The Heartland Poker Tour finds many an amateur rubbing elbows with established pro players as it makes its way to various tour stops throughout America. Sometimes, an amateur manages to navigate the field and land on top.
Raffi Der Gregorian was able to do just that in Rancho Mirage, California when he binked the Main Event for $74,276 at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. Der Gregorian’s accomplishment is even sweeter considering that he won his $1,650 Main Event seat through a $200 qualifier.
Eliminated pro Allen Cunningham
An electric contractor by trade, Der Gregorian was able to jolt his final table rivals despite having the third shortest stack as the remaining nine took their seats on the last day of the tournament. One of the players zapped by Der Gregorian was poker pro Allen Cunningham, who fell to the victor’s aces and was sent packing with $21,973 in fourth place prize money.
Cunningham is listed by the Hendon Mob as 17th on the all-time money list with earnings of $11,556,578. The HPT cash was his seventh and largest of 2014 following three in-the-money finishes at the WSOP that collectively totaled slightly more than $12,000.
Michael Rocco finishes second-best
Another pro taken down by Der Gregorian was Michael Rocco, who finished as runner-up and earned $45,803. The outcome may have been different had Rocco hit one of his outs on the last hand of the tournament. Those outs were many with a straight draw and a couple overcards, but the poker gods favored the amateur.
Rocco is having a phenomenal year despite missing the winner’s circle. In March, a 3rd place finish at the $10,000 WPT L.A. Poker Classic Main Event was good for $423,440. He followed that up with a handful more cashes, the best among them another second place prize of $16,800 at the California State Poker Championship four months ago.
But Monday belonged to Der Gregorian, who intends to take a vacation and buy his way into a few more tournaments with his winnings. He won’t have to leave his home state of California to do so, as the HPT is in the midst of its four-stop Gold Rush Series. Other destinations that all begin in September include the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles (already underway), Thunder Valley Casino & Resort in Lincoln, and the Club One Casino in Fresno.