East Chicago, IN - Minnesota's Rob Wazwaz defeated a field of 526 entries to win his first Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) title at Ameristar East Chicago on Monday. For the victory, Wazwaz collects $173,385, the winner's bracelet, and a $3,600 package to play in the HPT Championship Open at the end of the year.
"I just feel amazing," said the new champ with a grin from ear to ear. "Just going to spoil my family. Wonderful event. Wonderful venue. Great place. Great tournament and I loved it."
Wazwaz is a businessman by trade, though the HPT win puts his career earnings total on the felt over the $1 million mark. In addition to spoiling the family, he plans to invest the winnings into the purchase of a new home. This was Wazwaz's first time playing an HPT event at Ameristar East Chicago.
"It was better than most of the tournaments I've ever played," he said. "I will be back and I will be following the HPT a lot more than I ever did."
The eventual champ came into the day second in chips. The only competitor that had a bigger stack at the start was Munster, Indiana's Matthew Culp. In the end, the two squared off for the cash and the title. The stacks were relatively even at the start of heads up play but Wazwaz picked up a few key pots and found himself with a decent chip lead. On the final hand the two got all of the chips in the middle with Wazwaz holding pocket nines to Culp's ace-six. The nines held and Culp went home as the runner-up. The second-place finish was good for a $105,990 payday.
Casey Carroll came into the final table one year after winning the same event. The Wyoming, Michigan man played well early on and for a moment he seemed destined to repeat as champion. On his final hand, Carroll got all the chips in ahead as held the ace-king to Wazwaz's ace-jack. He was on the verge of a double up when a jack hit the river and sent Carroll to the rail in third place with $70,258.
It was a busy week for HPT at Ameristar East Chicago. The series marked the ninth time the tour has visited the Chicagoland property. In total, HPT has awarded more than $8 million in prize pool money at Ameristar East Chicago. The series kicked off with a bang when over 1,100 players came out for the opening $350 event. The success carried on throughout the week. HPT returns to the venue for another tour stop in late August.
Milwaukee's Hao Sun became the fourth-place finisher at Monday's final table when he ran his pocket tens into Culp's pocket jacks. The board failed to produce a ten and Sun, a CPA, collected $48,849 for his efforts. Shortly before Sun's exit, Operations Tech Brian Berend also fell at the hands of Culp. Berend, a North Dakota native, walked away with $36,561.
Local retiree Gary Herstein has several career cashes with HPT but this was his first final table. After doubling up early, it appeared that Herstein was poised to make a run at the title. Alas, Herstein found himself shortstacked and went all in with pocket sixes only to be called by Wazwaz's pocket kings. Herstein was knocked out in sixth place and took home $28,269.
Seventh-place finisher Alan Krockey will have to wait another day for his first HPT title as well. The local public adjustor came in with one of the smaller stacks and never got much going. He earned $22,992 for his efforts.
Futures trader Chris Moon was making his second appearance under the bright lights of an HPT final table. The Detroit man was hoping to improve on his second place finish back in 2015, but it wasn't meant to be. Moon went out in eighth place for $18,846.
The first player to be eliminated at the table was Toronto's Paul Sokoloff. The semi-retiree made the best of his first HPT cash, taking home $15,077 for ninth place.
Next up for HPT is a return visit to Black Hawk, Colorado in July. That series begins as most players are wrapping up their summer at WSOP. For a full schedule of upcoming events, visit HPTpoker.com.
All Paid Players Listed at HPTpoker.com
Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago
East Chicago, IN
May 15, 2017
Main Event: 526
Total Prize Pool: $757,440
1st: Rob Wazwaz (Brooklyn Park, MN) $173,385
2nd: Matthew Culp (Munster, IN) $105,990
3rd: Casey Carroll (Wyoming, MI) $70,258
4th: Hao Sun (Franklin, WI) $48,849
5th: Brian Berend (Wahpeton, ND) $36,561
6th: Gary Herstein (Chicago, IL) $28,269
7th: Alan Krockey (Chicago, IL) $22,992
8th: Chris Moon (Detroit, MI) $18,846
9th: Paul Sokoloff (Toronto, ON) $15,077
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