Erwin doing it right for Thunder Valley poker



From buy-in to structure, Thunder Valley’s director of poker Ben Erwin achieved for his Harvest Hold’em Series what all tournament directors strive for when it comes to setting up an event: the sweet spot. Erwin knew his main event on Nov. 24 would attract a good turnout, especially after the above-average fields for preliminary events, and he was confident the spacious poker room (boasting 21 tables) would be able to accommodate all. He had no idea he’d end up having to turn away more than 70 players because of space constrictions.

Though there was obviously some disappointment from those who were shut out, he handled the situation gracefully, guaranteeing steps will be taken to accommodate all players for the next series (scheduled in March). With a starting field of 177 and more than $40K in the prize pool, the cards were in the air at 11 a.m., further demonstrating Erwin’s ability to maintain professionalism among chaos.
The action was exciting but even-paced, and about 13 hours later Walter Klenhard, a television movie writer from Woodland, and Bruce Angeski, a cardio vascular perfusionist from Sacramento, made a final-table deal netting each about $12,000 and a share of first-place honors. Observing them at the final table, it was evident their playing styles were different, which piqued my curiosity. They were gracious enough to stick around to chat afterward, and both were able to analytically dissect their play and clearly explain their strategies for each decision at the final table.

Klenhard loves music and plays guitar in a local band and Angeski runs three miles a day and works out regularly. My hat is off to these well-rounded champions.

After the tournament concluded I found that Erwin was still full of energy and planning for the future. He showed me where he plans to put additional tournament tables and spoke of possibly splitting the field into two flights for the next series. His enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself wanting to come back … as a player.

I usually do single-day trips to get material for Ante Up, but this time I wanted to get the whole Thunder Valley experience. My wife and I stayed in the hotel and found the accommodations worthy of their four-diamond rating. We ate at the Koi Palace restaurant and enjoyed the wonderful food and outstanding service.

My better half also spent a couple of hours in the spa, after which she reported the technicians were skilled and professional and the setting elegant. Taking the entire resort into consideration with the fantastic poker room and staff, casino-wide promotions and dining and hotel value, a great getaway at Thunder Valley is waiting for you.

— Bret Miller is the Ante Up Ambassador for Northern California. Email him at

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine