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Roger Martin Wins Heartland Poker Tour Route 66 Casino; Allen Kessler Finishes Third

The HPT Route 66 Final Table

The Heartland Poker Tour Route 66 Casino $1,650 Main Event concluded on Monday, May 27 at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The tournament, which was one of the four HPT title won by Greg Raymer last year, drew 86 players and created a prize pool of $122,130. Team Ivey’s Allen Kessler headlined the final table but could only take third as Roger Martin of Grand Junction, Colorado, defeated Cruz Baca in a marathon 66-hand heads-up match to walk away with the $39,082 first-place prize.

HPT Route 66 Casino Results

1Roger MartinGrand Junction, CO$39,082
2Cruz BacaAlbuquerque, NM$24,426
3Allen KesslerLas Vegas, NV$15,999
4Craig CasinoWinfield, IL$11,602
5Kris WagnerAlbuquerque, NM$8,549
6John MichalakCleveland, OH$6,717
7Norman MichalekNorman, NJ$5,862
8Thomas MontoyaAlbuquerque, NM$5,252
9Christopher VargasGallup, NM$4,641

According to the HPT live blog, the first elimination of the final table took place in Level 18 (3,000/6,000/1,000) on Hand #13. It happened when Charles Vargas opened to 17,500 under the gun, Norman Michalek called from middle position and Martin three-bet all in. Vargas called off and Michalek got out of the way.

Martin: {A-Spades}{A-Hearts}
Vargas: {K-Hearts}{K-Diamonds}

Allen Kessler
Allen Kessler

It was a cooler for Vargas who came from behind on the {k-Clubs}{10-Spades}{8-Clubs} flop by making a set. Unfortunately for him, the dealer burned and turned the {A-Diamonds} to give Martin a bigger set. The {9-Spades} blanked on the river, and Vargas exited in ninth place.

After Thomas Montoya and Michalek followed him out the door in eighth and seventh places respectively, John Michalak (not to be confused with Michalek) was sent to the rail on Hand #99 when he moved all in on the button holding the {a-Spades}{k-Hearts} and Martin called from the small blind with the {10-Clubs}{10-Hearts}. The board ran out {10-Diamonds}{5-Spades}{3-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}{8-Clubs}, and that was all she wrote for Michalak, who has cashed three times in the last four HPT tournaments.

“POY is in the front of my mind, I'm gunning for it,” Michalak said after his second final table of the year. From there, Kris Wagner was dispatched in fifth place while Craig Casino, who is a former HPT champ, exited after calling off all his chips with pocket aces only to run into Baca’s two pair. Casino collected $11,602 for his fourth-place finish and moved up to fifth on the HPT Player of the Year leaderboard.

On Hand #130, (Level 23: 10,000/20,000/3,000), Kessler, who won $20,000 earlier in the week when he hit a royal flush on video poker, moved all in from the small blind holding the {7-Hearts}{6-Diamonds} and was called by the {a-Diamonds}{8-Spades} of Baca. Kessler was in need of some help but found none as the board ran out a dry {5-Clubs}{2-Spades}{2-Hearts}{k-Clubs}{a-Hearts}

“The HPT structure is the best structure for this buy-in,” Kessler said. “The whole HPT environment is a friendly atmosphere and I just like playing the events.”

Heads-up play began with Baca holding a more than 3-1 chip lead over Martin, but it wouldn’t be a quick affair. The two swapped the chip lead several times, and it wouldn’t be until Hand #196 in Level 25 (15,000/30,000/4,000) that the final table would come to an end after 13 hours of play.

It happened when Martin, a retired performer, opened for 70,000 on the button and then called when Baca, the shorter stack, moved all in. It was a race, though Baca’s {9-Diamonds}{9-Hearts} was slightly ahead of Martin’s {a-Spades}{q-Hearts}. Unfortunately for Baca, the {q-Spades}{6-Spades}{4-Spades} hit Martin hard. The {Q-Diamonds} turn actually gave Martin trips, while the {2-Clubs} gave him the title and $39,082.

“I'm thrilled to be here,” Martin said, “There are some big name players. Just to be competing with them is awesome. All the TVs and cameras…it’s just surreal, I'm kind of dreaming right now.”

Champion Roger Martin
Champion Roger Martin

While he finished as runner-up, Baca took home $24,426 and took the lead in the HPT POY race, which is halfway through the season, with 96 points

“My intent is to catch the rest of the HPT tournaments to get the POY. It means a lot to me, gives me satisfaction to prove myself as a poker player,” Baca said.

The next HPT event will be held at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana from August 9th-18th, 2013.

*Photos courtesy of

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