Bisson wins Winter Poker Classic after chop

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Talking Stick Resort’s third annual Winter Classic again put together a solid field playing for the second largest prize pool of the year in Arizona.

The $330 tournament, held March 15-17 in Talking Stick’s Arena Poker Room, drew 456 players, but $300 rebuys and add-ons drove the prize pool to $236,100.

After two opening flights, 58 players moved on to the final day with only 50 spots making the money. That made for a tense start to the day, but the money bubble didn’t take that long to burst, setting off a wave of eliminations.

The first players knocked out earned $944, but the real money didn’t start showing up until the final two tables. That’s also where some of the more well-known players in the field started popping up on the pay charts, with multiple World Series of Poker Circuit casher Steve Massey busting in 17th place for $2,196.

With Kevin Camping’s elimination in 11th, earning him $2,668, the final table was set with the remaining 10 players fighting for $174K.

Phoenix pro Ryan Hughes was knocked out in fifth, adding $13,576 to his more than $1.6 million in career tournament earnings, while Chandler’s An Tran (not to be confused with the WSOP bracelet-winner) went out fourth for $16,173.

The three remaining players (Henri Bisson, Daniel Hirleman and Tony Nguyen) ended up negotiating a chop that gave Bisson the top payout at $40K. Hirleman earned $35K to follow up his third-place finish in last year’s Arizona State Championship, while Nguyen was third ($33,690).

With the Classic in the books, preparations are under way for the 10th annual Arizona State Poker Championship, scheduled for Aug. 15-19. Last year’s event drew a record 1,299 players.

NEW CASINO: The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe announced in late March it is planning to build a new casino/hotel complex that is projected to open in winter 2016.

The 12-acre property is on the north side of Highway 69, just east of the tribe’s existing gaming operations, Bucky’s Casino and Yavapai Casino. The new complex likely will consolidate the other gaming operations into one facility.

The new casino is expected to have 50,000 square feet of gaming space, as well as a hotel with 60-80 rooms, restaurants and convention/event areas.

The tribe hopes to break ground on the new project this fall, but in the meantime the Bucky’s poker room will continue to spread a variety of games and offer several weekly tournaments.

— Email Brian at anteupsouthernaz@gmail.com.