HPT returns for fourth season

Empire Casino, London

After stopping to catch its breath following a whirlwind third season, the Heartland Poker Tour returned to action last week with the first of 16 stops on its fourth season schedule.

Located 90 miles north of Minneapolis, Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia, Minn., has played host to HPT events in the past. The tour's return to Mille Lacs was a solid start for the fourth season, with over 1,400 players entering the week's five tournaments. The $1,650 main event drew a field of 176, all but 36 of whom qualified through the HPT preliminary rounds held Thursday through Sunday.

Of all the players at the final table, only one was not from Minnesota - Justin Filtz, of Stevens Point, Wisc. Filtz also stood out for being the only final tablist to have a previous cash in an HPT event, at last year's Grand Series.

The Wisconsinite is also the only member of the group to consider himself a professional poker player.

In the end Filtz's experience was for nought, as he was the first player to leave the TV table.






Dustin Hamers

Waite Park, Minn.



Ray Bendijo

Ramsey, Minn.



Brad Flanagan

Brainerd, Minn.



Gabe Schultz

Faribault, Minn.



Brian Midtling

Brownton, Minn.



Justin Filtz

Stevens Point, Wis.


Dustin Hamers, who works for a wood craft company in St. Cloud, Minn., put the finishing touches on his final-table run in the early morning hours Monday. The board brought an ace, pairing up his A-Q and giving him the win over Ray Bendijo's 2-2.

Hamers has played poker since the age of eight, and he hopes the HPT champion's jacket from Mille Lacs is just the first of many awards to come.

"I definitely think I have the skills to be a pro poker player," Hamers told the HPT in an interview before the final table began. "Winning this tournament could put me in the right direction."

After picking up the victory, the champion admitted that confidence played a big role in his win. "I told everyone I know that I was going to win this thing," Hamers told the HPT.

In addition to the $74,642 first prize and the jacket, Hamers also wins a $3,000 entry into the HPT championship to be held at Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind., this November.

The Grand Casino Mille Lacs final table was filmed for the HPT's television series, which is broadcast in over 60 million households throughout the United States. The broadcast schedule for Season 4 has not yet been released, but Season 3 episodes began airing earlier this month. The HPT broadcast schedule is available here.

The HPT resumes its fourth season schedule March 2, when the tour returns to Meskwaki Casino in Tama, Iowa.

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