Updated March 12, 2013 at 6:25 p.m.
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs resident Ryan O’Donnell makes a living working in the seat of an excavator, but on Monday, he found himself making different kinds of decisions in a seat at the final table of the Heartland Poker Tour event.
O’Donnell, who works for his brother at Steamboat Springs Excavating, finished fifth in what he called the first real poker tournament of his career at the Golden Gates Casino in Blackhawk. He won $46,299. O’Donnell said he plays in a local poker league in Steamboat Springs and sometimes enters smaller tournaments in places like Blackhawk. But this was the first time he decided to enter one of the bigger events.
“I wanted to see if I had what it takes,” O’Donnell said when contacted by phone Tuesday afternoon. “I enjoy playing poker, but I’m not sure that I would call it a passion.”
O’Donnell said he paid $360 to play in a satellite tournament last week in Blackhawk and won his entry into the Heartland Poker Tour event March 5, the entry to which typically would set a player back $1,600.
O’Donnell was one in a field of 671 players who competed in the main event for a purse of $1,006,500. The tournament took place throughout three days, with O’Donnell making the final table that included the top nine players in the tournament.
Teresa Hemingway, of Aurora, collected the first-place prize of $226,463. She beat out second-place finisher Jeffrey Yarvhever, of Laguna Beach, Calif., who won $139,904, and third-place finisher Robert Moore, of Littleton, who took home $91,692.
O’Donnell said he has no plans to leave his job and let the chips fly as a professional poker player, but he said he will enter a few more tournaments and might take a shot at getting into some of the more well-known poker tours in the future.
But for now, he plans to keep his seat driving heavy equipment.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com