Bianchi wins HPT’s return to St. Louis

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The Heartland Poker Tour ended Season XV at Hollywood St. Louis on Nov. 14-26 with 14 hardware events, including an oversized gold chain for Event 1 and pro-wrestling-style belts for the tag-team tournament.

The opening $350 event drew 912 entries and ended in an eight-way chop. St. Louis’ Charles LeRoi received the largest share of the $273,600 prize pool, taking home just shy of $27K.

The 353-player field in the $2,500 championship was more than enough to make the $700K guarantee, generating a prize pool of $790,720 and a first-place payday of $181,874 for Paul “Pauly Walnuts” Bianchi, a Chicago native.

You might remember him from the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event, for which he famously got his buy-in by running up $1,200 on three hands of blackjack in a Chicagoland casino less than 12 hours before the start of the last flight.

Bianchi came to town to defend his title in last year’s seniors championship. After busting, he won a satellite into the main, where he spent the majority of Day 2 grinding a short stack. “(It) was a grind,” he said “It was a long day.”

But by the time they were at nine players, he had 2M-plus and then entered heads-up play with a 2-to-1‪ lead over Lake St.‬ Louis’ Christopher Audrain, who received $115,129 as runner-up. — Todd Lamansky

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