The Heartland Poker Tour $1,650 Main Event at Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago attracted 366 entrants and created a prize pool of $524,040. The tournament attracted some of the area's top players such as Greg "Fossilman" Raymer, Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler, Craig "The Legend" Casino, and the tour's current Player of the Year Aaron Massey; however, in the end it was another familiar face sitting with all the money.
Nick Pupillo, a Mid-States Poker Tour Team Pro who was recently the subject of a PokerNews feature piece, scored the largest prize of his career by becoming the newest HPT champion for $120,537.
Pupillo played exceptionally well at the televised final table, but leading up to it he had to get lucky with 12 players remaining. That is when he got all in preflop holding pocket jacks against the aces of Phil Gilreath. Fortunately for Pupillo, the board ran out to give him a straight and new life. It was an opportunity he didn't waste.
"I was almost out," said Pupillo. "I enjoyed today … thanks everybody for all the positive vibes and gratz."
Final Table Results
|1||Nick Pupillo||Addison, IL||$120,537|
|2||Ronald Rindone||Prospect Heights, IL||$74,414|
|3||Robert Castoire||Cecilia, KY||$49,522|
|4||Timothy Shanks||Saint John, IN||$34,325|
|5||Reginald "Shawn" Roberts||Springfield, MO||$25,940|
|6||Aurelian Furcoiu||East Peoria, IL||$20,176|
|7||Thomas Koral||Chicago, IL||$16,769|
|8||Joel Casper||Elmhurst, IL||$13,887|
|9||Bryan Livingston||Elgin, IL||$11,738|
According to updates from the event, Brian Livingston and Joel Casper, who won an HPT event back in 2006, were the first to fall, and they were followed out the door by Chicago poker pro Tom Koral, who fell in Level 25 (15,000/30,000/4,000) when three players saw a flop of . Three checks brought about the turn, Tim Shanks bet 70,000, and Robert Castoire folded. Koral called and then moved all in after Shanks checked the river. Shanks, who had qualified for the tournament for just $200, snap-called with the for a straight, which bested the two pair of Koral.
After Aurelian Furcoiu, an East Peoria engineer, exited in sixth place, HPT legend and three-time champ Reginald "Shawn" Roberts bowed out in fifth. The business owner from Springfield, Missouri, who was at his eighth HPT final table – which puts him atop the list of all-time HPT Final Table appearances – fell after getting his short stack all in holding the and failed to improve against the of Ron Rindone. Roberts' fifth-place finish helped pad his lead on the Season XI Player of the Year race.
From there Shanks and Castoire exited in fourth and third place respectively, which left Rindone holding a two-to-one chip lead over Pupillo in heads-up play. Still, the youngster, who is the oldest of seven children, held strong, evened the stacks, and then pulled out to a big chip lead of his own.
In what would be the final hand of the tournament, which happened in Level 28 (30,000/60,000/10,000), Pupillo raised to 160,000 and then called when Rindone, a poker veteran with more than 50 years of experience, moved all in.
The flop didn't do much for Rindone, and neither did the turn. Rindone needed an ace on the river to survive, but it was not meant to be as the useless peeled off. Rindone took home $74,414 for his runner-up finish.
"I'm going to play the World Series of Poker in the summer and see where I go," said Pupillo, who famously turned a $2,400 loan from his grandparents into 12th-place finish in last year's WSOP Monster Stack for $99,981. Needless to say, he won't have to borrow a bankroll from grandma and grandpa this year.
The HPT will take a break as the poker world turns its attention to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. The next stop will be the HPT Prairie Meadows from July 24 through May 3.
For more on Pupillo's win, check out the HPT's Indiana East Chicago Final Table Wrap: