California - Thunder Valley Casino & Resort Recap

Nick Shkolnik Wins HPT at Thunder Valley 

By Paul Oresteen

Nick Shkolnik matched his career earnings with his win at the Heartland Poker Tour’s Thunder Valley Main Event outside Sacramento. Shkolnik notched four of the final table’s eight eliminations en route to earning $159,599.

“I was telling my friends I was going to win this and they didn’t believe me,” Shkolnik said. “It means a lot to win a big event, I’ve been working very hard and it finally paid off. In the beginning I was very card dead but then it worked itself out.”

Shkolnik began the final table with the chip lead Michael Riddle as the only player over 2 million chips. Mark Violetti, Tom West, Brett Murray and Hop (Ricky) Lay were grouped closely together and Micheal Hinde, James Colson and Jared Griener rounding out the table.

Griener was the first casualty of the final table. He open-shoved holding pocket sixes and Kay called with A K. The board ran A J 7 4 T and Griener’s final table run was a short one.

A bit later Murray was the short stack and he moved in preflop with pocket eights and Shkolnik called with A K. An ace hit on the flop, Murray never improved and he was eliminated in eighth place.

From the small blind Shkolnik set Violetti all in – and he called holding A 2. Shkolnik flipped over J 5 but spiked top pair on the flop of J T 3. Violettie never improved and was sent to the rail.

An hour later Kay opened the action and Riddle moved all in holding pocket deuces. Kay held AQ and hit the flop when the board ran Q 4 3 K 6. Riddle’s deuces were no good and he was sent home in sixth place.

Five-handed play stretched over three levels and Hinde was grinding a sub-ten big blind stack. He made a stand with J T, Shkolnik called with A 6, Hinde never improved and was eliminated.

Ten minutes after that Shkolnik opened, Colson three-bet from the big blind and Shkolnik moved all in. Colson called with A 9, Shkolnik was out-kicked holding A 8. The board ran 8 7 3 J 2 and Colson’s day was done.

Three-handed play didn’t last long – just several hands. West open-shipped on the button and Kay called from the small blind. West tabled pocket threes and Kay held two over cards with A J. The flop brought a jack, West didn’t improve and was eliminated short of the title.

Heads up play began with Shkolnik and Kay virtually tied – 7.335 million to 7.015 million respectively. Kay drew first blood with the first big pot of heads up but then Shkolnik won a 3 million chip pot on a board of T 8 2 K Q with a large river bet to pull out in front.

The final hand saw Lay ship with pocket sevens and Shkolnik snap-called with pocket eights. The board ran K Q 5 4 K, Lay didn’t improve and Shkolnik won the tournament and his first HPT title.

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