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Players Embrace Heartland Poker Tour

11 August 2010

While the national poker spotlight was focused on Las Vegas last month for the World Series of Poker, another tournament of regional interest was taking place at the Majestic Star Casinos.

The Heartland Poker Tour's stop at the Gary, Indiana gaming destination proved that the broad appeal of poker goes far beyond the high-profile stars of the game and the big money it takes to be a professional.

Average working class people with a passion for the game can be every bit as competitive and entertaining as the biggest names in poker, which is why Todd Anderson and Greg Lang teamed up to form the Heartland Poker Tour in 2005.

Their formula for success is exemplified in every stop the tour makes at casinos around the country, particularly so July 10 - 26 at the Majestic Star, where the top five finishers in the Main Event, all from the Chicago area, took a break from the routine to walk on the wild side.

The winner was Paul Davis, a waiter who hails from Elgin. He stopped off for a job interview at a restaurant on his way to the casino and almost missed the tournament.

"I was so distracted I think I might have blown the interview," Davis, 36, said. "I won't feel as bad now if I don't get the job."

His first place check was $140,184, a hefty payday for an event with a $1,350 buy-in, a far cry from the $10,000 it takes to enter the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.

Runner-up in the event, which attracted 396 entrants and a total prize pool of $467,289, was Chicago-based pro Stuart Marshak, 32, who cashed for $70,092. He spent nine years working in the financial markets before devoting his attention exclusively to poker.

Duane Graff, who has participated in every Heartland Poker Tour tournament held at Majestic since 2006, finished third. This particular event was the first time he made it to the Final Table and the opportunity to play before the television cameras, something he was eager to have his children see.

"I want my kids to see that they can accomplish anything if they try hard enough," the 44-year-old father of two said. "It's taken me some time but I finally made it."

Graff, who earned $42,055, has set a new goal of winning an HPT championship.

Gordon Vayo of Chicago finished fourth ($32,710), Jason Goodman of Oak Park took home fifth money of $28,037, and Michael Franco of Aurora was sixth at $23,364.

Goodman, 35, actually supports himself with his poker winnings, saying: "You have to know your own limitations and overcome your own weaknesses" in order to be successful.

The 35-year-old Goodman had a 10-year career on the police force, an amateur boxing championship, and a tour of duty with the U.S. Army before embarking on his professional poker playing career.

"The drive these players have in the quest for an HPT championship makes the tournament rewarding for our staff," said Majestic Star's poker room manager, Dom Niro. "Year after year we get to know the players and enjoy watching them succeed."

Poker players should know the next stop on the Heartland Poker Tour will be Sept. 10 – 19 at Golden Gate Casino & Poker Parlour in Black Hawk, Colorado.

The Heartland Poker Tour, currently filming season VI, is available in over 100 million U.S. homes each week with additional distribution throughout Europe and the Caribbean. Visit www.heartlandpokertour.com for a complete schedule of upcoming events.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp