in holding pocket kings on a ten-seven-high board. Unfortunately for him, Miller held a ten and a seven for two pair. The 55-year-old lawyer from San Francisco collected $23,739


It only took two hands for short-stacked Grant Hillman to get eliminated. He moved all-in with ace-four getting called by Blumenfield who had ace-jack. The bioinformatics manager from Oakland, California collected $15,567 for ninth place.


HPT is scheduled to have another record year with at least two dozen tournaments.  Their newest fan will likely turn up on the tour at least a couple times this year.  “$179,000 is a lot of money,” said HPT’s latest champion, “I will be able to play a lot more tournaments and keep my family happy.”


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