The 2018 MSPT Iowa State Poker Championship attracted 455 entries to Meskwaki Casino for Main Event 129. It marked the tour’s 20th stop at the venue dating back to 2012, and after a long weekend, it was Minnesota’s Brian Soja who emerged victorious to capture a $94,568 first-place prize.
“It feels really good to finally get the Meskwaki monkey off my back. I’ve bubbled down here four or five times,” Soja said immediately after the win. “Also, to get the MSPT final table off my back because I’ve made two before. This feels really good right now. I was surprised at how fast it went but when the deck hits you in the face like it did for me, it just solidifies for everyone that I’m a luck box.”
The third time at an MSPT final table proved to be the charm for the 43-year father of two, who had finished 10th and runner-up in prior tournaments at Canterbury Park. It also marked his second big score of the month after he finished runner-up in the $280 NLH Anniversary Event at Canterbury Park for $25,000.
“My wife, Tonya, is amazing. I can’t believe she lets me do this, play a game for money. I have a 13-year-old son, Brady, and an almost 5-year-old son Beckett,” Soja said. “I’ve had a good year, this is my fourth or fifth final table in the last seven months. My wife and I have a plan to retire in the next 15 years, so this will probably just go into the bank to make sure that still happens.”
Day 2 saw 62 players return to action, but with only 54 slated to get paid eight left empty-handed including Mike Lang, MSPT Season 4 Meskwaki champ Andy Van Blair, and bubble boy Shaun Burnett, who lost a flip with pocket fives to ace-ten.
Among those to earn a payday but fall short of the final table were MSPT Grand Falls champ Ahmed Taleb (12th - $6,598), four-time WSOP Circuit ring winner Mark Fink (20th - $4,003), current Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 9 POY points leader Aaron Johnson (29th - $2,375), Run It Up Reno champ Blake Cavanagh (41st - $2,155), and Ryan Phan (45th - $2,155), who is fresh off finishing 11th in the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event for $725,000.
The final table began with all ten players fairly close in chips but it wouldn’t take long for the first bustout. It happened when Ron Amos ran kings smack dab into Steven Seidler’s aces, and not long after John Joachim followed him out the door when his aces were cracked by the pocket tens of Jeff Minnerly.
Soja then got his first knock out when police sergeant Zac Campbell moved all in for his last eight bigs holding the A♦9♦ and Soja called with the A♣K♣. The board ran out Q♣2♠7♣A♥Q♠ and Campbell had to settle for eighth place and $10,997.
Soja then dispatched Alex Winter in seventh place – his king-ten suited holding against queen-four offsuit – and then Kipp Smith fell after getting it in with the A♠4♣ and failing to get there against Soja’s 8♣8♠ on a K♦6♠10♠3♠K♥ run out.
Minnerly, who was playing in his first-ever $1K+ buy-in tournament, busted after running his 9♥9♣ into Soja’s J♦J♠, and then Seidler hit the rail due to a nasty turn card. In Level 28 (30,000/60,000/10,000), Seidler raised to 150,000 holding the 10♣7♥ in the cutoff and Travis Sweet called from the small blind. Soja came along from the big with the J♦8♦ and three players went to the 2♠7♣10♦ flop.
Two checks saw Seidler continue for 150,000 with his two pair and Soja peeled with his gutshot, which he hit when the dealer burned and turned the 9♣. The chips got in and Seidler failed to fill up when the 4♥ bricked the river.
After Sweet, who was just two weeks removed from finishing runner-up in the MSPT Potawatomi Regional Event for $50K, took his leave in third place for $41,874, Soja took a big chip lead into heads-up play against Kevin Berthelsen.
In the final hand of the tournament, Berthelsen jammed with the K♦5♦ and Soja called holding the A♦4♥. The board ran out J♣3♣2♠4♠4♣ and Berthelsen had to settle for second place and $58,104 in prize money.