The latest MSPT FireKeepers $1,100 Main Event was the largest poker tournament in Michigan history with 1,287 runners (surpassed the previous record of 1,067 set in 2017). After a long weekend of play, Indiana’s Mark Brazis emerged victorious to capture a $221,323 top prize.
“The MSPT FireKeepers is a great tournament, I really enjoyed it,” said the 36-year-old Brazis, who was playing his first MSPT event and only had to fire one bullet. “The structure was wonderful, no too slow, not too fast. FireKeepers has a great establishment here, they’re always first class. You’ll see me more on the MSPT and at FireKeepers Casino.”
Prior to the win, Brazis had just three tournament cashes on his poker resumé, with his prior best being $25,018 for finishing fifth in the 2014 World Series of Poker Horseshoe Hammond Event #1: $365 NLH.
In other news, Kou Vang became the first player inducted into the MSPT Hall of Fame while at FireKeepers. One of the criteria for induction is to notch 25 MSPT cashes with either one MSPT win or Player of the Year title. Vang, who won a title back in Season 2, cashed the MSPT FireKeepers to become the inaugural inductee.
Day 2 saw 173 players return to action, but with only 135 slated to get paid, 38 would leave empty-handed. They included Day 1C chip leader Frank Lagodich, two-time champ Jeremy Dresch, and Chad Furbay, who exited in 136th place as the bubble boy.
From there, the in-the-money finishes came quick and included current Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year points leader Aaron Johnson (15th - $13,715), World Poker Tour champ Kevin Saul (25th - $6,983), MSPT Season 6 FireKeepers champ Harry Tisdale (29h - $5,237), MSPT Season 4 POY Pat Steele (43rd - $4,115), poker pro Kenna James (57th - $3,242), two-time champ Greg Himmelbrand (68th - $2,993), MSPT Season 7 FireKeepers winner Aaron Massey (87th - $2,743), #MSPT100 victor Jason Ramos (96th - $2,618), and Minnesota’s all-time money leader Blake Bohn (124th - $2,120).
At the final table, Charles Baryames was the first to go after jamming with the A♠8♥ and failing to hold against the K♣Q♠ of Bryant Miller on a Q♦J♣10♣9♥2♥ runout. Not long after, Aaron Soulliere busted after flopping top pair only to run into the bottom set of Bryan Norris.
Two-time MSPT champ Jason Zarlenga, who entered the final table as the short stack, saw his quest for a third title come to an end in eighth place. He shoved his short stack holding the A♣7♦ and was called by Norris, who held the Q♠J♠. The board contained a jack and that was all she wrote for Zarlenga.
Before the first break of the final table, a cooler flop sent Michael Reardon to the rail in seventh place. It happened when he raised to 400,000 from the small blind with the A♠K♦ and Day 1B chip leader Justin Lee defended the big blind with the Q♥J♠. The A♦10♠K♦ flop saw Reardon bet 800K with his two pair and Lee, who flopped the nuts, just called. They got the rest in on the 4♣ turn and Readon failed to boat up on the river, which was the 4♠.
Despite winning that hand, Lee was next to go after running A♠Q♥ into the A♥K♥ of Vang, who in turn followed him out the door in fifth place. Vang lost most of his stack in a flip against Henry Zou when his pocket eights failed to hold against the latter’s Big Slick. Vang then lost his remaining chips after getting it in with ace-deuce and failing to hold against Miller’s suited king-queen.
Norris took his leave in fourth place after running his K♦6♦ into Miller’s K♠Q♦, and then Zou hit the rail when his pocket nines lost a race to Miller’s ace-ten. That allowed Miller to take a 2-1 chip lead into heads-up play against Brazis, but the tables were soon turned.
Brazis got lucky with king-queen to double through Miller, who had him crushed with ace-queen. Eventually, the two got it in preflop again, this time with Miller holding the A♥K♥ and Brazis the Q♠Q♣. It was a classic flip, and Brazis held on the 5♦9♥9♣8♣3♦ runout to win the tournament.
“It was a hard battle, he played really well,” Brazis said after the win. “He took some bad beats but always handled himself well. He fought me to the end. I’m happy I was able to win tonight. You take bad beats earlier in the tournament, you win some you lose some. Just gotta be happy to come out on top.”