Snowstorm be damned! Poker players brave weather

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March’s Heartland Poker Tour stop at Golden Gates was wrapping up its main event at press time, so we’ll be breaking down the results in next month’s issue. What we can report is the HPT remains popular whenever it visits Black Hawk.

The event had a prize pool that exceeded $1 million with a first-place award that topped $225K. Second-and third-place payouts were tabbed to be more than $139K and $91K, respectively.
Granted, that’s down a bit from last April’s event, in which 67-year-old Steen Ronlov won almost $270K from a pool of more than $1.2 million. The number of main-event players also fell a bit, from 820 last spring to 671 this time around.

For comparison, the HPT event at Golden Gates in September drew 739, the second-largest field in HPT history at the time, and had a pool of more than $1.1 million. Mike Harris pocketed more than $245K for that main-event win.

To be fair, last spring’s event was a record-breaker, with the 820-player field amounting to the largest in the history of the HPT and in Colorado. That’s a tough feat to match, and there’s also the matter of the weather.

The 2013 spring event likely lost some players because of a snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow on Black Hawk and surrounding areas, causing a nearby stretch of State Road 119 (the main road into Black Hawk) and a part of neighboring Interstate 70 to close for a healthy chunk of the day. Up in these mountains, there are only a couple of options to get anywhere. When a road is closed, it can take some time to find a workaround.

The closed roads likely kept out some players hoping to register for Flight D, the final flight to get into the main event (and typically a busy flight at the Golden Gates stop), or to play in the final single-table satellites running that day for a main-event seat.

The tournament was moved up one month this year, so the risk of weather-related issues was a bit more. HPT director of operations Jen Mastrud told Ante Up in January the scheduling change was simply a matter of logistics: “We had to juggle some things on our schedule to get more events on the calendar in 2013.”

Given all that, the HPT certainly had a solid turnout at Golden Gates, especially considering the new kid on the block: a World Series of Poker Circuit event scheduled to kick off at the neighboring Lodge just a few days after the HPT wrapped. The Lodge was running 35 tables for the main event and expecting a field of more than 400, with many HPT players relaxing in the mountains for a few days and then jumping right back into the action.

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