Marquee poker events returning to Black Hawk

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It’s that time of year when professionals and skilled amateurs flood the hills of Black Hawk for a pair of events that offer sizable prize pools and television exposure.

October showcases the return of the World Poker Tour Regional event at Isle Black Hawk. The casino is hoping this second event, which had a solid debut in 2011, will improve its exposure and help crank up a poker room that’s been quiet despite major renovations last year.

Coming up first is the extremely popular Heartland Poker Tour stop at the Golden Gates, running Sept. 3-17, with the main event kicking off Sept. 12. The Mile High Poker Open is expected to draw a competitive field, including popular pro Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event.

The semiannual Golden Gates event gets bigger every time, proving the jewel in the Heartland Poker Tour crown. The April edition at the area’s top destination for tournament poker produced the largest field in HPT history with 820 players and a $1.23 million prize pool. Taking down the top prize was Steen Ronlov of nearby Westminster, who bested a field that included pros Joe Sebok and Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler.

This will be the 11th HPT event at Golden Gates, and don’t be surprised if the profitable relationship leads to another record turnout.

“The HPT crew has become like family,” Golden Gates GM Shannon Keel said. “Their grassroots background shows in everything they do.”

Full freight for the no-limit hold’em main event is $1,650, but satellites and qualifiers kick off Sept. 3, and a super qualifier is available where a seat at the main event can be earned for $180. Jen Mastrud, HPT director of operations, said this year’s event also includes cash tournaments starting at $130 as bonus events.

Figure on Raymer to feel comfortable, well, even more comfortable than usual, at the HPT tournament. In July, he won the HPT event in Albuquerque for $71,875 after advancing to the final table as chipleader. That added to more than $7 million in career winnings for the former patent attorney from Raleigh, N.C.
“I just like the attitude and demeanor on HPT,” Raymer said after the win. “Even if you knock someone out, they leave smiling.”

Meanwhile, the Isle has been trying to amp up daily play with a promotion that helps players earn seats for its main event. Dubbed the Colorado Poker Showdown, its NLHE main event expands to four days this year (Oct. 18-21).

Anyone who plays live poker until Sept. 30 has hours credited toward the event’s $1,990 buy-in. It works on a scale in 100-hour increments, and by playing a full 500 hours, a player’s seat in the Isle’s main event is essentially comped.

How that eventually affects the size of the field has yet to be seen. Last year’s event was solid for a debut, attracting a field of 207 players, and a prize pool of $310,500.

— Rick Gershman is Ante Up’s Colorado Ambassador. You can email him atrickgershman@gmail.com.