Firekeepers sets Michigan poker tournament record



FireKeepers Casino Hotel hosted the largest tournament in Michigan history on May 15-17 when the Mid-States Poker Tour returned with its series.There were 614 entries, which broke the record by 97 entries FireKeepers set in last October’s event.This created a prize pool of $614K as Owosso, Mich., resident Mark Rubenstein (aka Harry Tisdale) taking home the first-place prize of $142,637.

While former FireKeepers MSPT champion Jason Zarlenga made another deep run, finishing fourth, Rubenstein took home the title after beating William Rogers in a quick 10-minute heads-up match, which ended with a cooler when both players flopped trips.

Rubenstein limped with A-6 and Rogers checked his option with 6-2.The flop came 6-6-3 and both players slow-played with checks.A 10 on the turn prompted Rogers to lead out for 150K and Rubenstein raised to 450K. Rogers made it 1M to go and Rubenstein shoved.Rogers snap-called only to see he was drawing thin.A seven on the river sealed the win for Rubenstein, but Rogers took home $80,201 for second.

The rest of the final-table results are as follows: Nicholas Aranda, $50,497; Zarlenga, $40,992; Jeremy Gramble, $32,674; Nick Pupillo, $27,031; Xingjun Chen, $21,684; Thomas Theisen, $16,337; Ryan Michael, $11,288 and Sean Munjal, $7,723.

“FireKeepers poker room participation in the MSPT has consistently grown over the five events we have hosted,” VP of table games Lance Allen said. “Top poker players from around the region love playing for the largest cash prizes and this year’s MSPT event, our fifth, produced a record breaking prize pool, which generated cash for the top 63 competitors.”

FireKeepers hosts the MSPT Michigan State Championship on Oct. 10-18.


MESKWAKI CASINO: The Mid-States Poker Tour returns to Tama on July 18-26 with another $300K guarantee, this time billed as the Iowa Poker Championship. In addition, the most active cash games in Iowa occur during this event with NLHE and Omaha, so even if you aren’t into tournaments this is still the place to be during the third week in July.

RIVERSIDE CASINO: Tucker Stone was crowned the WPT DeepStacks champion, winning $33,254. Colin Lovelock found himself in the lead as head-up action began against Stone. But in what was the biggest pot of the night, he got crushed when Stone pushed all-in with a pair of deuces when Lovelock held a pair of aces. Lovelock snap-called, but the cards ran out and Stone ended up with a straight and 85 percent of the chips. A few hands later, Lovelock’s bad run sent him to the rail as his pair of sixes lost to A-6.


RUNNING ACES HARNESS PARK: Peixin Liu of Blaine, Minn, claimed the top spot at the Mayhem in May Main Event in Columbus, Minn. Liu won $44,200 after a short heads-up battle against Joseph Barnard of St. Paul. This was Liu’s largest cash since pocketing the $100K prize for winning the MSPT Canterbury in December. The Mayhem main event drew a record-breaking 834 entrants and generated a $177,755 prize pool over its six Day 1 flights. Players could enter multiple Day 1 flights for $280 each, playing the largest surviving stack on Day 2 and selling any other surviving stacks for $1,200 each.

FOX SIGNATURE OPTICS: Local pro Chris “Fox” Wallace has a model of Blue Shark Optics with his signature on them. Wallace wrote in his blog, “I have been a fan of Blue Shark’s for many years, wearing them in tournaments and extolling their virtues. Last year, I joined the pro team. After talking with the owner about what I thought the perfect model would be, he offered me a model and we went to work on getting it right.”


AMERISTAR EAST CHICAGO: Nick Pupillo won the Heartland Poker Tour Main Event for $120K. The final table featured two of Chicagoland’s best players, Joel Casper and Tom Koral. Pupillo, the 23-year-old phenom who was one card from being eliminated the night before, dominated heads-up play against Ronald Rindone of Prospect Heights to bring his career earnings to more than a half-million.

“I was almost out,” Pupillo said after the win. “I enjoyed today.”
Ship captain Robert Castoire came into the day second in chips. The Kentucky man played well enough to take third place in his first HPT event ($49,522).

The only player with more chips than Castoire when the day began was Saint John, Ind.’s Timothy Shanks. The salesman had invested just $200 to play in the tournament. While he was unable to ride his lead to victory, Shanks finished third ($34,325).

The HPT will return to Ameristar East Chicago on Aug. 27-Sept. 7.

GRAND VICTORIA: Illinois’ busiest poker room has made several improvements: a new bad-beat jackpot and high-hand promotion, plus a reduced rake to $7. Daily tournaments run Sunday through Thursday with a $40K freeroll in for August.

“Our brand new chairs are the most comfortable in the Midwest,” poker room manager Joe Zuilek said. The 12-table room offers $1-$2, $2-$5, $5-$10 NLHE. Call (847) 531-7753.

HARRAH’S JOLIET: At press time, the mega bad-beat jackpot was at $421K (quad eights).

HORSESHOE SOUTHERN INDIANA: The limit hold’em bad-beat jackpot was at $210K at press time (quad sixes).

HORSESHOE HAMMOND: Scheduling the WSOP Warm-Up Series on the same days as neighboring the HPT event left some players juggling between rooms during the 12 days of events. David Jackson won the main event for $60K plus a $10K WSOP seat.

WINDY CITY POKER CHAMPIONSHIP: Danny Millender won the league championship tournament at Orland Bowl, winning $1,150 in cash and prizes. The WCPC main event will be July 18; the $3K televised championship is July 19, limited to 20 players, along with $2-$5-$10 televised cash game. For details and location, call Kirk Fallah (708) 935-2861.


HORSESHOE CLEVELAND: After a drought of meaningful tournament action, Horseshoe Cleveland held a $1,500 tournament in May that was complete with two Day 1s, 393 entries and a $117K first prize that went to local pro Mark Wahba, aka Egyptian. He has been close to big wins many times and is always a favorite to be seen at final tables of big regional events.

HOLLYWOOD COLUMBUS: The Hollywood Poker Open made its 11-day stop and featured a $1,115 main event that saw 294 players and a $70K first-place prize that went to Parma’s Daniel Swartz, who defeated Nick Pupillo ($43,512).

In the field were notables such as Chris Moneymaker and Shawn Cunix. Pupillo, who has been crushing the Midwest tournament trail, continued his great run by winning a prelim event and taking second in the main event.

MORE MANAGEMENT CHANGES: The Horseshoe Cincinnati has a new poker room manager, Michael Ragonese, and he’s up to the challenge. In Cleveland, the Horseshoe has not announced a replacement for Karen Kaegin.

PETITION: Ohio casino employees aren’t allowed to gamble in Ohio. Poker room staff, a big part of the Ohio poker economy, is forced to go to adjacent states to play. Why not let them play closer to home? The petition can be found at by searching for CASINO in the Ohio section. This petition will go to the House, Senate and Gov. John Kasich.


HO-CHUNK GAMING WISCONSIN DELLS: The PPC Ho-Chunk Midwest Poker Classic will run Aug. 4-9 and feature a $350 buy-in $50K guarantee main event. Pro Mark “P0ker H0” Kroon will serve as featured pro.

“We are excited to bring the popular PPC Poker Tour to Ho-Chunk Gaming,” pit supervisor Samantha Thomas said. “I traveled to Aruba myself and it’s spectacular. Many poker players from Wisconsin have made the trip and Mark Kroon will be an outstanding featured pro. We are expecting a huge turnout for the main event and look forward to a great series.”

The bad-beat jackpot hit three times recently. In the biggest, Tim “Buzz” Wilson won $62,030 when his aces full of kings was beat by the quad queens of Gary Kjellstrom, who was awarded $31,015. A room share of $2,953 each was distributed to 21 players.

HO-CHUNK GAMING MADISON: For the past four years, Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison, formerly Dejope Gaming, was locked in a legal battle with the state regarding the gaming classification of its electronic poker tables.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ordered the casino to stop offering the game, but this year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit overturned that decision. Despite the ruling, the casino has no plans to reopen the room as the space has since been converted to a slot area.

“We have no immediate plans to bring back poker, but the idea of bringing the game back some day is not necessarily off the table,” executive manager Daniel Brown said.

Meet Jeremy Halaska

Jeremy Halaska is familiar face to all who ride the white line in search of tournament action here in flyover country. A director of operations by trade, Halaska is one of many outstanding poker players in the region in showing up in big spots with big performances, including at the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in February, where he had a made the TV final table and finished fifth.

This performance was on the back of a short but successful run at last year’s World Series of Poker that included a 21st finish in the Millionaire Maker and another cash. Of course, these are just the events that show up on Hendon Mob.

It’s always a good thing to see one of our own shows his stuff out there. This is what makes losing a WSOPC event in the Ohio region such a disaster; it was an opportunity for players such as Halaska to show off his skills to the world. — Dan Harkerider

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine