Posted On 06 Oct 2015
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T-Stick_Sept2015-AZ State Champ-Vance FitzgeraldAfter a three-hour battle of wits and skill, Vance Fitzgerald of Surprise was named the 2015 Arizona State Poker Champion on Tuesday afternoon August 18 at Talking Stick Resort.

Hosted in Talking Stick Resort’s ARENA Poker Room, the 11th Annual Arizona State Poker Championship comprised of 1,580 competitors. The poker hopefuls brought their ‘A’ game to the five-day tournament, vying for ultimate bragging rights and a share of the more than $1 million prize pool.

“The 11th Annual Arizona State Poker Championship was a huge success,” said Tom Young, the director of poker at the ARENA Poker Room. “We were pleased to see an increase in interest in the tournament this year surpassing last year’s competitor count. And although we had several pros battling it out for the title, it truly was anyone’s game from beginning to end.”

The No Limit Hold ‘Em tournament kicked off on August 14 and included a semi-finals round on Monday, August 17. Finals took place the following day with the remaining ten players vying to win the top spot. Four-time World Series of Poker champion, Tom Schneider, emceed the final table, engaging spectators with his colorful commentary throughout the round.

So what happened on that final day – and who were the chip leaders at the final table at 10:15am when the dealer was told “Put those cards in the air”

In the #1 seat was Chad Mizner with $1,925,000 (9th place in chip count) #2 seat was Tom Uwanawich with the short stack at the final table $1,020,000 – The #3 seat belonged to the chip leader Vance Fitzgerald with an impressive $8,670,000 in tournament chips – Holding down 3rd place in chip count in the #4 seat was Jake Balsinger with $5,990,000 – Matt Schultz (in 4th place at the start of play) was in the #5 seat with $5,020,000 – Sitting in the #6 seat was Alex Shelton (5th place in chip count) with $4,715,000 – Gail Getzwiller the only female to make the final table was in the #7 seat with a stack of chips totaling $2,500,000 to start the day in 6th place. Next to Gail was A.T. Gruzak in the #8 seat with $2,160,000 good enough to start the day in 7th place. Seated in the #9 seat and in 8th place in chip count was Hooman Nikzal with $2,080,000 and finally in my favorite #10 seat was Matt Elsby in 2nd place with $7,100,000

From the very start with blinds at $100,000 / $200,000 and $30,000 ante – these players started firing at the get go. Tom Uwanawich the short stack was first to go “all-in” with a K-J off suit and was knocked out by Chad Mizner with an A-6 – a 6 hit on the flop and held up to knock out Uwanawich in 10th place.

Next Alex Shelton went all in with suited connectors but the chip leader Vance Fitzgerald called with pocket 7’s – caught a 7 on the flop to knock out Alex in 9th place. Shortly after that hand Gail went all-in with about $2,000,000 with no callers, took blinds and ante, she went all-in again with no callers and added to her stack.

At 10:45am (only 30 minutes in to the finals) there was another “All-in” this time from A.T. Gruzak – chip leader Vance calls and shows A/6, Gruzak shows K/J, flop is A-7-10, Vance catches the Ace, turn was a King, but with no help on the river, A.T. Gruzak was knocked out in 8th place.

Next, it was Matt Elsby’s chance to go all-in against Vance Fitzgerald and was knocked out in 7th place

Shortly after that Chad Mizner, with the shortest went all-in, Hooman Nikzul Calls with a slightly bigger stack and shows 8/Q, Chad shows A/10 – flop was K-10-6, turn a 6, river yet another 10 for Chad for trips to take almost all of Nikzul’s chips. On the very next hand Hooman went all in and was knocked out in 6th place.

We are now down to the final 5 and it’s only 11am! Gail Getzwiller (A/Q hearts) chose to go All-in, Vance called with pocket 7’s. Two 6’s (one a heart) plus another heart hit on the turn and when Gail caught a 7 of hearts on the river she hit the flush, but that 7 gave Vance a Full House 7’s full of 6’s and Gail was out in 5th place.

In the next 25 minutes Chad Mizner (K/7) went all-in against Vance Fitzgerald (A-7) and doubled up when he caught a King on the turn.

Then it was Jake Balsinger who went all-in (with Q-9) against Matt Schultz (A/7 of clubs) Flop was A-9-3 rainbow, Matt hits the Ace and Jake catches the 9, turn card is a 2, but the river is the Queen – big applause as Jake catches two pair and a huge $9,000,000 pot.

At the 11:30 break the final four chip count was 1st – Vance Fitzgerald $22,000,000, 2nd – Jake Balsinger $8,500,000, 3rd – Matt Schlutz $5,100,000 and 4th – Chad Mizner $4,300,000


At 11:45 the blinds are huge 150,000/300,000 with 50,000 ante – Play resumed and right away Matt with about 5 million in chips went all-in Chad with about 4 million called and was knocked out in 4th place.


At 12:20pm Jake goes all-in with Ac/9d – Chad calls with pocket 10’s – Flop 3-J-A, turn 7, river 5, and Chad’s pocket tens hold up and Chad is now at $8,000,000.


At 12:45pm Jake is All-in with A/Q, Chad calls with A/K, no hits for either player on the flop, turn or river or any pairs on the board, so Jake was out in 3rd place.


The final two players chip count is Chad Mizner with $13,000,000 and Vance Fitzgerald with the rest $27,000,000 – They continued playing until at 1:10pm (only 3 hours into the finals) Chad went all-in with (A/J off suit) and around $6,000,000 – Vance called with Pocket Queens, Flop was 8-5-3- rainbow, turn card a 6 and river a 7 for almost a straight on the board and a chop – but no 4, so Vance takes out Chad Mizner and becomes the new 2015 Arizona State Poker Champion


In addition to $253,600, Vance Fitzgerald took home a Presidential Rolex watch and a customized trophy.


Second place and third place finishers, Chad Mizner and Jake Balsinger, also earned trophies as well as payouts of $189,600 and $134,300 respectively. Various poker professionals competed in the 2015 tournament including Dennis Phillips, Karina Jett and Kenna James.

For more information about the ARENA Poker Room and upcoming tournaments at Talking Stick Resort, visit or call (480) 850-8693.

The following are the top 10 players and their winnings in the 11th annual Arizona State Poker Championship:

  1. Vance Fitzgerald                              $253,600
  2. Chad Mizner                                     $189,600
  3. Jake Balsiger                                    $134,300
  4. Matt Schultz                                      $98,750
  5. Gail Getzwiller                                   $90,850
  6. Hooman Nikzul                                  $75,050
  7. Matt Elsby                                         $59,250
  8. T. Gruzak                                       $43,450
  9. Alex Shelton                                      $27,650
  10. Tom Uwanawich                                $19,750

A total of 160 places were paid out in this largest poker tournament in the state of Arizona – and next year promises to be even bigger.

Talking Stick Resort (TSR) is a AAA Four Diamond Rated Resort and a central landmark within the emerging Talking Stick Cultural and Entertainment Destination. Talking Stick Resort is located just east of the Loop 101 on Indian Bend Road in Scottsdale. TSR is locally owned and caringly operated by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.


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