Minnesota Fall Poker Classic goes to Thurlow


Ante Up Magazine Midwest Poker

Justin Thurlow of Cottage Grove, Minn., took home the main-event trophy for the Fall Poker Classic after a five-way chop at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn. 

Thurlow beat several of the best players in Minnesota at the final table, including Gennady Shimelfarb, Robert Van Cycle, Stephen Webb, Saad Ghanem, Rajaee “Robbie” Wazwaz and Nghia “3 Putts” Le. 

This is the third-largest career cash for Thurlow, bringing his lifetime earnings to $320K.  The main event had a $1,100 buy-in and had 376 entries for a $364,720 prize pool.

Ian Matakis of Faribault, Minn., won the $2,500 high roller for $32,242. The event drew 28 entries for a $64,484 prize pool. Art Hammon of Bloomington, Minn., bested 56 runners to win the $550 dealer’s-choice event. Tyler Kolness cashed in seven events for $15,901 and Nicholas Marsh, Sam Chase and Kevin Kelly each had five cashes.  The series had 33 events with $125-$2,500 buy-ins, 5,736 entries and $1,455,656 in combined prize pools.

RUNNING ACES CASINO: Eric Eelkema of Brooklyn Park, Minn., earned $37,412 after winning the Hallow Scream Tournament at in Columbus. This is his largest career cash, bringing his lifetime earnings to $362,999. The $280 event drew 698 entrants across six Day 1 flights for a $146,094 prize pool after giving a dozen $1,200 buy-backs of small stacks for people who made it to Day 2 from multiple Day 1s.


FIREKEEPERS CASINO: Bobby Noel won the Michigan State Championship’ main event Oct. 13 for $262,145. The tournament had 1,615 entrants for a $1.5M-plus prize pool.

The next Fifth Sunday Five Hundred is noon Dec. 29. The $500 event gives players 40K chips and 30-minute levels as registration is open through Level 8. Registration opens a week in advance. And there’s still time to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. See the casino’s website for more details.

GUN LAKE CASINO: The 14-table room has tournaments every day except Wednesday and Friday and there are bad-beat jackpots for hold’em and Omaha.


Aaron Johnson of Red Wing, Minn., won the Mid-States Poker Tour’s main event at Meskwaki Casino on Nov. 3. Johnson pocketed $86,951 after he started near the bottom of the final table. This event beat the $300K guarantee with 409 entrants. 

RIVERSIDE CASINO: On Oct. 19, Don Leigh’s quad sevens lost to Scott Trunkhill’s quad jacks to hit the bad-beat jackpot. Leigh took home $43,788 and Trunkhill won the pot and a quarter share.

HORSESHOE COUNCIL BLUFFS: The state’s largest poker room hosts its Horseshoe Holiday Classic series Dec. 26-Jan. 5. It has many events and great cash games so book your room now.


La Crosse’s Yao “YY” Yin won back-to-back side events at the Fall Poker Classic at Minnesota’s Canterbury Park. He also had a runner-up finish for nearly $30K in combined winnings.

Eric Baldwin, formerly of Beaver Dam, recently topped an 823-entry field to win the Venetian Deep Stack Showdown’s $400 NLHE monster stack for $52,505 in Las Vegas.

POTAWATOMI CASINO: In late October, a $156,233 bad-beat jackpot hit at the Milwaukee poker room. A straight flush beat quad fours to set it off in a $2-$5 cash game. The winning hand earned $46,869, the losing hand $62,492 and six players each received a $7,812 table share.


Ravi Raghavan defeated 1,063 entries to win the World Series of Poker Circuit’s main event at Horseshow Hammond in Indiana for $272K-plus and his second WSOPC ring. His first ring came in the high-roller event here in 2016. His total earnings are almost $4M. The prize pool was $1.6M-plus.

Other results: Event 1, David Larson, $76,589 (NLHE); Event 2, Ryan Abelseth, $18,810 (NLHE); Event 3, Michael Reed, $16,878 (seniors); Event 4, Jerry Gumila, $20,773 (NLHE); Event 5, Victor Skrobacz, $16,997 (PLO); Event 6, Brian McDaniel, $32,864 (monster stack); Event 7, Vu Hoang, $9,618 (Omaha/8); Event 8, Marla Grapas, $10,140 (bounty); Event 9, Michael Moncek, $21,751 (six-max); Event 10, Justin Brown, $46,551 (NLHE); Event 11, Gregory Baird, $49,402 (NLHE); Event 13, Javier Zarco, $70,931 (high roller); Event 14, Marvin Guss, $12,701 (NLHE).

The WSOPC returns Feb. 20-March 2.

HORSESHOE SOUTHERN INDIANA: Thomas Alcorn won the WSOPC main event for $117K-plus. It was the retired, recreational player from Winder, Ga.’s first WSOPC ring after three consecutive main-event cashes.

Alcorn was involved in a heads-up marathon with Robert James, exchanging the lead numerous times. Chicagoland pro Nick Pupillo made the final table, finishing fourth. The prize pool was almost $541K with 357 entries.

Other results: Event 1, William Watson, $15,776 (NLHE); Event 2, Aaron Gamino, $48,320 (NLHE); Event 3, Ricky Doyle, $19,447 (double stack); Event 4, Matthew Dunn, $13,828 (six-max); Event 5, Matt Sterling, $10,578 (PLO); Event 6, Chuck Breslin, $33,922 (monster stack); Event 7, Justin Geary, $14,523 (PLO rebuy); Event 8, Robert Gray, $10,296 (turbo); Event 9, Timothy Garles, $11,057 (NLHE); Event 11, Seth Frederici, $8,068 (turbo); Event 12, Richard Bolden, $7,337 (turbo); Event 13, Matthew Koch, $13,310 (NLHE); Gary Potter, $10,335 (seniors).

AMERISTAR EAST CHICAGO: The Heartland Poker Tour returns Jan. 9-20.


RIVERS CASINO PITTSBURGH: The WPT DeepStacks Pittsburgh tournament series ran Oct. 24-28. The $1,100 main event drew 386 entrants as local Ryan Quail won the title and $80K, including a $3K WPTDS championship package. Quail bested William Reilly, who took home $53,919 as runner-up.

On the final hand, Reilly held 6-5 and Quail 7-4. The flop came 9-5-3. When the turn brought a six, it gave Reilly two pair, but it also delivered Quail an open-ended straight draw. Reilly check-raised all-in and Quail called. The river was an eight, giving Quail the victory. Ryan Ashman finished third for $34,665.

The WPT is scheduled to return here in April.

HOLLYWOOD CASINO TOLEDO: The Arctic Blast Challenge kicks off Dec. 12-15 with a $30K guarantee for $85. The $250 main event runs Dec. 20-22 with a $75K guarantee. You can find more information on the casino’s website.

HOLLYWOOD CASINO COLUMBUS: The annual Ohio Championship series returns Dec. 2-15. The $550 main event sports a $250K guarantee and three Day 1s (Dec. 12-14) with the tournament concluding Dec. 15. Also, $80 satellites run Dec. 10-11. S

Meet Rob Washam

Rob Washam was born and raised in Brooklyn Park, Minn., though he hitchhiked across the country when he was in his late teens. He lives in Zimmerman and is a production manager for a railway maintenance company. Washam started playing poker around the kitchen table with friends.

What do you like most about poker? I like the challenge and the competition, trying to outplay opponents. I’ve always been very competitive.

What skill do you think gives you the biggest edge at the table? I like to study poker. In the home games I play and in the low stakes local tourneys, I’m able to pick up mistakes other recreational players make. I guess reading opponents and understanding how they play is my greatest strength.

What do you consider your biggest achievement? I won a seat to the WSOP main event from a home league in 2018. On Day 1, I found myself at a table with Mike Niwinski, Mustapha Kanit, Rob Salaburu and Jason Mercier. We got moved to the televised secondary feature table. I got all-in with a set of nines and hit quads on the river. That was fun. I didn’t cash, but definitely checked off a bucket-list item. — John Somsky

Chris Cosenza

Chris Cosenza