The 2016 Mid-States Poker Tour Indiana State Poker Championship at Tropicana Evansville proved to be a record affair. The 340 entries (142 Day 1a; 198 Day 1b) was quite a bit more than the 225 and 251 from 2014 and 2015 respectively. That easily surpassed the $250,000 advertised guarantee by creating a $340,000 total prize pool.
Three of the ten finalists were from the Hoosier State, and much to the delight of the hometown crowd one of them, 49-year-old Earl Potter, managed to keep the title on home soil.
"I'm feeling awesome," Potter said after the win. "These guys are quite a bit better than me, but you've got to get lucky sometimes. Make good decisions. I got lucky a few times."
Potter's only other documented cash came back in January when he finished 27th in the MSPT Tropicana Evansville Regional for $744. Needless to say, he wasn't content with that amount.
"I had a big stack going into the regional and donked them off early," he explained. "I played too conservative. I made the money but I didn't go real deep, so I played a little more aggressive here. That was the plan, I did it, and it worked out."
Potter, who works at a Toyota factory, has been playing poker since he was 10 years old, though it wasn't until around 2006 that he took up hold'em. He's a father of two – son Rick, 30, and daughter Megan, 24 – and was cheered on from afar by his wife, Crystal Potter, who was watching the live stream from home.
"My wife wants me to pay off her car so I guess I don't have much of a choice but to do that," Potter said with a laugh when asked what he plans to do with the prize money.
Day 2 saw 65 players (27 Day 1a survivors; 38 Day 1b survivors) return to action, but with just 36 of them getting paid, 29 would leave empty handed. Among them was Hollywood Poker Open St. Louis champ Cory Bogert, MSPT Season 4 Player of the Year Patrick Steele, and bubble boy John Thomas Lynn.
Once the bubble burst, the in the money finishes came quick. Among those to earn a payday were MSPT FireKeepers runner-up Ron Kruk (31st - $2,078); Ricky Stinson (24th - $2,638), who notched his third consecutive cash in MSPT Tropicana Evansville Main Events; MSPT Iowa State Poker Champ John Sun (21st - $2,638); Day 1b chip leader Jason Ramos (17th - $3,298); and Day 1a chip leader Joseph Bommarito (11th - $6,266).
The big stories at the final table were the appearances of Mike O'Neill and Adam Thomas. The former was the defending Indiana State Poker Champion and the latter the winner the aforementioned MSPT Tropicana Evansville Regional, a tournament that attracted 416 entries and awarded a $30,674 first-place prize.
It seemed a title defense was in the cards when O'Neill doubled into the chip lead on the second hand of the final table, but his momentum slowed before he busted in sixth place for $13,195. Thomas fared better grinding a short stack all the way to third place for $32,090.
In the end, it came down to Potter and Ohio's Tom Gliva, who at one point at the final table was down to a single big blind. While the two started heads-up play even in chips and the structure was kind, they opted to play loose and fast with Gliva shoving king-four and Potter calling with ace-five. An ace on the flop ultimately led to his victory and Gliva had to settle for runner-up and a $49,470 consolation prize.