Raymer’s Trifecta Helps HPT Return to the Spotlight
If you’ve had your nose buried in only WSOP or Reid-Kyl poker stories in recent weeks, then you’ve missed a resurgence by Greg “Fossilman” Raymer, who’s taken the Heartland Poker Tour by storm this year and has captured a record three separate titles.It’s quite a feat for Raymer, one of poker’s all-around good guys, and also quite a feather in the cap for the HPT to have a player with the status at Raymer not only appearing with regularity at HPT events, but winning them.
Raymer’s third Heartland title in three months came at the Prairie Meadows Racetrack Casino Hotel in Altoona, Iowa, just outside of Des Moines, where he triumphed over a 185-player field to win $72,089.
The win follows previous Raymer HPT triumphs in late July at the Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, NM, for $71,875, and at St. Louis’ River City Casino just four weeks ago for $121,973. That’s quite a run for Raymer.
The quick hat trick of HPT title makes him only the second-ever player to win three times on the Heartland tour, which features middle-level buy-in tourneys at casinos not already locked into deals with major casino chains such as Caesars and its WSOP brand. The other three-time HPT winner is Jeremy Dresch, who won twice in 2009 and picked up a third WPT crown in 2011.
The latest win also gave Raymer a likely-insurmountable lead in the HPT’s annual Player of the Year race. The HPT’s formula awards a maximum of 50 points for any single event win, and with three wins worth 50 points each already, Raymer’s 2012-to-date total of 150 far outpaces second-place Gary Lambert, at 83.
The win also pushed Raymer into second place on the HPT’s annual list of moneywinners, behind only Colorado’s Steen Ronlov, who won an oversized HPT event in Colorado earlier this year. Ronlov’s single-event win of $270,905 remains just ahead of Raymer’s combined HPT winnings this year of $265,937.
For Raymer, who was rumored to have possible been joining HPT as a spokesman (a possible role both he and the HPT have denied), it’s a return to poker’s winner circle that’s been most of a decade in the coming. (Spokesman or not, Raymer is now listed as a “special guest” of the HPT for several future events, along with Darvin Moon and Scotty Nguyen.)
Raymer remains a marketable commodity among poker tournament pros. He was the celebrated winner of the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event for $5,000,000, who then followed that up with a deep 25th-place run the following year. Raymer has done okay in a couple of the special WSOP events as well, but hasn’t been able to snag a second WSOP bracelet.
He did serve as a prominent spokesman for PokerStars for several years, and won one non-WSOP bracelet in that site’s popular WCOOP series in 2007. However, Raymer and Stars parted ways in early 2011, purportedly when the site sought to reduce his compensation. That departure might have soon occurred anyway, with Stars itself forced to leave the US only two months later, courtesy of the United States’ “Black Friday” clampdown, which subsequently lessened the site’s need for US-based spokesplayers.
That was then, and now Raymer’s a WPT regular. Could Raymer win an unprecedented fourth Heartland title in 2012? Three more stops remain on the 2012 HPT slate, including a return to New Mexico’s Route 66 Casino next week. From there it’s on to the Palms in Las Vegas and a late-November return to Indiana for the HPT, which continues chugging along just fine after its own future was endangered from its ill-fated sale to the defunct Epic Poker Tour.
With Epic gone, Heartland back in fine form, and stars such as Raymer showing up and winning, the HPT’s doing alright.