Illinois man wins biggest HPT prize to date

Leon Morford
Leon Morford is the HPT Championship winner.

The Heartland Poker Tour wrapped up its third season last weekend with the Championship Open at the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Ind. More than 1,000 players bought into the event, creating the largest top prize to date for the HPT.

The beneficiary of that massive prize was Leon Morford, a retired engineer from Illinois, who captured first place for $233,016.

"I just rode the wave," Morford said.

Known to his friends as "Sailor" for his ability to ride the ups and downs of tournament poker, Morford got a chance to show off that special talent during the final table of the event. He began the final table as the chip leader but nearly went out in fourth when he got short-stacked.

However, he bounced back to take down the tournament.

"I look at tournament poker as riding a wave," Morford said. "You have to be able to ride it out."

The HPT Championship was certainly the one he wanted to be able to ride out, as it turned out to be the biggest HPT tournament so far, building up an $835,200 prize pool.

The field included this past year's HPT champions from around the country. The highest-placing player from this season's main events was Jason Fish, who finished in 19th place.

However, a Heartland Poker League winner, Tom Stambaugh, turned his freeroll in the Championship into a fifth-place finish.

The final table played out as follows:

Place Name Hometown Prize
1st Leon Morford Rockford, Ill. $233,016
2nd Christopher Brand Okauchee, Wis. $116,508
3rd Jason Glass Buffalo Grove, Ill. $74,898
4th Richard McMahan Chicago $56,174
5th Tom Stambaugh Nevis, Minn. $45,771
6th Nicholas Woolworth Plainfield, Ill. $39,530

"It's been a phenomenal year," said Greg Lang, HPT co-founder. "We've awarded several million dollars in prize money and met some great people along the way. We're looking forward to an even better 2008."

The HPT will start up again in February at the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Minnesota. For more information visit

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