Hawkeye alum returns to take down HPT event

Empire Casino, London

The Heartland Poker tour made a stop in central Iowa this past week for the Iowa State Poker Championship at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel. Hundreds of players showed up, creating a $370,280 prize pool.

Those were 370,280 good reasons for Donny Carlton to return to the state of his alma mater and play a little poker. It was a good thing he did because he ended up winning the tournament to pocket the $85,198 top prize.

Carlton is a 23-year-old professional poker player who recently graduated from the University of Iowa. He even wore his lucky Iowa Hawkeye sweatshirt throughout the tournament and the final table.

"This is awesome," Carlton said. "Taking down a tournament like this is a great feeling, and I'm glad my friends were here to share it with me."

Normally Carlton is a cash game player, but he's been on the road with a few friends the past month competing in various tournaments with his friends. They've played in the last three HPT events.

Two of his friends have made final tables at those events. Michael Banducci finished third at the Black Hawk, Colo., event, and Larry Barbetta finished second in the Walker, Minn., event.

Carlton said to Heartland Poker Tour officials, "I was there when those other guys made their final tables. I guess now it's my turn."

Carlton entered the final table with nearly 40% of the chips in play. He knocked out his first victim in the second hand of the final table. He continued to work over the table with his monster stack for the next hour, eventually putting the kibosh on three more players.

One of those players was Mark Sandness, winner of the HPT Northern Lights Casino event in Walker, Minn.

When it got down to heads-up play between Carlton and John Oetker, though, the chip stacks evened out more and the momentum of the game swung back and forth before Carlton finally sealed his win.

On the final hand Carlton held A-8 against Oetker's A-K, and an eight on the turn gave Carlton the win.

The final-table results were:

Place Name Hometown Prize
1st Donny Carlton Woodstock, Ill. $85,198
2nd John Oetker Marshalltown, Iowa $42,599
3rd Cal Dykes Las Vegas $27,385
4th Mark Sandness Wayzata, Minn. $21,300
5th Steve Sloan Sublette, Ill. $18,257
6th Tom Wessling Denison, Iowa $15,214

Carlton plans to use some of his winnings to build a cabin on property he recently bought in Minnesota.

As for the Heartland Poker Tour, its plans include a stop at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Ariz., before the tour's grand finale begins at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind., in December. There, the HPT expects to see the first million-dollar prize pool for the tour.

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