The harvest is in as the 19th annual Harvest Poker Classic (HPC) has come to a close. The four-day festival at Casino Regina is one of the longest running tournament series in Canada, and attracts the top poker talent from across western Canada. What began in 1997 as a rather modest affair has grown into a large four-day event attracting more than 1,000 players and generating prize pools well over $600,000.
Back in 1997, the feature tournament of the series was billed as the Canadian Hold'em Championship and cost just $225 to enter. Even in today's dollars ($333 in 2015 dollars), the "main event" in 1997 was a fraction of the size of 2015's $1,100 Main Event. In fact, in a testament to how much the series has grown over the 19 years since its inception, Event 1, at $400 the lowest buy-in event of the 2015 calendar, is bigger than the feature event in 1997.
The contrast between 1997 and this year's festival also marks the evolving nature of the game of live tournament poker. Whereas the 2015 series featured four no-limit hold'em tournaments, the 1997 festival featured seven-card stud, Omaha hi-lo, and a dealer's choice tournament, in addition to the Canadian Hold'em Championship.
The 2015 edition of the HPC was still tied to the past in more than just name however. In every event, players who have gone deep in past editions of the HPC and its sister tournament, the Station Poker Classic, found their way deep again in 2015. The winner of Event 1: $400 No-Limit Hold'em Knockout, Rod Mokelky, has a long history with Casino Regina festivals. In addition to the win this year, worth $24,811, Mokelky was 10th in 2006 Main Event, as well as fourth way back in 1999 in the $225 Canadian Limit Hold'em Championship. He also has some deep runs from the spring version of this event, the Station Poker Classic (in March every year) in 2000, 2006, as well as last year, when he made the final table of $1,100 No Limit Hold'em Freezeout event.
The winner of Event 2: $600 No-Limit Hold'em, Jim Loudon, also has a long list of previous cashes from this series. Loudon has cashed in at least one event in the HPC or SPC every year since 2006. He collected $39,690 for his win this fall — only his third win in the long list of other cashes. His first win came all the back in 2006, winning the Canadian Championship event of 2006 HPC. In 2009, Loudon took down a $550 event at that year's SPC.
In Event 3: $800 No-Limit Hold'em Knockout, it was another former Main Event Champion to take it down. Kris Lee won the HPC Main Event back in 2010, the last year the buy in was worth $1,700, winning $59,000. The year before, in 2009's edition of the HPC, Lee final tabled the $1,100 Main Event. This year, Lee added another $44,435 to his bankroll by winning the $800 event here in 2015.
By the time the Main Event started, one of the main stories developing in the Show Lounge at Casino Regina was Kha Nguyen, who made back to back final tables in Event 1 and 2, and was looking for a third deep run in this four tournament series. He missed his third final table in this Main Event, but finished 14th for a score of $3,236.
Even without Nguyen, the Main Event final table had some familiar faces. Glen Adams, who was second earlier this year in Event 3 of the SPC, as well as second in the 2013 edition of the HPC Main Event, made his second final table in two days. Adams was sixth in Event 3 this year, earning himself $7,101 and followed that up with a ninth-place finish in the Main Event.
Another familiar face on the Main Event final table was Adrian Baran, who came fourth in the opening event at this year's HPC. Baran also has a long history of cashes in past HPC and SPC festivals going back to 2009, including a win in the 2014 SPC $800 No Limit Hold'em. He managed to do his Event 3 finish one better in the Main, finishing third for $27,937.
The Main Event in 2015 came down to heads-up between Daniel Lamb, who placed third in this event last year and won an $800 event at the HPC in 2012, and Riley Kielich, another player on his second final table of the series, after coming seventh in Event 1. Lamb started the final table with the overwhelming chip lead, almost exactly twice as many chips as the second-place stack, while Kielich started the final table near the bottom of the counts, playing less than a quarter of Lamb's stack. But after more than an hour heads up, it was Kielich who stood victorious with all the chips. Lamb took home a decent payday of $42,021 for his second-place finish, but it was Kielich who captured the harvest gold, winning $66,576, the Harvest Poker Classic Main Event championship ring, and glory of being the 2015 HPC Champion.
With 1,100 entries and a total prize pool nearing $650,000, the 2015 Harvest Poker Classic was a success by any poker measure. Even though the field was of record size, players across the tournament floor were impressed with the structure and organization of the events. Every event in the series hit the seating cap of 210 players before the noon starting time, with the total entries for Event 1 nearing 300 people. Here's looking for bigger and better things for the Station Poker Classic, coming soon in spring 2016.