Murray wins Eastern Poker Tour TOC

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After grinding out countless hands, surviving bold bluffs and sick bad beats, 38 New England finalists converged at Seabrook Racetrack on March 19 to compete in the Eastern Poker Tour’s Tournament of Champions.

John Murray of Mansfield, Mass., won the $12K World Series of Poker package for first place. All 38 players started the day in the money, with second place paying $5K.

The contest spanned several months and included players from the EPT’s Massachusetts and Rhode Island pub poker leagues as well as players from three New Hampshire poker rooms (Rockingham Park, Seabrook and the River Room in Milford).

Players who placed in the top 15 percent for points and those who finished first at any EPT pub or poker room event were eligible to play in two-day events spanning two weekends in March. These semifinals whittled the field of 1,000-plus down to 38.

Comcast Sports Net was on hand to record the EPT championship tourney, which will be televised in nine states this year.

SCAM AT THE STONE: Most gamblers know better than to try to scam the house, which has about as much chance of success as a naïve newcomer sitting with Vegas pros at a no-limit table. A Connecticut man who claimed a $45,000 bad-beat jackpot recently tried to pull a fast one at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y. After he beat a player with quads, he collected the jackpot and skedaddled. The hand loser collected $90K and the other players at the table divvied up $45K.

A few days later another player told the casino the bad-beat guy obtained his prize fraudulently. He didn’t have a legitimate Poker Club Card that all players are required to present to win a jackpot prize. Review of the surveillance tapes revealed another player at the table slipped a card to the bad-beat player so he could claim the $45K.

Director of poker Jason Dibenedetto admits the casino is partly to blame for failing to detect the scam immediately. Turning Stone was able to track down the scammer and threatened a lawsuit.

“People forget that casinos have video cameras constantly watching what goes on,” Dibenedetto said. “The player was contrite about his mistake and returned some of the money; I don’t know how much.”

Lesson learned: Remember, every inch of a casino or poker room is under surveillance, so think twice about engaging in any nefarious schemes. Though your actions might not be criminal, you could find yourself banned from the room, blacklisted at other casinos and basically reviled for being exposed as a cheat.

GRANITE STATE TABLES EXPANDED GAMBLING: In March, the New Hampshire legislature tabled a bill to expand legalized gambling. The bill would have paved the way for casinos and slot machines in that state. Currently the state only allows charitable gaming with a percentage of the proceeds going to non-profit organizations. There are several charitable gaming rooms in New Hampshire that offer poker tournaments, cash games and casino favorites such as Let It Ride, blackjack and three-card poker. The bill would’ve increased the betting limit, which is capped at $4 per bet. There will be no further legislative action on the expanding gambling proposal until 2012.

UPCOMING NORTHEAST EVENTS: The Mega Stack Challenge is back at Foxwoods from May 14–22 with a guaranteed prize pool of $600K. The series features 14 events with tournament entries at cheap as $120 with a prize pool of $10K, and four two-day events with entry fees of $300, $400, $600 and $1,200. There are $80 satellites running May 2-20 leading up to the $1,200 main event on May 21 with a guaranteed prize pool of $150K. Visit foxwwoods.com for tournament details.

Turning Stone is hosting the East Coast Poker Championships from May 12-22. Weekday tournaments have entries as low as $100 and there are several deepstack bounty tournaments on the schedule. The two-day $1,650 main event starts May 21. The High Heels Poker Tour is sponsoring a ladies-only event on May 21, too.

Visit turningstone.com to check out the tournament schedule.

— Kay Fitzpatrick is a journalist and avid player at New England poker rooms. She recently wrote a series of strategy blogs for Everest Poker, and is a dealer at the River Room in Milford, N.H.