Engel Wins Second HPT Title and $162k

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St. Charles, Missouri (December 12, 2017) - Ari Engel is a name that has been synonymous with winning since he entered the live poker scene over a decade ago. The decorated poker pro has amassed over $5 million in earnings on the felt. On Tuesday, he added a second HPT title to that resume topping a field of 316 at Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles to win the tour's Championship Open. Engel earned $162,154 for the victory.

Engel had a roller coaster of a day, starting play at the final table with the chip lead only to be the short stack with six players left. He battled his way back and eventually beat out fellow pro Jake Bazeley for the win.

"I got lucky in a few spots and kind of maneuvered my way there," Engel said. "The players were really good. It takes a lot of skill, but it takes a lot of luck to get there. You can never assume you're going to win it."

By winning the year-end tournament, Engel also earned just enough points to overtake Gary Herstein and become HPT's Season XIII Player of the Year. For that accomplishment, Engel will receive complimentary buy-ins to six HPT Main Events along with hotel accommodations in 2018.

"That's amazing," said the new champ. "Such a great added bonus to be player of the year. I'm really happy."

Engel won several key pots from Bazeley early in the heads up match without going to showdown. From there, he was able to chip away slowly until he had a commanding lead. On the final hand, the two got the remaining chips in the middle with Bazeley's king-queen ahead of Engel's eight-four. A four came on the turn and Bazeley was unable to hit a king or queen on the river. The Cincinnati man collected $102,647 for the runner-up finish.

The $2,500 Championship Open drew notable players from all over the country. At one point, there were 17 past champions in the field. The 316 entries created a total prize pool of $704,996. During the course of the ten-day series at Ameristar St. Charles, there were more than 3,400 total tournament entries.

Chicago's Niel Mittelman was making his first appearance under the bright lights of an HPT final table. The veteran poker pro made the most of the opportunity, climbing his way to a third-place finish. Mittelman earned $68,737 for his efforts.

St. Charles' Neil Patel was the last local in the hunt for the title. Late in the day, Patel lost a huge pot when his ace-ten fell short to Engel's queen-king after the two went all-in before the flop. He was eliminated by the eventual champ shortly thereafter. Patel finished in fourth place, good enough for $47,940.

Gil George has been playing HPT events for years. Tuesday marked the retiree's fourth appearance at a final table with the tour. Unfortunately, George is still looking for his first win as he was knocked out in fifth place. He'll take home $35,955.

Local attorney Bill Byrnes won two satellites into the event earlier in the week. After selling one, he technically had $0 invested in the tournament. Byrnes played his way to a sixth-place finish and earned $28,200 for his weekend's worth of work.

Josh Turner has a track record of running bad at HPT final tables. The St. Louis poker pro has made several deep runs in recent years but has yet to capture his first win with the tour. The title remained elusive Tuesday as Patel's pocket eights held against Turner's ace-queen. Turner was sent to the rail in seventh place with $23,829.

Harold Evans had the shortest chip stack of the final nine players when the day began. He made his move early with pocket jacks only to be outdrawn by Bazeley's ace-queen. Evans, a used car dealer from Newburgh, Indiana, finished in eighth place. That was good for a $19,740 payday.

The first elimination of the day was past HPT champion Paul Belken. He became the eventual champ's first victim when he put his tournament life at risk with ace-four only to be called by Engel's pocket kings. Belken was sent to the rail in ninth place with $16,990.

This event closes out another successful year for HPT. The tour awarded well over $14 million in prize pool money coast to coast throughout the year. The first event on the 2018 schedule is in Chicagoland in early January. Dates and schedule details for that stop can be found at HPTpoker.com.

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