The third and final MSPT Meskwaki stop of Season 9 began with 423 entries but after a full weekend of play it was 28-year-old Taylor Howard, an RV salesman from Altoona, Iowa, who walked away with the title and $89,939 first-place prize.
“I’m on top of the world,” Howard said after the win. “I’ve been close to some big, big scores on tours before. I got fourth in this event a few years back. I’ve been close online. It feels good to win one.”
Prior to the win, Howard had $37,189 in live tournament earnings including a prior career-best of $24,423 for finishing fourth in a 2014 MSPT Meskwaki Main Event.
“The MSPT brings out some grinders and it was a tough final table,” said Howard, who had to contend with 21-year-old up-and-comer Ian Matakis for the title. “I don’t have an insane amount of live heads-up experience. I felt like he was a little bit better than me as a heads-up player so I just started ripping. He was a great player.”
As for the money, Howard has a couple of ideas: “I said I’d take my girlfriend on a trip. I need a new car, so we’ll go look at cars too.”
Day 2 saw 61 players return to action but with only 45 getting paid a bunch left empty-handed including MSPT Season 9 Canterbury Park champ Rob Wazwaz, Wisconsin’s Nik Stone, and bubble boy John Sun, who you might recall was the 2016 MSPT Iowa State Poker Champion.
Among those to cash but fall short of the final table were MSPT Season 6 POY Mark Hodge (12th - $6,541), MSPT Season 2 Running Aces champ Jason Seitz (19th - $3,843), 10-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Josh Reichard (28th - $2,453), and DJ Buckley (42nd - $2,248).
One of the big stories at the final table was that of Zac Campbell, who was at back-to-back MSPT Meskwaki final tables (he finished eighth in July’s 2018 MSPT Iowa State Poker Championship for $10,997). On Day 1A of the tournament, Campbell bagged 791,500, an unprecedented chip lead after a Day 1 flight on the MSPT.
The monster stack carried him all the way to the final table, but by that point, his lead had evaporated. He wound up busting ninth place for $7,767 after losing queen-nine to queen-three all in preflop against Matakis.
Another good story at the final table was that of veteran poker reporter Mo Nuwwarah, who some may remember as the PokerNews reporter who covered the MSPT in Seasons 5 and 6. As a player, Nuwwarah was fresh off winning a WSOP Circuit gold ring in Chicago in a H.O.R.S.E. event. His first MSPT final table resulted in a sixth-place finish for $17,170, which was a career-high score for the man from Omaha.
Finishing the tournament in third place was Omaha-based pro Ryan Phan, who currently sits second on Nebraska’s all-time money list. Fans might remember Phan from this summer’s WSOP Main Event where he finished 11th for $725K. Back in August, he finished runner-up in the WSOPC Harrah’s Cherokee Main Event for $182,990, and two seasons ago took second to Keith Heine in the MSPT Meskwaki for $58,296.
As for the game-changing hand for Howard, it came in his heads-up match against Matakis. The duo got it in with the former holding a flush draw and the latter top two pair. The flush came in on the turn, and Matakis was left with crumbs after the hand. He busted a few hands later and took home $55,598 for his runner-up finish.
Congrats to all those who cashed at the #MSPT136 at Meskwaki Casino!