Robert West, an electrician from Lincoln Park, Mich., navigated a huge field to capture the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event at Soaring Eagle Casino Resort in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
The standout field included some of poker’s most elite players, such as Annie Duke, Joe Sebok and Kathy Liebert. World Series of Poker’s 2009 main event champ Joe Cada played, as did his runner-up, Darvin Moon.
In the end, a well-timed three on the river gave West a straight for the $234,410 victory and HPT championship title.
The main event attracted 545 players, a 32 percent increase over the same event last year.
Had runner-up Brandon Barnes won, the 18-year-old from Dearborn Heights, Mich., would have been the youngest HPT champion in history.
“I played to the best of my ability,” he said. “It feels pretty amazing, to be honest.”
The $117,205 second-place prize will help his goal of avoiding a 9-to-5 job. In contrast, Dave Goddard will use some of the $70,323 he won in third place to pay for higher education, though not for him. The White Lake, Mich., man has three daughters in college.
Barnes was responsible for a double elimination on the bubble, sending five players to the TV table for the second time in HPT’s seven-year history.
Short-stacked Sean Roy left with $23,988 in seventh place while Charles Geckle earned $39,068 for sixth.
Phil DeLaney of Dearborn Heights made his way to the TV table for the second time. Two years ago he won HPT’s Championship Open at Soaring Eagle for $127,058.
A repeat wasn’t in the cards, however, sending DeLaney home in fifth with $46,882.
“I’m happy with the decisions I made and how I played,” he said.
All but two HPT champions from 2011 descended on Soaring Eagle for their last crack at the coveted Player of the Year title. Though Scott Hastings, Craig Casino and Jordan Jayne led the race going into the weekend, Nate Geise and Randy Pfeifer showed promise on day two.
Either needed a 10th-place cash to lock it up. Geise went out 34th with Pfeifer right behind him in 33rd. With all other champs out of the way, Hastings became HPT’s seventh POY just one month after playing, and winning, his first HPT event.