World Series of Poker Europe

Mike Puccio Wins Heartland Poker Tour Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago for $164,249

Mike Puccio

The Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) recently completed its second stop of Season 11, which took place at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago. The $1,650 Main Event attracted 498 entrants and created a prize pool of $714,120, and after three days of play, it was landscape contractor Mike Puccio of Deerfield, Illinois, that emerged victorious to capture the $164,249 first-place prize.

"I've been excited and nervous for the last two days," Puccio said of the experience. "I haven’t been able to close my eyes. It’ll be a nice Christmas, I’ll tell you that.”

Final Table Results

1Mike PuccioDeerfield, IL$164,249
2Bledar “Blade” ShaholliSt. Clair Shores, MI$100,405
3Joshua TurnerSt. Louis$66,556
4Shiva DudaniChicago, IL$46,275
5Ben CastleWestern Springs, IL$34,635
6Arris KontosBaldwin, MI$26,780
7Nicholas LaFataSpringfield, IL$21,781
8Yaroob KaskorkisGrand Rapids, MI$17,853
9William MinerChicago, IL$14,282

According to HPT live updates, the first elimination of the final table came in Level 26 (20,000/40,000/5,000) when William Miner open-shoved under the gun and Shiva Dudani isolated by moving all in over the top.

Miner: {j-Spades}{8-Clubs}
Dudani: {q-Clubs}{q-Spades}

Miner picked up a gutshot straight draw on the {10-Spades}{7-Hearts}{3-Clubs} flop, but he failed to complete it as the {5-Hearts} blanked on the turn followed by the {7-Clubs} river. The college grad exited in ninth place and took home $14,282 for his performance.

After Yaroob “Ruby” Kaskorkis, who was at an HPT final table last month, and Nicholas LaFata, who qualified via a $375 satellite, fell in eighth and seventh places, respectively, investment banker Arris Kontos followed them out the door in sixth.

From there, Ben Castle fell in fifth when his {a-Hearts}{8-Hearts} failed to hold up against the {k-Clubs}{q-Spades} of Josh Turner, and then Dudani exited in fourth when he ran pocket tens into the jacks of Turner. Despite scoring back-to-back eliminations, Turner was the next to go when he got his stack all in holding the {a-Diamonds}{6-Clubs} and was a slight favorite against the {k-Clubs}{10-Clubs} of Bledar “Blade” Shaholli. The {k-Spades}{8-Spades}{5-Hearts} flop gave Shaholli the lead, and he held onto it as the {J-Clubs} appeared on the turn followed by the {7-Hearts} on the river. Turner took home $66,556 for finishing third while Shaholli took a nearly 3-1 chip lead into heads-up play over Puccio.

The two played for nearly three hours, during which time Puccio clawed his way into the chip lead. Then, in Level 33 (100,000/200,000/30,000), the final and went down when Shaholli got his chips all in on a {7-Diamonds}{4-Clubs}{3-} flop.

Shaholli: {a-Diamonds}{q-Diamonds}
Puccio: {7-Hearts}{3-Diamonds}

Shaholli was in trouble as Puccio had flopped two pair, but he picked up some help when the {10-Diamonds} turn delivered him a flush draw. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t come in as the {2-Clubs} blanked on the river. Shaholli finished as runner-up for $100,405, while Puccio captured the title and $164,249 first-place prize.

“It’s going to be a good Christmas this year,” Puccio told the tournament reporter after the win. “My wife’s in tears. I was worried when he had me 3-1, but then I hit a rush of cards.”

The HPT is done for the year, but returns in 2014 with a weeklong poker cruise before heading to Northern California and Reno/Tahoe.

For more on the Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago stop, check out the HPT’s interview with Greg Raymer:

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