Texas Claims HPT’s Commerce Title

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Texas Claims HPT’s Commerce Title

Kris Tong Takes $165K Home to the Lone Star State 

Commerce, CA - Hundreds of players from Southern California tried out Heartland Poker Tour for the first time this month when the nationally-televised tour made its first stop at The Commerce Hotel & Casino.   In the end, the title, the glory, and the cash left the state with 28-year-old Kris Tong of Richardson, Texas.

The heads up battle between Tong and Shawn Motameni was a close affair, even to the last hand.  Motameni of Woodland Hills, California held pocket aces to Tong’s tens. A ten on the flop determined the champion.  Tong collected $165,090 and the title while Motameni earned $117,800 and a massive point lead in HPT’s Gold Rush Series.

"The belt, the title, the cash…especially the money…for me means a lot since I just quit my job,” Tong said.

In addition to the cash, the champ scored the coveted custom-made championship belt.  The wrestling-style belt is a first-of-its-kind for poker in the U.S.  Louis Werman from Agoura Hills, California was one of many players determined to take home the impressive belt.  "If I win the tournament today, the money will be nice, but honestly I am just playing for the belt," he said. 

The event at The Commerce Hotel & Casino was a strong introduction to the West Coast for HPT.  With the exception of HPT’s Colorado tournaments, the event marks HPT’s largest prize pool to date. In the midst of a record year, HPT is looking to top the field of 577 entrants at the tour’s next stop this weekend at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in the Sacramento area.

HPT will wrap up the California leg of the tour, known as the "Gold Rush Series", with a nationally-televised Main Event at Club One Casino in Fresno the following week. The player with the most points at the end of the series will be named the Gold Rush Champion and receive a sponsorship package to HPT's upcoming event in Las Vegas.  Motameni leads the points race, while fourth-place finisher Huy Quach of Los Angeles rounds out the top ten.                        

“I'm very excited," Motameni said, "I have been looking forward to an event like this.  What I like about HPT, it seems like it's more geared towards the everyday person."

Although HPT is well-known for serving the average poker enthusiast, several notable players peppered the field.  Gavin Griffin, David Levi, Todd Terry, and Stan Jablonski all finished in the money.  Notorious pro Allen "Chainsaw" Kessler surprised himself when he made the televised Final Table after being down to three big blinds late on Day 2.  Short stacked at the Final Table, he moved all-in from under the gun with ace-queen.  Kris Tong also moved all-in with a pair of aces.  When the board ran out A, 6, 5, Q, 6, Kessler became the ninth-place finisher earning $16,820.  The Final Table was Kessler’s third of Season IX on HPT. He moved up one place in HPT’s Player of the Year race, from third to second.  "People say I'm a nit, but nobody can argue with my results,” said Kessler.

Tong brought the aces out again for the next elimination.  Werman, with his sights set on the championship belt, moved all-in after a raise from Tong.  Like Kessler, Werman held ace-queen and the hand didn’t work out any better for him.  The belt slipped away but he picked up $22,420 in eighth place.  Tong wasn’t done with the aces yet.  Peter Hengsakul became the seventh place finisher after shoving into Tong’s aces, taking home $28,110.

In the next knock out, ace-queen was again the deadly hand, this time for Commerce grinder Quan Tran of Monterey Park, California.  All-in against Mel Weiner’s pocket kings, Tran’s fate looked promising when the flop produced an ace and a queen.  However, the king of clubs was an unwelcome sight for Tran, who picked up $33,720 in sixth place. 

It was Motameni’s turn with the aces next.  He limped from under the gun while Tong and Quach limped from the button. Joshua Pollock of Las Vegas moved all-in, Motameni called, and everyone else folded.  Motameni’s aces eliminated Joshua Pollock of Las Vegas in fifth place for $56,060

Mel Wiener’s strategy was “to get a lot of aces.” The real estate manager from Calabasas, California has been dealt a few aces in his poker career.  He has over $1.2 million in career winnings and a 1996 WSOP bracelet.  He started the Final Table wearing the bracelet for the first time but took it off midway when he felt it wasn't bringing him any luck. Either strategy or luck got him to third place for $75,800.

After the Gold Rush Series, HPT will crisscross the U.S. for ten more stops in 2013 from Daytona Beach, Florida to Gary, Indiana.  The latest champion makes a good case for following the tour.  Last year, he just missed the Final Table at River City Casino in St Louis, finishing in 11th place. "It was a lot of fun and I gained a lot of experience," Tong said of his previous HPT cash.  Information about upcoming stops can be found at HPTpoker.com.

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