Chris Karambinis, who started playing poker at Rockford Charitable Games, topped a field of 3,092 entries to win the Chicago Poker Classic’s $350 opener, walking away with $168K. The 22-year-old phenom has 21 career cashes and won his first World Series of Poker Circuit ring last year in Cincinnati.
Shawn Rice, who learned how to play poker from Amarillo Slim, made the final table, along with Nick Jivkov, who has one WSOP bracelet and three WSOPC rings.
Local poker pros Ralph Massey (19th) and brother Aaron (47th) came to town just for the CPC, which was still running at press time.
MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL: Chicagoland poker was in the dark ages until the Heartland Poker Tour arrived in 2006. As the cameras began to roll, a talented group of unknowns entered the national spotlight.
Three of the top six HPT all-time money-winners are from here. Greg Raymer, who tops the list, is a former resident, and 16 Chicagoans are in the top 100, more than any other city or state.
Craig Casino, with 12 cashes and a win at Golden Gates Casino, is second and has been in a sea-saw battle Raymer.
Leon Morford, third on the list, started playing poker in the ’60s, but it wasn’t until late 2000 that he started taking the game seriously.
Morford won the HPT Championship Open in 2007, won a Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in 2004 and was runner-up at Mid-States Poker Tour’s recent main event at Majestic Star.
Dan Zogman who was the HPT’s third tournament winner at Majestic Star, has seven cashes and is sixth on the all-time money-winners list.
His wife, Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman, was the biggest success story to come out of Chicagoland, winning the HPT’s 2008 Player of the Year.
Her three TV final tables are the most by a woman and her seven cashes combined with her husband’s is HPT’s best by a married couple.
“The HPT truly gives the everyday Average Joe, or in my case Mary Jo, the opportunity to step up and see how good they are,” she said.
OMAHA LOVE: The best place to play Omaha in Chicagoland is the Horseshoe, which offers a bad beat for Omaha players.
The jackpot starts at $5K with $1K added weekly.
The qualifier is quad 10s as PLO and Omaha/8 are both eligible.
— Email “Chicago” Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org.