Chicago poker promoter wins online Ante up poker tour main event
“Chicago” Joe Giertuga, a beloved player in Chicagoland, wins the first AUPT online series main event.
By Scott Long
It’s hard to imagine someone out there who cares more about Chicagoland poker than “Chicago” Joe Giertuga.
And so perhaps it’s fitting the man who never stops promoting poker in the Midwest gets a head start on retirement after 37 years at the Chicago Tribune with a front-page acknowledgement of all he’s done for poker in his hometown after he took down the main event in the first online Ante Up Poker Tour series at AnteUpPokerRoom.Com.
“I always wanted to be on the cover on Ante Up, but never thought I would be on there,” said Giertuga, who goes by, no surprise, “Chicago Joe” online. “Being a senior citizen who primarily plays live cash games, being on the cover of Ante Up is one of my greatest achievements.”
AnteUpPokerRoom.Com is a subscription-based online poker room, available to players in the 25 states where sweepstakes laws allow it. Players pay $14.95 a month for a Platinum membership that gets them entry into all members tournaments and more. The AUPT series that coincided with the site’s soft launch featured 10 lead-up events and main-event satellites. Keith “Strider124” Custer was a two-time winner in the lead-up events, where each winner got $50 and other top finishers earned player points. YoungManCoffee ($500), shrew73 ($200) and SillyOldBear ($100) earned cash in the first Weekly Winners tournament.
And it was the list of winners that was key to victory for the 66-year-old Giertuga, who is married with a son who graduated from Eastern Illinois University and is a senior analyst.
“I consider myself an average player online, so my gameplan was to be aggressive, trying to play mostly in position,” he said. “With everybody new to the poker room, I looked at the tournament past winners to see who had done well, Diamond Dave, Strider124 and RockEdge were on my ‘players to watch’ list. Now, I am on everybody’s list of players to watch.”
Giertuga of Alsip, Ill., has been active in the Chicago poker scene long before he became Ante Up’s Chicagoland Ambassador. He’s a key member of the Chicago Poker Club, which promotes poker in the region, and has been active with the Windy City Poker Championship televised charity events, Rockford Charitable Gaming and a trusted sounding board to managers of Chicago area poker rooms. Any time a major tournament comes to town, players in the area can count on Chicago Joe to help get the word out and publicize the winners.
“Chicago Joe is by far the best poker historian for the Chicago market that I know. I have known Joe for many years and he is always upbeat and positive about all aspects of poker,” said Jeremy Smith, who has run the Horseshoe Hammond and Ameristar East Chicago poker rooms and is tournament director for the Heartland Poker Tour. “Joe’s column in Ante Up Magazine has helped many Chicago-area poker rooms and Joe has featured winners from quite a few HPT events. Joe loves to play in the HPT seniors event and has represented the Chicago market very well with a number of HPT final tables and cashes.”
Chicagoland players no doubt recognize Giertuga from his appearances in the Windy City Poker Championship TV shows, but he also plays an integral role behind the scenes.
“Chicago Joe has been an important part of Windy City Poker Championship for many years. His knowledge of the game, expertise in player trends and just his friendly personality have helped expand the charity events from once every three months to once a week,” said Kirk Fallah, executive producer of the WCPC. “He will always find ways to help promote the events, improve the quality and spread the word. We love Chicago Joe and are excited to see his success both as a poker journalist, but also as a player.”
Dom Niro, who used to run the poker room at Majestic Star Casino, has kept in touch with Giertuga after he left to become director of poker for Daytona Beach Kennel Club in Florida.
“I met Joe years ago as a player and always loved his demeanor,” Niro said. “I enjoy reading Joe’s section in Ante Up and, at times, email him personally to discuss poker.”
Giertuga caught the poker bug early in life.
“I started playing poker as a teenager back in the ’60s. I was drafted into the Army in 1970 and after winning everybody’s money playing poker in basic training at Fort Polk, I started taking the game seriously and started reading books,” Giertuga said. “Toward the end, while stationed in California, I was playing and winning in the biggest games.”
It was in California, not Illinois, where he got his nickname.
“In California, the games started to dry up toward the end of the month at the Army camp. I started playing in the poker room in town,” Giertuga said. “One night I got involved in a huge pot that busted me. The guy who won felt sorry for me being in the military and offered to pay my bus fare back home, asking my name and where I was from, I told him Joe and that I was from Chicago. Everybody started laughing thinking I was hitting him up for the bus fare back to Chicago. The next time I walked into the bar, the dealer says, ‘Here comes Chicago Joe.’”
EVENT 1: Ryan “lupole1” Lupole
EVENT 3: William “ghoOost” Hess
EVENT 4: Sara “psygirl39” Malowitz
EVENTS 5 & 9: Keith “Strider124” Custer
EVENT 6: Chris “golfduffer713” Lounsbury
EVENT 7: Jason “RockEdge” Hull
EVENT 8: Jeremy “KingJeremy” Jimenez
EVENT 10: Eden “Edenbzn” Bazan Jr.
* Event 2 winner’s screen name was NewRams00771 but the player’s name and photo weren’t available.