St. Charles, MO - Computer programmer Tom Morse won a seat into the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) Main Event at Ameristar St. Charles through a $375 qualifier tournament. When it was all said and done, the Wentzville, Missouri man had beat out a field of 359 entries to win the $117,249 first-place prize.
"I'm feeling pretty good," the new champ said after the victory. "I may go play poker again tonight with my friends just to calm down!"
Coming into the weekend, Morse's career earnings on the felt totaled less than $5,000. He plans to use his new winnings to purchase rental properties.
When heads up play began, Morse faced a 4-to-1 chip deficit. His final opponent was Jeff Landherr, a local poker player. After controlling play early, it looked as though Landherr was en route to secure his first HPT title, but Morse battled back and chipped away until he had a slight lead.
On the final hand, Morse called a preflop all-in with pocket sevens. Landherr flipped over ace-king of hearts. The board did not improve his hand and Landherr was sent to the rail in second place with $74,224.
Farmer John Kurfman won his first HPT Main Event eight years ago. He was looking to add a second victory to his resume after making Monday's final table, but it wasn't in the cards. The Fishhook, Illinois resident got small-stacked and made his last stand with a suited queen-jack. Unfortunately, he was quickly called by Morse's pocket aces. A jack on the turn gave Kurfman hope, but a blank on the river sealed his fate and he was out in third place for a $49,704 score.
The feel good story at the table belonged to 73-year-old Ed Sebesta. The retiree from Richmond, Texas was making his third appearance at an HPT final table in as many months. He got his chips into the middle with ace-nine against Landherr's ace-king. Sebesta got no help from the run out and exited in fourth place. That was good for a $34,665 payday.
The generous Sebesta donates 100% of his winnings to the Congregation of Holy Cross. In total, he has accumulated more than $100,000 from HPT to give to the cause since February. In addition, the fourth-place finish catapulted Sebesta to the top of the current Player of the Year standings.
Much like Morse, Mary Sturges was able to win her seat into the event through a $375 qualifier. The Rolla, Missouri native took ninth at Ameristar St. Charles last time the tour visited the property in November. She was able to improve four spots this time around. Sturges finished in fifth place and collected $25,999.
The Ameristar St. Charles series drew great crowds all week, including a record-breaking 969-entry field for the opening $350 event. That was the largest field for a poker tournament in Missouri history. HPT has already announced that it will return to the St. Louis-area property for its season-ending Championship Open event later in the year.
Retiree Everett Lawrence found himself all in early and often at Monday's final table. Eventually his luck ran out and the Marshall, Illinois man was eliminated in sixth place with $20,391. Shortly before Everett's departure, Joseph Landazzi and Mike Urbaniak were knocked out in seventh and eighth, respectively. Landazzi earned $17,231 and Urbaniak's finish paid $14,274.
Matt Bond was the first player at the table to hit the rail. This was Bond's fifth appearance at an HPT final table, but he'll have to wait another day for his first victory. The Dallas, Texas man went out in ninth place and collected $12,286.
Next up for HPT is a trip to Chicagoland May 4-15. The opening $350 event at that series has a $200,000 guarantee and recent Main Events at Ameristar East Chicago have soared to more than $900,000. The full lineup of events can be found at HPTpoker.com.