The 2nd Annual Mid-States Poker Tour Iowa State Poker Championship at Meskwaki Casino attracted a 451-entry field (187 Day 1a & 264 Day 1b) -- which set a new state record for largest major ($1,000+ buy-in) – and after three days of intense action 40-year-old accountant and recreational player John Sun emerged victorious to capture a $104,627 first-place prize.
If you've ever watched one of our MSPT Potawatomi final table broadcasts, then there is a good chance you remember the entertaining Sun, who hails from Milwaukee and has a remarkable record on the MSPT. It started in Season 5 when he final tabled the MSPT Potawatomi, ultimately finishing in fifth place for $26,808. Two years later, which was in April of this year, he finished third in the same event for $50,017. Then, just last week, he placed seventh in the MSPT Potawatomi Regional Event for $9,497.
Sun only has three MSPT cashes on his résumé, and amazingly all are final table appearances at Potawatomi. Who knew it'd take his first visit to Iowa to play poker to finally claim victory.
"It feels great," Sun said after the win, which also propelled him to the top of the MSPT Season 7 Player of the Year Race with 3,200 points, a solid 800 ahead of TJ Thondup. "I guess I'll follow the MSPT for Season 7 now," Sun added.
The win brought Sun's lifetime earnings up to $306,744, which vaulted him to 17th on Wisconsin's all-time money list. It's also worth noting that Sun defeated Iowa's Cory McCarthy in heads up play to take the title of Iowa State Poker Championship to the Badger State.
On Day 2, 78 players returned and with 45 spots paid, 33 of them would leave empty handed. Among those to fall were poker pro Kou Vang; Jay Philips, who was playing her first MSPT outside Minnesota; and bubble boy Vincent Wolrab, who fell after his ace-king fell to the eight-five of Kurt Morden.
Among those to earn a payday in Iowa were Keith Heine (42nd - $2,180), who won the MSPT Meskwaki Spring Event back in March; the last woman in the field, Kathy Hartwick (31st - $2,616); MSPT Season 6 Player of the Year Mark Hodge (20th - $3,270); and Day 1a chip leader Phil Mader (14th - $5,668).
Usually MSPT final tables start with nine players, but because Reg Powell (11th - $7,411) and Mark Reid (10th - $7,411) busted simultaneously at separate tables, just nine advanced to the live-streamed finale. It proved to be an action-packed affair.
In just 26 hands, Mark Lick, Justin Brown, Morden and Brett Reichard all hit the rail. Reichard's sixth-place finish was noteworthy in that he began the final table as the second-shortest stack and simply sat back and watched players bust. It was enough to earn him $16,785 and give him both the best cash and finish in his MSPT career.
Tyler Newman was the next to go after growing short and shoving queen-jack into the ace-queen of Nebraska's Thomas Shea, who followed him out the door a short time later. After Randy Perkins bowed out in third, it came down to Sun and McCarthy, who was looking to keep the State Championship on home turf.
During three-handed play, McCarthy spiked a five outer on the river to double through Sun, who was railed by his cousin Mike Shin (fresh off a 12th-place finish in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event). As a result, Sun began heads-up play at a 5-1 chip disadvantage.
"I felt like I lost $50,000 right there," Sun said of the hand. "I swore a lot in the bathroom and came back."
As it turned out, Sun's final table experience paid off in a big way as he scored two doubles through McCarthy before chipping away at his opponent. In what would be the final hand, McCarthy shoved an open-ended straight draw on the flop and Sun called with pocket nines. The pair held and McCarthy had to settle for runner-up and a $63,216 consolation prize.