The second MSPT Season 9 $1,100 Main Event at Canterbury Park drew a record 526 entries (259 on Day 1A, 267 on 1B), which not only made it the largest MSPT ever held at the venue in 16 stops, but also became the largest major poker tournament ($1K+ buy-in) in Minnesota history.
Fittingly, the title came down to two legends in the Minnesota poker community in 40-year-old Rob Wazwaz and the state’s all-time money leader Blake Bohn. Wazwaz was making his record ninth MSPT final table, and after many close calls – he finished fourth in the same event back in December and placed second in a Season 8 stop at Running Aces – he finally managed to claim an MSPT title, this one good for $109,375.
“My favorite tournament I’ve ever won is this one right now, best honor ever,” Wazwaz said after the win. “Being 0-8 on the MSPT, knowing I didn’t play the ones right back then, that I wasn’t as good back then. I should’ve done better.”
He continued: “The cards I picked up were amazing, obviously I ran really hot, but I really tried hard to win this one because I couldn’t stand that I’d never won an MSPT, I just couldn’t stand it. I had to add it to my résumé, I felt it was incomplete, all the MSPT I had played without winning.”
Prior to the win, Wazwaz had $174,209 in lifetime MSPT earnings, but he now has $283,584, which puts him 10th on the MSPT all-time money list. It was just the latest win for Wazwaz, who has nearly $1.3 million in lifetime earnings. Earlier this month, he won Running Aces’ Spring Poker Classic $500 Main Event for $32,268, and last May took down the HPT Chicago for $173,385.
Day 2 saw 94 players return to action and 40 of them left empty-handed before the money was made. Among those to bust early were 2017 Fall Poker Classic champ Dennis Stevermer, Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer Mike “Schneids” Schneider, two-time MSPT champ Jeremy Dresch, start-of-the-day chip leader Carl Carodenuto, and bubble boy Steve Alonso, who got it in with ace-jack against king-jack only to see a king spike on the river.
From there, the in-the-money finishes came quick and included former champ Jon Kim (11th - $7,631), UCCS Mountain Lion Poker Club member Justin Cole (26th - $3,408), Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 8 POY Chris Meyers (30th - $2,747), two-time MSPT champ Johnny Hayes (32nd - $2,747), MSPT Season 8 Canterbury Park champ Mark Wadekamper (43rd - $2,493), and Aaron Johnson (45th - $2,493), who added 75 points to his current Player of the Year lead.
Another player to cash was Kou Vang, who finished in 22nd place for $3,917. It marked the 24th MSPT cash of his career and put him just one away from becoming the first player inducted into the MSPT Hall of Fame, which requires “a minimum of 25 MSPT Main Event Cashes and 1 MSPT Win or 1 MSPT Player of the Year” and “a minimum of 10 MSPT Main Event Final Tables and 1 MSPT Win or 1 MSPT Player of the Year.” Vang won the MSPT Season 2 Canterbury Park for $64,645.
Final Table Action
The final table began with four players over seven figures and the rest shorter. That made for some interesting table dynamics and a lot of action.
Rob Maier was the first to fall after getting his short stack in with the and failing to win a race against Bohn’s . Not long after, 18-year-old high school student and top-ranked Minnesota chess player Peyton Smith scored a double elimination when he called two all-ins holding the . Vlad Tkachuk had he and Barbara Sargent the , but neither were able to crack the nines after a run out.
Wazwaz then put a bad beat on Ryan Hartmann, who was at his fifth MSPT final table. Hartmann got it in with the against the of Wazwaz, but a flop sent him out the door in seventh place for $16,279.
The short-stacked Robert Mitchell then took his leave in six place, and MSPT Season 2 Northern Lights champ Tom Stambaugh followed him out the door in fifth. It happened when Stambaugh jammed his last 10 big blinds with the and got called by Smith’s . The board came and that was all she wrote for Stambaugh.
Brian Zupanchich, who was making his first final table appearance after playing the tour for the better part of seven years, then ran his pocket eights smack dab into Wazwaz’s aces to fall in fourth place for $36,628.
The final three players all had a lot of chips, but Wazwaz pulled away when he and Smith clashed. The former had pocket kings and the latter Big Slick. Wazwaz just called a three-bet and a bet on the flop before jamming over the top of a big turn bet for Smith, who was forced to fold. Wazwaz then finished off Smith with the against the wunderkind’s . The board ran out and Smith missed to bust in third place for $48,430.
Heads-up play was a short affair given Wazwaz’s insurmountable chip lead. Eventually, he jammed the button with the and Bohn called off with the . The board ran out and Bohn had to settle for second place and $67,203.
That brought Bohn’s MSPT lifetime earnings up to $373,270, second only to MSPT Venetian champ Nader Kakhmazov’s $395,888.
“He’s the best,” Wazwaz said of Bohn. “It was akin to defeating a great athlete. In all fairness, I caught way better cards than Blake. I owe it all to Blake for buying me drinks. First time of all my MSPT final tables I’ve ever drank. I knew when he offered I had to change it up and here I am.”