Tropicana Evansville - Evansville, IN
January 18-21, 2017
Main Event: 658 Entrants
Craig Smith Wins MSPT Tropicana Evansville $350 Regional Event!
The first tournament of the MSPT Season 9 was a $350 Regional Event at Tropicana Evansville, Indiana, which drew 658 entries (182 on Day 1A, 209 on 1B, and 267 on 1C) over three starting flights. The tournament marked the tour’s 22nd Regional Event ever held, and the third at Tropicana Evansville (though the first since it moved from a riverboat to a land-based venue).
The latest edition was the largest to date, easily surpassing the 416 and 511 entries from Seasons 7 and 8 respectively.
MSPT Season 4 Ho-Chunk champ Dan Bekavac sat atop the Day 1A chip counts with 439,000, which gave him the overall lead headed into Day 2 with 95 players returning. Meanwhile, Timothy Puckett (363,500) finished as the chip leader on Day 1B, while Charles Cole (264,000) did it on 1C.
Among the top 72 players to earn a piece of the prize pool were Bekavac (57th - $667), three-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner Robert Castoire (53rd - $704), Cole (49th - $704), Henry Tran (48th - $704), MSPT Season 5 Tropicana Evansville champ Charles Dawson (39th - $743), MSPT Season 7 Tropicana Evansville Regional champ Adam Thomas (29th - $838), Puckett (15th - $2,286), TM Williams (10th - $2,857), and Matthew Steiner (9th - $3,429).
With eight left, the remaining players opted to work a chop based upon their stack sizes (Independent Chip Model or ICM). At the time, Craig Smith of Lexington, Kentucky, who was playing in his first-ever MSPT event, held the chip lead with 3.14 million. That translated to a $24,740 payday, well ahead of the $17,488 William Willman, who had 2 million in chips, received for second place.
The 51-year-old Smith is married to wife, Jill, with whom he has two daughters, Hailee (16) and Evelyn (12). While he enjoys the competition aspect of poker and plays often, he also owns a paint and dent repair company.
“One hand that was pivotal in the MSPT Trop Regional was when I had pocket kings,” said Smith, who only fired one bullet into the tournament. “I raised under the gun and the player in the big blind, it was clear to me he was good, I think he thought he could outplay me. I feel great about my postflop play. Long story short, we eventually got it in with him holding middle pair and a flush draw to my turned set. Fortunately, the river paired the board and I made a full house.”
Given the tournament ended with an eight-way chop, Smith chose pocket kings to hold in his winner photo.
“I wasn’t inclined to chop, but everyone else wanted to,” Smith said of the chop. “I usually don’t mind chopping three ways, so when I realized I would already be getting three-way money at that point, it made sense, especially when I learned I’d get the title as well.”