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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Poker tournament championships are all in the family

15 October 2008

Just as any wife would be, Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman was proud of her husband Dan when he outlasted 422 main event players and took home top dollar of $227,811 in the Heartland Poker Tour Tournament held at the Majestic Star Casinos in Gary, Indiana in the spring of 2007.

The championship and the serious money which came with it was so compelling for Mary Jo that she, too, developed an interest in playing tournament poker.

Last month she became only the second woman in Heartland Poker Tour Tournament history to win a No-Limit Texas Hold'em championship. She defeated a field of 201 players in the main event and was awarded a first prize of $85,724 at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, Minnesota.

"I can't believe how great I feel," Mary Jo said after the victory. "Dan may still be the king because his prize was bigger, but I'm definitely the queen of poker in our household."

Dan and Mary Jo hail from McHenry, Illinois. Their combined tournament championship prize money of $313,535 is what Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) founders Todd Anderson and Greg Lang mean when they say the tournaments they hold in casinos across the country are built on a grass roots strategy of "real people, unreal money".

HPT gives average people who raise families and hold down regular jobs the opportunity to pay affordable buy-ins and play in big-money No Limit Texas Hold'em tournaments. There's even a Heartland Poker League in which participants can build their playing skills through local weekly tournaments.

Additional information and a complete schedule of upcoming events may be found by visiting the organization's official website, www.HeartlandPokerTour.com.

The final table action of all HPT events is video taped and produced into one-hour programs which are viewed in over 74 million homes throughout the United States. Locally, Season IV shows are broadcast on Comcast SportsNet Chicago Sunday evenings at 9 pm.

As for Dan and Mary Jo, their success in the tournaments has been incentive enough to give their leisure time together an entirely new focus.

"We used to be like any other couple and go out to dinner and to the shows and things like that," Mary Jo said. "Now we travel the country playing poker, and it is way more fun."

Dom Niro, poker room manager at the Majestic Star Casinos, will welcome HPT back later this year for the Heartland Poker Tour Championship Open November 12 – 24.

Last year's Open, which was also held at the Majestic Star, had a total prize pool of $835,200.

Niro, who was instrumental in bringing HPT to Majestic Star soon after the tour was founded in 2005, takes pride in his casino's own weekly tournaments as well as the many other special events he brings in.

Next up is a series of events in the "Deep Stack Poker Challenge" October 15 – 26. For details please contact the poker room directly at 219-977-7444.

CASINO NEWS: Horseshoe Casino Hammond's new poker room will be the site of the Chicago area's first-ever World Series of Poker Circuit Tour competition October 24 – November 2. Please call Horseshoe's poker room, 219-473-6065, for complete information.

Blue Chip Casino Hotel's "Fall Flex" promotion on Saturdays in October will see the Michigan City, Indiana facility award $1,000 in cash every hour from 3 pm to 9 pm and a $25,000 grand prize at 10 pm in drawings for B Connected player's club members tomorrow (Oct. 11) and again next Saturday (Oct. 18). The grand prize at the 10 pm drawing on Oct. 25 will be a Flex, the new 7-seat, 24 mph "crossover" vehicle from Ford Motor Company.

Accolades keep coming for Dream Dance, Potawatomi Bingo Casino's four-star, four-diamond fine dining restaurant which was one of only 48 restaurants nationwide to win a 2008 award from Santé magazine. Dream Dance was recognized in the category of wine hospitality. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin restaurant will be honored during an awards ceremony to be held in Napa, California on Nov. 4.

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