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The first leg of Season XVI Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) closed out on January 20 at the Ameristar East Chicago. The showstopper event at the halt, the $1,650 Main Event, featured three starting flights that brought in a total of 520 contenders (Day 1A – 97, Day 1B – 172, and Day 1C – 251) between them. It was Greg “FossilMan” Raymer (cover image) who ultimately came out on top to extend his own record for most HPT Main Event wins by taking down his fifth HPT title. He defeated Evan Bethyo heads-up to win $171,411 in prize money and a $3,500 Championship package for the season-ending HPT Season XVI Championship.
“It feels great,” said Raymer, the 2012 HPT Player of the Year, to HPT Tournament Director Jeremy Smith after his thumping victory. The win boosted his lifetime live tournament earnings to over $8 million and brought him up to third on the HPT’s all-time career earnings list, only behind Craig Casino and Reginald “Shawn” Roberts.
The 2004 WSOP champion, Raymer, overcame a 2:1 chip deficit head-up to the start-of-the-day chip leader Evan Bethyo.
Raymer doubled up on the very first hand of the heads-up play with his rivered pair of queens for a better two pair. He said, “When I catch the queen on the river to make a better two pair, that’s just luck. There’s a lot of luck in poker, and there’s a lot more luck in heads-up poker, because if you fold every time you don’t have top pair or better, you’re gonna get run over and you’ll have no shot. Evan did not let me run him over at all. I’ll definitely say luck was on my side in the heads-up play, for sure.”
On his nickname and giving players a fossil card protector, Raymer said, “I started using a fossil as a card protector a long time ago and got the nickname ‘FossilMan.’ Since ’08, it occurred to me that I might as well take that fossil and give it to the person that knocks me out. So every single tournament is a new fossil. This one goes in the trophy case, with all those other HPT titles, with the (WSOP) Main Event title, and every little other tournament that I’ve won in the last fifteen years.”
Day 2 saw 89 survivors (15 Day 1A, 29 Day1B, and 45 Day1C) returning for a shot at the title, and it was a tight race to the money with only fifty-four places paid.
A bevy of notables fell short of making it into the money, and this included names like Sam Vizza, Craig Trost, Michael VanderWoude.
Greg Baird ended up hitting the rail on the money bubble in 55th place to become the last player to fall out empty-handed, leaving the rest of the field in the money for at least $3,205.
Some of the privileged that secured a slice of the $745,300 prize pool included David Kenniston (11th for $12,074), Kevin Maahs (16th for $6,931), Brent Ballentine (21st for $5,292), Ravi Raghavan (25th for $5,292), Roger Campbell (26th for $5,292), Alex Ziskin (34th for $4,323), former HPT Player of the Year Aaron Johnson (39th for $3,503), former HPT Ameristar East Chicago champions Gary Herstein (41st for $3,503), and Nick Davidson (48th for $3,205) and Robert Keeling (54th for $3,205).
Brian Brunner became the last elimination of the day when his pocket sixes lost the flip against Dale Hackney’s Ace-Nine of spades to set up the official final table.
Nine players took a seat on Day 3 with Evan Bethyo (3,355,000) entering the final table as the chip leader. The eventual winner Greg Raymer (2,275,000), was the closest competitor, followed by Bohdan Slyvinskyi (2,010,000). Tim Barany (1,375,000), Dale Hackney (1,125,000), and Benjamin Craig (315,000) were all sporting the shortest three stacks at the start of the final table.
Final Table Chip Counts
Final Table Recap
The two short stacks – Benjamin Craig and Dale Hackney were the first to be eliminated in ninth and eighth place, respectively.
Matt Schurter and Bohdan Slyvinski grinded out a short stack for the next few levels before exiting while holding weak aces that ran into their opponent’s ace-jack to bust in seventh and sixth respectively.
The remaining five players fought it out for another hour before the flood gates of eliminations opened up, and the field was reduced to two within twenty minutes.
Tim Barany went out in fifth when his ran into Evan Bethyo’s pocket aces.
Next in line was Marc Yofon in fourth place when Evan Bethyo’s flopped a set to crack Yofon’s .
Soon after Yofon, David Gutfreund’s got crushed by Greg Raymer’s , resulting in his departure in third place.
Evan Bethyo started heads up with a 2:1 chip lead over Greg Raymer but lost it on the very first hand when his flopped two pairs of jacks and treys were rivered by Raymer’s two pairs of queens and fives. The very next hand, Raymer turned a wheel when Bethyo folded top pair with ace-jack after Raymer shoved the river.
Bethyo got back into the game by doubling up when he hit trips against Raymer’s top pair, but Raymer gradually extended his lead before the final hand of the tournament took place. On a board reading , Bethyo called Raymer’s check-raised all-in move with . Raymer held for a turned two pairs to eliminate Bethyo in second place to claim his fifth HPT title.
Final Table Results (USD)
Content & Images Courtesy: Heartland Poker Tour and Poker News