Raffi Der Gregorian listed his career earnings at $0 before he outlasted the field in the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa to join the elite club of HPT champions. He can adjust his earnings to $74,276 now. Der Gregorian found himself among the final nine under the lights at the September event after winning his seat through a $200 qualifier. He had the third-smallest stack when play began, but a combination of luck and smart play left him with just one opponent standing between him and the HPT title, pro Michael Rocco of Tustin, Calif. In the last hand of the tournament, Rocco went all-in with two overs and a straight draw. None of his outs came and he was sent to the rail in second place with $45,803.
“This is my first experience with HPT,” the new champ said. “I like it.” The electrical contractor plans to put most of his winnings into savings, but he said he’ll use some to play more tournaments and go on a vacation.
The first hand at the final table brought two eliminations. HPT veteran Stan Jablonski was one of the casualties.
This was his second trip to a nationally televised final table in three weeks after a runner-up finish in East Chicago. Overall, the Bullhead City, Ariz., business owner has made six final tables, but he’s still chasing that elusive HPT title. He earned $8,046 for his ninth-place finish. The other player eliminated was Alex Madriaga of Holtville, Calif. Both were eliminated by popular pro Allen Cunningham.
Cunningham came into the day with the largest stack. After the first hand, he had a massive lead on the competition and looked poised to cruise to victory. But he wasn’t able to get much traction after that and found himself hitting the rail in fourth place ($21,973).
Just three hands later, Chris Tolone of Anaheim was knocked out in third place when his pocket deuces were unable to hold against Rocco’s ace-10. He took home $30,948.
Bob McMillan found himself at the final table on an investment of only $185. The Prescott, Ariz., native made the best of his small starting stack, parlaying the $185 into a fifth-place finish for a score of $17,021.
“I might take my family on a vacation next summer in Maine for my 50th high school reunion,” the retiree said.
Ronald Segni knew he would have to get lucky to make a run at the coveted HPT title. He had the least amount of chips when play began. He managed to make the most of his stack to finish sixth ($13,927).
Brent Thompson found himself all-in before the flop with pocket jacks against Tolone’s pocket kings. He earned $11,606 for the seventh-place finish.
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