Indiana - Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago Recap

Pupillo Captures HPT Title and $120k

Local pro tops star-studded field at Ameristar East Chicago

East Chicago, IN (May 11, 2015) – Last night, Nick Pupillo was one card away from being eliminated from the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago. Today he was crowned the newest HPT champion to the tune of $120,537. The victory is the largest of the professional poker player’s career to date.

On the eve of the nationally televised Final Table, with 12 players remaining, Pupillo found himself all in before the flop with pocket jacks. He was up against the formidable pocket aces of Phil Gilreath. As the cards ran out, Pupillo hit a straight to win the pot. Gilreath would go on to finish in tenth.

“I was almost out,” said Pupillo during his winner’s interview. “I enjoyed today.”

When heads up play began, Pupillo was nearly a two to one underdog against eventual runner-up Ronald Rindone of Prospect Heights, Illinois. He erased that deficit rather quickly and carried his momentum to a speedy victory. On the final hand, the two found themselves all in with Pupillo holding pocket kings to Rindone’s ace-seven. The ace never hit and the local tax accountant who’s been playing poker for over 50 years was out in second place. He took home $74,414 for that finish.

Ship captain Robert Castoire came into the day second in chips. The Cecilia, Kentucky man played well enough to take third place in his first HPT event. Castoire can now add $49,522 to an impressive career earnings total of over $300k.

The only player with more chips than Castoire when the day began was Saint John, Indiana’s Timothy Shanks. The salesman had invested just $200 to play in the tournament. While he was unable to ride his chip lead to victory, Shanks was able to parlay that $200 investment into $34,325 for third place.

Many notables made the trip to Ameristar East Chicago over the weekend to play in the Main Event. Among the recognizable faces in the field were Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, Craig “The Legend” Casino, and the tour’s current Player of the Year Aaron Massey.

Reginald “Shawn” Roberts is a name that HPT faithful have become familiar with. The business owner from Springfield, Missouri now stands alone atop the list of all-time HPT Final Table appearances. This was his eighth time playing under the bright lights. Though he would go on to finish in fifth place, Roberts was able to pad his lead on the Season XI Player of the Year race. He earned $25,940 in the process.

The sixth-place finisher on Monday was Aurelian Furcoiu. Furcoiu, an engineer, quietly climbed the pay ladder by staving off elimination early on. The East Peoria, Illinois resident would walk away with a respectable $20,176 for his weekend’s worth of work.

With nearly $2 million in career earnings, Thomas Koral was one of the more feared opponents at the Final Table. The local professional wasn’t able to get much going early on. In the end, Koral got all of his chips in the middle with two pair, but Shanks quickly called with a straight. Koral was sent to the rail in seventh place for $16,769. He plans to use his winnings for a much needed vacation.

Another player with previous experience in front of the HPT cameras was Joel Casper. The Elmhurst, Illinois native won an HPT event back in 2006. This time around he would finish in eighth place. Casper, an investment wholesaler by trade, collected $13,887.

The first of the final nine to see his day come to an end was semi-pro poker player Bryan Livingston. As one of the shorter stacks, Livingston knew he’d have to make a move early on. He tried his luck in one of the first hands of the day with ace-jack. Roberts quickly called with pocket queens and Livingston was out of the tournament. He took home $11,738 for ninth place.

From here, HPT will take a break before returning to the road for a late summer series in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. There are currently nine summer and fall stops on the schedule, with more additions to be announced in the near future. Visit for more information.