Monroe donates much of his HPT prize

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There are many ways to begin a column about September’s Heartland Poker Tour at the Golden Gates, especially when it’s the second-straight HPT event in which extraordinary weather conditions closed the main roads into Black Hawk. But this stands out most of all: The event’s winner, 62-year-old Rich Monroe of Sedalia (about 40 miles south of Denver), decided on a remarkably commendable use for his winnings: He’s donating about 30 percent of his more than $235K prize to relief for victims of the devastating Colorado floods.

Because my computer has a calculator, I can advise that comes out to about $70K, including sizable donations to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army.Just as impressive is that Monroe didn’t make a big deal about the charitable act.

“The money isn’t really a huge deal to me, because I’ve done well,” said Monroe, who retired from Accenture in 2001 and thanked the Golden Gates dealers with sizable tips.

That’s the sort of thing you might expect from one of the top pros or an extremely active (and successful) amateur, but Monroe doesn’t wholly fit that mold. He’s been playing for about eight years and had six cashes at World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas, but the HPT award eclipses Monroe’s previous best by, well, a good $220K.

Regardless, competing in a field of 716 players that included big-name pros such as Kathy Liebert, Cyndy Violette and Greg “Fossilman” Raymer (the 2012 HPT Player of the Year), it was Monroe who came out on top.

The big difference this time? “I just ran very well,” Monroe said. “I’m a player who (usually) has lots of bad luck. If it comes down to a race, I’ll get beat on the river. This time, I played really tight for most of the tournament.”

And that suckout came when it was three-handed at the final table as Monroe’s 2-5 held up against Alex Greenblatt’s pocket aces thanks to a river deuce that gave him two pair. Greenblatt had largely run roughshod over the final table to that point. Greenblatt of Atherton, Calif., finished second and cashed for more than $145K, while Denver’s Keith Love was third ($95K-plus).

The HPT had one of its best turnouts at Golden Gates, generating a prize pool of more than $1.23 million, despite the road closures caused by the floods. The March HPT event dealt with a rogue blizzard that also closed the main roads into Black Hawk on the final qualifying day, but it managed to be successful regardless.

— Email Rick Gershman at rickgershman@gmail.com.