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Best of John G. Brokopp

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The Lady Is a Champ at the Poker Tables

21 October 2009

Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman, a businesswoman and homemaker from McHenry, Illinois, solidified her reputation as one of the best poker players in the Chicago area with her victory last month in the Tournament of Champions Invitational presented by Rockford Charitable Games Association.

She outlasted a formidable field of 40 proven professionals, who boasted combined winnings of around $4 million and included two World Series of Poker gold bracelet champions from recent years.

Belcore-Zogman, who is president of All Insurance Services in McHenry, played kitchen table poker games with her family while growing up, but it wasn't until she started watching the high profile tournaments on TV that she developed an interest to play competitively.

Her husband, Dan Zogman, began taking the game seriously at the same time, and together they started learning what it takes to play winning poker.

Dan's first big score came in 2007 when he won $227,811 in the Heartland Poker Tour tournament at Majestic Star casinos in Gary. Mary Jo followed with a triumph on the tour in a tournament at a casino in Minnesota last year for which she earned $85,724.

Mary Jo's success in Heartland Poker Tour competition earned her the 2008 Player of the Year award.

She was in Las Vegas earlier this year with intentions of going into one of the smaller buy-in tournaments for the World Series of Poker.

"I played in the women's event at the World Series a couple of years ago and got down to the final 300 players," she said. "This year I ended up playing in one of the 'deep stack' tournaments at Caesar's Palace and finished third."

Belcore-Zogman made her debut in a World Series of Poker Circuit event at Horseshoe in Southern Indiana last year and went home with an in-the-money finish. She is contemplating entering the one that's scheduled for Horseshoe Hammond Oct. 16 – 25.

"I enjoy playing cash games, too, especially in Las Vegas," she said. "My favorite game is no-limit Texas Hold'em."

She'll make occasional appearances in the poker rooms at area casinos, although this year she and her husband have been busy traveling around the country to appear in Heartland Poker Tour events.

The couple is also active on the charity poker tournament circuit, which has a huge following among amateur and professional poker enthusiasts.

Rockford Charitable Games (RCG) serves as the consulter and planner for 200 tournaments a year, each of which attracts hundreds of participants from the organization's data base of over 10,000 players.

The hosting charity has no investment in the games that are played but takes 10 percent of each pot up to a maximum of $5.

It's a formula that has earned millions of dollars for participating charities over the 20 years that RCG has been in business.

The Aug. 27 Tournament of Champions Invitational, for example, raised $3,500 for the "Hoo" Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center, which is dedicated to rehabilitating and releasing sick, injured and orphaned North American wildlife. The center is located in Durand, Illinois, near Rockford.

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