Michigan Man Turns $360 into $137k on HPT

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Michigan Man Turns $360 into $137k on HPT

Mt. Pleasant, MI  - After getting a taste of the spotlight during Heartland Poker Tour's November visit to Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, John Drikakis returned over the weekend to improve on his sixth-place finish. The shipping and receiving clerk from Battle Creek, Michigan shipped the win after investing just $360 in the tournament. For the victory, Drikakis received $137,014.

For Drikakis, the key was to steer clear of the competition in the early stages. "I'm not going to do anything too crazy," he said. He stuck to the game plan, waiting in the shadows for the cards to come his way before eliminating the final three players. 

The last opponent standing in his way was Anthony Mastraieni of Temperance, Michigan. In the final hand of the tournament, Maistraieni got his remaining chips in the middle with nine-eight on a board with two queens, a four, and a two. Drikakis smelled the bluff and made the call with ten-high. The river brought an irrelevant ace and Drikakis became the newest HPT champion. Mastraieni, who works in global freight, finished in second place for $84,547.  

Falling just short of the title didn't bring the runner-up's spirits down. "I can't say thank you enough to everyone...It's an honor to be here. It's been really enjoyable."

Drikakis and Mastraieni topped a field of 407 entrants including notables like Allen Kessler, David Williams, Dash Dudley, and Stan Jablonski.  Well-known World Series of Poker bracelet winners Dutch Boyd and Joe Cada left empty-handed, but not before jumping into the broadcast booth to provide live commentary of the action for HPTpoker.com

Soaring Eagle has been a lucrative stop for HPT players since 2008. Home to HPT's Championship Open, the tour will return for the popular year-end event in November.

"I've come to Soaring Eagle for the last 20 years. I like it here," said former car salesman Bruce Rowland of Pierson, Michigan. "The people treat me good." He is sure to be back after turning a $360 investment into $28,571 in fifth place. Rowland was short-stacked when he went all in with ace-high against Gus Vergos's pair of fours.

For Vergos, the strategy coming into the Final Table was to tune out the bright lights and the crowd of onlookers. "I don't want to think about it. I just want to act like there's nothing there and play," said the Shelby Township, Michigan native. That approach met initial success as the self-employed painter was able to eliminate three players in a row and temporarily take the chip lead. Eventually his luck ran out and he found himself all-in with king-queen against Drikakis's pocket sevens. Vergos's hand did not improve and he was knocked out in fourth place, collecting a personal best of $38,483 for his efforts.

Bay City, Michigan's Theodore Tober pushed his big stack as long as he could before he was sent to the rail in third place. After starting the day as the chip leader, the retiree slowly saw his stack dwindle. He was able to double up several times during three-handed play before his day came to an end at the hands of the eventual champ, Drikakis. Tober walked away with a career-high of $55,393.

Clarence Archambo was another player who made the Final Table on a $360 investment. The Cheboygan, Michigan man came in as the small stack, but was able to stave off elimination long enough to finish sixth to the tune of $22,157. Archambo, a retired contractor, plans to use his winnings to go on several vacations.

Alex Barill of Ann Arbor, Michigan hoped his acting background would help him when the players took their seats in front of the cameras. "I've never had the chance to sit at a nationally-televised Final Table, but I'm not really worried about the pressure," said Barill. He was knocked out in seventh place, but the $19,183 payday more than doubled his career poker earnings.

Nicholas Pupillo started the day second in chips but was never able to get things going. The Addison, Illinois pro's day came to an end when he ran into the pocket kings of Mastraieni. He earned $15,743 for the eighth-place finish.

The first elimination of the day came just 14 hands in. Millard Hale took ninth place when he put his tournament life at risk with ace-jack. He was quickly challenged by Barill's pocket nines. The flop, turn, and river failed to produce an ace or jack and the Kalamazoo, Michigan pro player was sent home with $12,828.

HPT heads next to Ameristar Casino Hotel East Chicago before going west for the Gold Rush series. Preliminary and qualifying events kick off at Ameristar on Thursday. A full schedule of events is available at HPTpoker.com

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