Albuquerque Man Turns $190 Into $56,652 at Heartland Poker Tour

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Albuquerque Man Turns $190 Into $56,652 at Heartland Poker Tour

Heartland Poker Tour producers saw another Cinderella story at Route 66 Casino Hotel in Albuquerque on Monday when 26-year-old plumber James Williams turned $190 into $56,652, doubling his lifetime poker winnings.  While his parents and wife watched from the rail, his king-queen held up against queen-nine, making him the latest HPT champion.

Williams will hit the road with his winnings.  “We’ll go on vacation; we’ll follow you guys,” he told Jaymz Larson, host of the live broadcast on  His next stop is HPT’s Championship Open at Belterra Casino Resort in Florence, Indiana where he’ll join HPT champions from throughout the season for the last stop of 2012.  The open event is expected to draw hundreds of players from around the country.

The weekend tournament at Rote 66 was a wild ride for Tyler Thompson of Albuquerque.  The software developer barely made it into the Main Event in the last available satellite.  He advanced to Day Two, but he had one of the shortest stacks at the start of the day.  By the time the field was reduced to six, Thompson was the chip leader.  As he prepared for Monday’s Final Table, he said he was in shock. “Wait a second. I have a pretty good shot at winning some serious money today,” he reminded himself.  His wild ride took him to third place for $24,279.

The field grew for HPT’s second visit to New Mexico and attracted many tour regulars including Craig Casino, Stan Jablonski, Scott Dougherty and Logan Knight, who’ve all ascended to the TV table at previous HPT stops.  Only Jablonski of Bullhead City, Arizona made his way back to the set Monday.  He followed up his sixth-place finish in St. Louis with fourth place in Albuquerque for $16,692.

Like HPT’s first visit in July, some recognizable pros were in the field including Maria Ho, Bryan “Devo” Devonshire, and Allen “Chainsaw” Kessler.  Maria busted in Day 1, Devo went out as the money bubble, and Chainsaw survived to 11th place. 

In July, world champion Greg “Fossilman” Raymer eliminated John Bechard on the TV bubble.  Raymer went on to win the event and two other HPT championships in a three-month period.  Although he was impressed with Raymer, Bechard admitted “It was disappointing.” The retiree from Woodlawn Park, Colorado said, “I wanted to be on television.”  Bechard got a second chance on HPT’s return visit, finishing in fifth place for $13,151.

In a year of unprecedented follow-up finishes on HPT, runner-up Anthony Herrera also has a comeback story to tell.  The Santa Fe truck driver returned to Route 66 Casino Hotel to improve on his eighth-place finish this summer.  Putting up just $500, he found himself playing heads up on national TV for a payout more than 100 times his investment.  He adds $36,419 to his bankroll.

No one wants to be the first eliminated from the TV table and Robert Weekes was no exception.  The short stack from Gallup, New Mexico had to make a move early to stay in the game.  He hoped he picked a good spot with queen-ten, but he ran into ace-five with ace-ten-five on the flop.  In sixth place, Weekes adds $11,128 to his poker fund.

HPT goes directly to Palms Casino Resort for another nationally-televised Main Event this week before finishing the year at Belterra the following week.  With the momentum in full swing this season, HPT promises major announcements and upgrades for 2013, starting with a nationally-televised event aboard a seven-day Card Player Cruise in January.  Tour details are available at