November Niner Collins takes down Palms HPT event

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November Niner Phil Collins took home top honors at the Heartland Poker Tour’s $1,500 main event at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas on April 12. It was the first live victory of his career, if you don’t count the $40 22-player nightly tournament at Harrah’s he won shortly after moving to Sin City, that is.

This time around, Collins bested 195 players and a strong final table that featured Matt Marafioti, Steve “gboro780” Gross, poker commentator Dan O’Brien and World Series of Poker bracelet-winner Leo Wolpert. Terry Presley, who won a HPT event in February and leads the POY race, was the only amateur.

One of the top tournament players of the past five years (he’s amassed more than $1.5 million in online earnings), USCPhildo saw Black Friday as an opportunity. “I’m very happy in Vegas. My wife has a job; she works as a physical therapist here, so moving out of the country to play online was never really an option. One of my first and immediate takes was: It’s time to get good at live poker. Black Friday helped me find the motivation to put in hours at the casino.”

Collins received $71,556 for the win, his second largest live cash, eclipsed only by the $2.2 million he earned for finishing fifth in the 2011 WSOP main event. — Todd Lamansky