No place has hosted more MSPT events than Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN and after an exciting weekend of play, the addition of a new member to the MSPT Hall of Fame and an incredibly memorable Day 2, an emotional Michael Esquivel was the last player standing to take home the title along with $98,113 top prize!
Day 1A kicked off noon on Thursday, September 12 and attracted 109 entrants, just 13 would advance. Sam Chase of St. Paul finished strong to put away 355,000 chips for the top total of the first flight. Kanat Ozturk stood tall in second bagging 214,500 and Zephaniah Baer rounded off the top three with 195,000. Other notables who got through 1A included Brian Clark (184,500), Tony Moses (176,500), Gerald Cunniff (164,500), Ian Matakis (159,000) and Jason Seitz (86,500).
It was a day of wild play, massive showdowns and stunning eliminations but when all was said and done Michael Esquivel of Clarendon, Illinois won a huge pot at the end of the night to emerge as the top stack in Day 1B. Esquivel bagged 388,000 chips to lead, Andy Tran of Eau Claire, Wisconsin (251,000) and 2015 MSPT Player of the Year Mark Hodge (214,500) sat second and third respectively followed by 3-time MSPT Champion Blake Bohn (213,500) and past MSPT Champion Joe Matheson (187,000). Other notables getting through the flight included Dan Favreau (170,000) and current Season 10 Player of the Year points leader Mike Shin (91,500). Flight 1B drew 164 runners, 25 would move on to Day 2.
The final flight of the MSPT157 at Canterbury Park saw 199 entrants hit the felt creating a total of 472. Trenton Wilt of Winchester, Virgina accumulated 364,500 chips to edge out 3-time MSPT Champion Matt Kirby who bagged a healthy 359,500. Xong Lee trailed the two 1C leaders with 269,000 and Jeff Petronack put away 246,000. Among others who found their way to Day 2 included past MSPT Champion Rodger Johnson (205,000), Season 7 POY and MSPT Hall of Famer Richard Alsup (126,500), Season 9 POY and MSPT Hall of Famer Aaron Johnson (69,000) as well as Luke Blindert (164,500) and Gennady Shimelfarb (157,000). 25 from 1C would move on meaning 63 total players would come back on Day 2 to battle for the title, 54 slated to get paid.
After the bubble burst and the room settled, we saw many familiar faces earn a cash including past MSPT Champions James Gibson (53rd - $2,054), Seitz (48th - $2,054), Alsup (46th - $2,054) and Shin (41st - $2,236), Aaron Johnson (26th - $3,047), Rodger Johnson (15th - $5,476) and Bohn (11th - $6,845).
For Hodge, this was his 25th career MSPT Main Event cash to go along with his 2015 MSPT Player of the Year title meaning he became just the fourth player in tour history to accomplish Hall of Fame status. The only others to earn this feat are Kou Vang, Rich Alsup and Aaron Johnson. To go along with his 25 MSPT Main Event cashes and POY title, Hodge has 5 MSPT Main Event final tables, 1 Regional Event final table, $159,832 in earnings and he has cashed in every season back to Season 5.
Another star with inevitable MSPT HOF status (already Minnesota Poker Hall of Fame) is Minnesota’s all-time earnings leader Blake Bohn. Bohn’s 11th place finish here is his 23rd MSPT cash. He also has 9 final tables, 3 MSPT titles and $492,243 MSPT career earnings.
FINAL TABLE ACTION:
The final table got off to a blazing start, on the opening hand Chase rivered a straight to take out Matheson in 10th place ($6,845). An hour later Lee would send Clark to the rail in 9th place ($8,670) when Lee’s held over Clark’s after getting it all-in pre-flop.
A heartbreaking hand ended the night for Matakis in 8th place ($11,409). Matakis moved all-in for his remaining 630,000 chips and was called by Esquivel. Matakis flipped over which trailed the of Esquivel. Matakis would quickly take the lead on the flop. But that lead was short-lived as Esquivel would see the hit the turn to re-take control of the hand. The came on the river and Matakis went from elation to heartbreak as he headed to the payout window.
Tran was also incredibly active early trying to build up his short stack and he did just that taking out Jean-Luc Bardu in 7th place ($14,603).
Joe Maas then broke through to stabilize his position at the final table. After surviving a hand against Chase to pull off a chop and save his tournament, he then came from behind again to eliminate Lee in 6th place ($18,710) taking the final table down to five players.
Esquivel re-asserted himself sending Tran to the rail in 5th place ($24,652) giving Tran his second MSPT 5th place finish at Canterbury Park this year. After Chase had just pulled off a miracle flush to stay alive, Esquivel managed to catch a river card of his own to oust Chase in 4th place ($32,586) giving Esquivel well over half the chips in play with three players remaining.
Kirby never goes down without a fight. He managed to win a race with against Maas to eliminate Maas in 3rd place ($43,444) and set up the heads-up showdown with Esquivel. Esquivel would lead the way holding 5,415,000 chips to the 3-time MSPT Main Event Champion’s 3,995,000.
In heads-up play, Esquivel cleared the seven-million chip mark but Kirby managed to close the gap back 5,000,000 to 4,440,000. It was as close as Kirby would get. Esquivel quickly dwindled Kirby’s stack and on the final hand, Esquivel put Kirby all-in holding against Kirby’s . It looked like Kirby was going to extend the heads-up battle after the flop came out to take the lead. But fate was on the side of Esquivel this time as the came on the turn for him to re-take the lead in the decisive hand. The came on the river and Esquivel burst into tears with his face buried in his hands after being overcome with emotion from the victory.
After the tournament, Esquivel gave some insights into how he played the final table and an interesting conversation he had with Kirby.
“He (Kirby) was short and playing a conservative style and I was just putting the pressure on him. I was once heads-up in a mid-major before and I came in second. And it’s funny because before the final table we were in a break and I was talking to him and asked him ‘How does it feel like to come in first three times?’ And I knew it was going to go down to him and I and I accepted the challenge. I just adapt to how people would play against me and how they would perceive me.”
The emotions came pouring out of Esquivel and he explained how he was feeling after the victory.
“Ecstatic. I’m just happy. My life is already good. I have two beautiful children. Ready to go swim with the family. And I’m gonna travel to some more MSPT tournaments.”
Without a doubt, the Mid-States Poker Tour just found another very worthy champion. Congratulations to our winner – Michael Esquivel!