Canadian wins HPT event in Minnesota

James Gibson
James Gibson, winner of the HPT Grand Casino Mille Lacs main event.

The Heartland Poker Tour saw another first last weekend at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Minnesota as James Gibson, of Manitoba, became the first Canadian to win an HPT championship event.

To get there, Gibson had to make his way through a field of 147 players, all looking for a piece of the $280,572 prize pool. Even after he made the final table, it wasn't an easy win to pull off.

According to the Heartland Poker Tour, six blind levels and several hours passed before any of the final six players were eliminated at the final table.

Kurt Hagen, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was the first to go. He was followed by Keith Doering, of Brownton, Minn. Doering had been having a string of good luck that took him to the final table.

The Minnesota farmer only entered the tournament after winning big at the casino's blackjack tables. He ended up at the final table as chip leader as well before running into Gibson.

After losing a few hands early, Gibson was fighting to hang on at the final table when he and Doering went toe-to-toe. Gibson made a stand with pocket fives against Doering, and they held up to double him up.

Doering didn't seem to recover much after that, and he was severely crippled when his pocket queens couldn't hold up against another player's pocket threes. He was out shortly after that.

Jeremy Dresch of Fridley, Minn., went out in fourth place, followed by John McKusick of Minneapolis, Minn., in third. That left Gibson to face off against Soni Lo, who already has an HPT main event win on his record.

"I really wanted to win this thing," Lo said. "I wanted to be the first-ever two-time champion on the HPT."

He entered the final table as a substantial short stack and managed to battle his way back into contention, but his quest to be a two-time winner was not to be this time. He settled for second place when he took a stand with A-8 and lost to Gibson's K-7.

"I had a dream about this last night," Gibson said. "I couldn't sleep at all, but when I did, I dreamt of winning this tournament."

The win couldn't have come at a better time for the former truck driver. His wife has been keeping a log of his poker wins and losses, including expenses, so the $77,720 first-place prize will go a long way to smoothing things over.

The final-table results were as follows:

Place Name Prize
1st James Gibson $77,720
2nd Soni Lo $38,860
3rd John McKusick $24,981
4th Jeremy Dresch $19,430
5th Keith Doering $16,654
6th Kurt Hagen $13,879

The next stop on the Heartland Poker Tour is in Minnesota as well, taking place Sept. 12-16 at the Northern Lights Casino in Walker. There are still events in Colorado, South Dakota and Iowa to come also before the Championship in Indiana in December.

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