Belcore-Zogman becomes second woman to win an HPT

Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman

Mary Jo Belcore-Zogman made history on Sunday by becoming the second woman to win a Heartland Poker Tour event and the first who also has a husband who has claimed an HPT title.

Mary Jo outlasted 200 players in the main event of HPT's Grand Series at Grand Casino Mille Lacs north of Minneapolis, Minn. She beat Jason Banfi in heads-up play to take down a first-place prize of $85,724.

The Zogmans are creating a poker legacy on the HPT, as Mary Jo's husband, Dan, won $227,811 for finishing first at an HPT event in Gary, Ill. last year. Together they have recorded over $300,000 worth of cashes on the HPT.

Shortly after her victory Mary Jo joked about who is the better poker player in the family.

"I can't believe how great I feel right now," said Mary Jo, whose entire family now plays poker. "Dan may still be the king because his prize pool was bigger but I'm definitely the queen of poker in our household."

Suddenly the Zogmans are one of the premier couples in poker, with both of their final tables to appear in over 74 million homes. The pair started playing poker a few years ago after trying out a $2/$4 Limit game on Valentine's Day.

"We used to be like any other couple and go out to dinner and go to shows and stuff like that," said Mary Jo. "Now we travel the country playing poker and it is way more fun."

The Zogmans weren't the only family story at the final table of HPT Mille Lacs either. Pete Bigelow followed the footsteps of his son, Paul, by making it to his first HPT final table.

Ray "Stingray" Bendijo, who eventually finished sixth in this event, was making his second final-table appearance at Grand Casino, having finished second at the last HPT event at Mille Lacs in February.

Bendijo's sixth-place finish pushed him into the lead for HPT Player of the Year. James Mutchler is only 60 points back, however, and it should be a tight battle to the very end.

There are five more HPT events scheduled for this year before the Championship Open at Majestic Star Casino & Hotel in Gary, Ind. The Mile High Poker Open is currently taking place at Golden Gates Casino in Colorado, with the main event scheduled for Oct. 3.

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