Ari Engel was trying for his second Heartland Poker Tour title at HPT St. Charles, just outside of St. Louis. He fell just short as Matthew Donaldson beat him heads up to top the field of 407 and take down the $132,917 first-place prize.
Official Final Table Results
Jake Bazeley, Kane Lai and Kyle Cartwright were some of the players who cashed in the 45 paid spots but did not make a run to the final table.
According to the live updates, Engel was predictably the man to catch when the final table began. He went in with a slight chip lead over Nicholas Constantin.
Things kept going Engel's way early as the 2016 Aussie Millions champ quickly knocked out Mary Sturges and Nick Weber, the latter courtesy of a set-over-set situation. Then, Engel picked up the when Robert Geith shoved in his last 12 big blinds with . An ace-high runout later and Engel had almost half of the chips with six players left.
A stroke of good luck pushed Donaldson into the lead though, when he got kings in on an flop against Stephen Mitchell, who had flopped bottom two pair with . A king on the turn sent a huge pot to Donaldson.
Engel then shipped over a raise from Derek Schroeder and a call from Donaldson. Schroeder called off for about 16 big blinds with ace-king and was pleased to see he was ahead of Engel's ace-queen. However, a queen peeled off on the turn to send Schroeder out fifth.
A nasty straight-over-straight cooler left Engel with just 250,000 at blinds of 40,000/80,000/10,000 but he was able to survive, while Andrew Eisen, the beneficiary of that hand, was eventually short again four-handed. He got the last of it in with but was unable to overtake the ace-eight of Donaldson.
Donaldson held a big lead three-handed, but things got dicey for him after he handed out a few doubles to Engel and Constantin. Engel hit a pair of three-outers to survive and eventually retake the lead. Engel then sent Constantin to the rail with kings against Constantin's top pair and it was Donaldson and Engel battling for the title.
Engel had a slight lead when play began but the players were fairly deep with an average stack around 50 big blinds so there was plenty of play. After Donaldson took the lead, they got stacks in preflop after a raising war with Engel's dominating the of Donaldson. A flop of left the eight-time ring winner wanting a king or a queen, but running diamonds just improved his opponent to a flush.
With that, Donaldson had his biggest cash by far while Engel had to settle for $82,067.
Image courtesy of HPT