On Sunday night, local grinder Ben Wiora defeated a venue record 463 players to take down the Mid-States Poker Tour Wisconsin State Poker Championship at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells for $114,512. Wiora, primarily a cash player and a regular in Ho-Chunk's games, came into the event with just $16,662 in scattered tournament cashes.
Wiora took down two monster pots just before the final table began, which allowed him to come into the final 10 as chip leader. He emerged as the clear front-runner with about a third of the chips in play seven-handed, and then steamrolled the rest of the table going wire-to-wire for the win.
When championship Sunday began, 88 hardy survivors convened in Ho-Chunk's main poker room for the beginning of Day 2. Notable contenders such as Aaron Johnson, Kou Vang, Chad Holloway, Mike Mustafa, andJason Sell all fell before the money was reached with 45 players remaining. When Wiora busted a short-stacked player in Level 19 (4,000/8,000/1,000), the bubble burst and payouts began.
Day 2 chip leader Mark Hodge's run of three straight final tables ended in the money when he busted 18th, unable to improve when he got all in with trip aces on the turn against the made flush of Zach Shelton. Others collecting payout tickets as the field narrowed down included Joe Barnard(37th), Nik Stone (36th), Jeff Petronack (35th), former champion Nick Jivkov (34th), and Ken Rosheisen (27th).
With 16 left, Wiora's first key pot occurred when he called John "JohnnyGstaks" Hayes' five-bet ship with the A♠K♠ 31 big blinds deep, only to see Hayes turn over the K♥K♣. Hayes stayed in command on the flop, but Wiora turned an ace to drag the huge pot and survive. Hayes busted shortly after in 14th, followed by tour pro Matt Alexander (13th) and two-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner Chris Karambinis (12th).
Then, in Level 26 (20,000/40,000/5,000), Wiora opened for 80,000 and called a three-bet to 275,000 from Shelton, who was in the blind. Shelton overbet shoved 866,000 on the 6♦Q♣8♣ flop, and Wiora called with the A♠Q♥, again seeing his opponent show kings. Once again, the turn brought the card Wiora needed as he made trips to send Shelton out on the final table bubble and take more than a quarter of chips in play to the final table.
With so many chips concentrated in the top two stacks (Craig Trost had about 2 million), the blinds forced other players into action early and Ernest Garrett (10th), Day 1a leader Will Stone (9th), Mike Holm (8th), and Jason Schimelpfenig (7th) busted before the first break. Trost, who found nothing but poor luck at the final table, followed in sixth when he caught eventual runner-up Thomas Peebles shoving light with K♠5♦ but couldn't hold with A♠7♣.
Gerald Heckathorn fell in fourth when he turned a pair of fours into a bluff and ran smack into a set of jacks held by another local, Marv Roelke. Roelke then ran his queens into Wiora's kings for a monster pot, after which Wiora held two-thirds of the chips in play three-handed. Peebles then won a flip against Mandy Caffeem who tied a MSPT record for deepest finish by a female, to set up the heads-up showdown against Wiora.
Peebles, who seemed forced to make due without the big hands, didn't go down quietly as he doubled up with K♣J♣ all in preflop against K♥10♦ after Wiora hammered him down to about 10 big blinds. However, Wiora made a straight against Peebles' two pair shortly after that and then gambled with king-ten once more, this time beating A♠7♠ for the win.
The MSPT returns on March 12 in Balckhawk, Colorado. For more information on that stop and all those on the Season 6 schedule, visit msptpoker.com.