Heartland Poker Tour looked like a rerun Monday evening as Greg “Fossilman” Raymer picked up his second HPT title of the year and $121,973 at River City Casino. The victory, which is the secondlargest win of his career, propels him to the top of HPT’s Player of the Year race.
In July, Raymer picked up $71,875 at Albuquerque’s Route 66 Casino Hotel but went on to make a disastrous follow-up attempt at HPT’s next stop in Colorado. He fired seven bullets in the Main Event at Golden Gates Casino & Poker Room yet failed to advance to Day Two. It seemed he would not duplicate the back-to-back success that secured his status as a legend of the game. Raymer is highly regarded in poker for following up his 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event win with a 25th-place finish in the event a year later. This two-year accomplishment is considered one of the most impressive performances in poker history. Raymer proved he is still at the top of his game with two HPT victories just weeks apart. “Winning two of three tournaments is unreal and unexpected,” said the champ, “I’m just very excited.”
Another player at the table was gunning for the honor of being a two-time HPT champ. Reginald “Shawn” Roberts of Springfield, Missouri won a title in Oklahoma in 2010. He worked his way through the field of 336 players in St. Louis to fourth place for $37,810. “Having one past champion at the Final Table is rare,” said HPT Executive Producer Fred Bevill, “Two past champs made the day especially fun for us behind the scenes.” To date, only one other champion has duplicated his success on HPT. Minnesota’s Jeremy Dresch had back-to-back wins in 2009 and won a third title in 2011.
Getting his second victory in St Louis was especially meaningful for Raymer, a 1982 graduate of the city’s Parkway South High School. His classmates attended their 30-year reunion over the weekend while he stacked chips on his way to the HPT title. Another son of St Louis, pro Dennis Phillips, just missed a spot at the televised Final Table when he was eliminated in seventh place.
For the first time in his career, Raymer is a contender for a Player of the Year title. Concurrent with the calendar year, all players who cash in an HPT Main Event are ranked for POY points. With just five events remaining, many of the top contenders tried and failed to gain traction in St Louis, including Terry Presley and Gary “Lambo” Lambert. Raymer intends to play upcoming events in Iowa and Illinois to maintain his lead.
When the episodes filmed at River City air in November, viewers will see some of the best hands in HPT’s eight-year history. In the final showdown, 21-year-old Ryan Hickey of Northbrook, Illinois, tried to level Raymer’s 2-to-1 chip lead with pocket queens. All in preflop, he jumped out of his seat when Raymer revealed kings. Hickey has $69,034 in lifetime career winnings, the amount he earned for second place on HPT.
Considering he turned the legal age to play in most states just one month ago, Hickey will be one to watch at upcoming stops. Another young gun at the table, 21-year-old Alona Sushynina, can consider her first major tournament a success. The St. Louis woman survived to third place for $43,908 after eliminating the two players to her right. One of her victims was Penelope Banhidy in fifth place. The Lakewood, Ohio grandmother described herself as a poker novice, but Roberts called her bluff. “I consider Penelope to be one of the strongest players at the table. She is not a novice at all.” She’ll use her $29,272 payout to play more Heartland events. “HPT is what I can afford and I found they’re the friendliest to play.”
Sixth-place finisher Stan Jablonski agrees. Despite being eliminated in the first flop of the day, the Bullhead City, Arizona man said, “I had a great time this week and I’ve met a lot of nice people.” With his $23,906 score, he will also play more HPT events, including the next stop in Daytona Beach, Florida later this month. “I’m just here for fun,” he said.
RIVER CITY CASINO 10/1/12
NO LIMIT HOLD’EM
PRIZE POOL $487,872
1. Greg Raymer . . . . . $121,973
2. Ryan Hickey . . . . . . . $69,034
3. Alona Sushynina . . . $43,908
4. Reginald Roberts . . . $37,810
5. Penelope Banhidy . . $29,272
6. Stan Jablonski . . . . . $23,906