Brian Johnson wins MSPT Northern Lights
Johnson outlasted Ensrud in an exciting heads-up battle
Brian Johnson has knocked on the door of a major local title several times over the past few years—reaching the final table of Heartland Poker Tour events three times, and the final two tables five times—but on June 13 he finally
broke through by winning the Minnesota State Poker Tour event at Northern Lights Casino.
Johnson, a charismatic father of four from Grand Forks, North Dakota who has had success playing tournaments
in Las Vegas as well, outlasted Jeremy Ensrud and 87 total Main Event entrants to claim $23,854 and the MSPT diamond bracelet.
“I hung in there and caught a few cards at break time,” Johnson said about a heads-up battle that saw multiple huge
pots and large swings. “Jeremy is a tough player. We played for quite a while, and I got the best of him on a few hands.”
With the victory, Johnson has now earned over $100,000 between the HPT and MSPT over the last three years. He
said he plans on heading to the Rio in Las Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker Main Event in July.
“I can’t make it out there in june,” Johnson said, “but we’ll see if I can make it count during the Main Event.”
Johnson’s previous close calls in the HPT came in April, 2008, when he finished fourth at Golden Gates Casino in
Black Hawk, Colorado for $42,189, and in November, 2009, when he finished fourth at Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota for $12,948. Johnson has also finished eighth, 16th, 20th, and 23rd in past HPT events.
And now he has an MSPT title.
An epic heads-up battle
Ensrud essentially dominated the entire home stretch of the final table using a combination of well-timed aggression
and good cards. At one point, with five players remaining, Ensrud sat behind a stack of 500K, which was more than one-third of the 1.3 million in play. With three players remaining, Ensrud built that stack up to 750K.
After Scott Drill and Mitch Bank hit the rail in third and fourth place, respectively, Ensrud enjoyed a 900K to 400K
chip lead entering heads-up play against Johnson, with blinds and antes at 15/30/3K.
That’s when the fun began. For Johnson, anyways. The first of three critical hands saw Johnson move all-in on the button for his last 200K with K♣10♣. He was called immediately by the AJ of Ensrud. The flop came J♣xx, leaving
Johnson drawing extremely thin, but the board ran out runner-runner clubs to complete a King-high flush, preventing
Ensrud from winning the title.
A short while later, Johnson raised on the button with K♠7♦and Ensrud came over the top all-in with K♦9♦. Ensrud
had come over the top of Johnson several times prior to this, and Johnson apparently had enough. He made the call for
his final 300K, drawing thin again.
When the flop came Q♠6♠A♠—giving Johnson four to a flush—Ensrud let out a loud groan. When a fourth spade
completed Johnson’s flush on the river, Ensrud was forced to relinquish the chip lead for the first time in hours—700K to 600K.
After more back and forth action, Ensrud made a button raise to 90K with 6♠4♠ and blinds/antes at 20/40/3K. Johnson
called with Q♣5♣, and the two saw a flop of 9♣6♣9♥. Johnson immediately moved all-in for 500K<