Local Man Wins Six Figures on HPT

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Published on:
Nov/08/2017

Washington, Pennsylvania (November 6, 2017) - Poker enthusiasts in the Pittsburgh market have been asking for a Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) event for quite some time.

This week, the nationally recognized tour made its first visit to the area with a series at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino. It was an event that Austin Wentling won't soon forget. The local man was crowned Main Event champion on Monday to the tune of $102,248.

The last several hands of the tournament were among the most memorable in HPT history. Wentling, a semi-pro poker player from Monroeville, found himself heads up against business owner John Yocca from Venetia. The two battled back and forth and were both within one card of winning the tournament multiple times, only to be outdrawn by the other.

On the final hand, they got all of the chips in the middle with Yocca holding ace-queen to Wentling's pocket twos. An ace on the turn caused Yocca to celebrate, but the river two gave Wentling the winning hand and sent Yocca to the exit in second place with $62,502. Wentling's rail of supporters erupted and swarmed the new champ with hugs and cheers.

"I've got some good friends," said Wentling after the event. "They were very enthusiastic. They're happy for me. I love those guys. It was definitely special to have them here."

In impressive fashion, Wentling only had $135 invested in the tournament after winning his seat through one of HPT's signature qualifiers earlier in the week. There were 462 total entries in the Main Event which created a prize pool of $448,140. More than double the $200,000 guarantee that The Meadows had placed on the event. Among the notables to play over the course of the weekend were Darvin Moon, Craig Casino, Stan Jablonski, Cord Garcia, and Ari Engel.

Pittsburgh's Josh McFall started the day with the most chips. Like many poker players in the area, this was McFall's first time playing in an HPT event. He certainly made the best of it, making a run at the title all day before being ousted by Yocca in third place for a $41,431 payday.

Salem, Ohio business owner Mark Bowersock exited in fourth place when his top pair was outkicked by McFall. He earned $28,806 for his efforts. Shortly before Bowersock's departure, Casey Yontz was also eliminated at the hands of McFall when his ace-six failed to outdraw his opponent's ace-queen. Yontz collected $21,560 for the fifth-place finish.

Operations manager John Kulp stayed quiet most of the day, climbing the pay ladder by letting the other players eliminate one another. The Cranberry Township resident eventually made his move with pocket eights, but they didn't hold up against Yontz's ace-king. Kulp was knocked out in sixth place, good for $16,670.

The most recognizable face at the table belonged to Frankfort, Kentucky's Kurt Jewell. Jewell has more than $1.4 million in career earnings on the felt, including a third place finish in an HPT event earlier this year. The poker professional's experience playing under the bright lights wasn't enough to propel him to victory this time. Jewell would settle for a seventh-place finish and a $13,558 payday.

Much like the eventual winner, Pittsburgh's Larry Pileggi found himself at the final table on a $150 investment. Pileggi, a professor by trade, managed to parlay that into an $11,114 score by finishing in eighth place.

Pittsburgh contractor Johnny Orth was the first player of the day to be eliminated. The ninth-place finish earned him $8,891.

The next HPT series is already underway at Belterra Casino Resort in Southern Indiana. The tour will round out the year with a stop at Ameristar St. Charles just outside of St. Louis next month.

"I think I may have to come and try to defend the title next week," said HPT's newest champ. "You will definitely see me in December."

For a full list of upcoming stops, along with schedules and hotel offers, visit HPTpoker.com.

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