Massey beats record field for $177K payday

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Aaron Massey worked his way through a Chicagoland-record 538 entrants during the Heartland Poker Tour at East Chicago and won $177K after a lengthy heads-up battle with tour regular Stan Jablonski.

Massey, who held the chip lead for most of the final day, faced tough competition with Mike Mustafa at the final table, 2013 HTP Player of the Year Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler, Craig Casino and Edward Ochana, making it in the money.

It was two in a row for Massey, heads-up at a Chicagoland HPT main event, losing to Ochana last December. He’s fourth on HPT’s all-time money list.

Massey started playing in 2002, spends 11 months traveling the country and is one of the most successful tournament players to come out of the Windy City, winning nine tournaments, including two WSOPC rings and 81 cashes.

Jablonski, who was short-stacked at the final table, increased his stack three-handed, then made a run at Massey heads-up. The Bullhead City, Ariz., resident, has been one of the HPT’s most successful players, trailing Casino for HPT all-time cashes. This second-place finish was his best, winning $108K.

HPT’s inaugural event at Ameristar East Chicago turned out to be a big hit with the players.

“This place is awesome,” said Dawn Sanders, who made a HPT final table in 2012.

“The experience at Ameristar East Chicago was so nice, I expect the prize pool to exceed $1 million in the near future,” HPT co-host Fred Bevill said.

HPT Event 1 had Alex Hayes finishing on top of 765 entries, winning $38K. Bob Chow, who won an HPT main event last year, earned $5K after winning Event 2. Winstar Holt won $5K for Event 3 ando cashed in the main event. Kyle Fobe won Event 4 (no-limit Omaha) for $7K.

TROPICANA EVANSVILLE: Charlie Dawson won the inaugural Mid-States Poker Tour at Tropicana Evansville for $60K. The Kentucky native has 51 cashes since 2005 for $387K.

Nick Pupillo, 22, of Chicago made the final table, finishing seventh. Pupillo has an impressive record for his first year, finishing 12th in the WSOP Monster Stack for $100K. He alss has an HPT final table and 12 cashes.

“Being my first trip, I didn’t know what to expect,” Pupillo said. “Tropicana Evansville was great, and the MSPT was very well-run.”

The Tropicana took over the Evansville casino last year and since then the 10-table poker room has experienced many improvements. The $1-$3 game is most popular and players are allowed to buy in for half the largest stack at the table. Big O is played Mondays and Tuesdays as a $2-$5 pot-limit game.

— Email “Chicago” Joe at chicago.joe@comcast.net.