The first of four $1,100 MSPT Main Events at Canterbury Park this season saw 479 entrants take to the felt in search of a $99,573 first place prize. After two days of play, it was Bemidji's Matt Kirby that recorded the victory, earning his record tying third MSPT Main Event title, tying him with Carl Carodenuto and Blake Bohn for the most MSPT Main Event titles.
"It feels good," Kirby said about the win. Kirby's Day 2 tables were lined with many fellow Minnesota poker legends, including "Minnesota" Jon Hanner, fellow thee-time MSPT Main Event champ Carl Carodenuto, and 2017 MNPokerMag Player of the Year Todd Melander, but that didn't seem to affect Kirby's play style at all. "We've all played enough together, I know how they play, so that helps. Every table's different, so you adapt to what's going on with the stacks. Some people play differently when they're on tilt, too."
Kirby, who recorded a Main Event cash in the first eight seasons of the MSPT before going without a cash last Season, was happy to be able to get back on the felt, saying, "I haven't been playing much, I use to play so much that it wasn't that exciting and now I play every few months, I've only played five (MSPT Main Events) in the last couple of years."
The burnout with poker seems to be over for Kirby, as he said, "But it's got to the point where it's really fun and you look forward to coming back again. And obviously, this helps a lot and makes it really fun, but I have young kids at home, so it was really nice to stay home as much as possible. But now they're getting a little bit older, so it's a little easier to leave for a couple of days."
When asked what he would do with the first place prize money, Kirby laughed and said, "I don't really know, I already got a bunch of money, so I'll put it with that I guess.”
Day 2 saw 57 players return to the felt, but with only 54 spots to be paid, three unlucky souls were left empty-handed, including Steve Wazwaz, Joe Hindman, and bubble boy Barry Schmiess, who had his Big Slick cracked by Alex Moua's suited nine-five when Moua turned a nine to give him nines and fives against Schmiess' flopped top pair of kings.
Once the money was reached, the action was fast and furious on the way to the final table, and many notables found a cash, including final table bubble boy Eric Atchison (11th - $6,947), three-time MSPT champ Carl Carodenuto (12th - $6,947), Sherry Hammers (14th - $5,558), Season 2 MSPT Northern Lights Casino champ Tom Stambaugh (16th - $4,631), Chicago pro Cody Brinn (22nd - $3,567), MSPT Hall of Famer Kou Vang (23rd - $3,567), Season 9 MSPT Canterbury Park Regional champ Saad Ghanem (24th - $3,567), 2017 MNPokerMag Player of the Year Todd Melander (25th - $3,103), Day 1A Chip Leader Amir "AT" Tavanae (28th - $2,501), Tom Hammers (34th - $2,501), Season 6 MSPT Canterbury Park champ "DQ" Dan Hendrickson (38th - $2,269), Season 6 Ho Chunk Wisconsin Dells champ Ben Wiora (43rd - $2,269), Loki Abboud (45th - $2,269) and Brian Berthiaume (48th - $2,084).
Final Table Action
The first to fall at the final table was the most accomplished in terms of MSPT prowess, as MSPT Hall of Famer Rich Alsup's ace-five suited was unable to best the ace-ten of Todd Sladek, leaving Alsup out in tenth place for $6,947. Alsup was able to notch his eleventh MSPT final table, breaking a tie with fellow Hall of Famer Kou Vang for the most in tour history, and moved into third place on the all time MSPT Main Event cashes list with 24, sitting behind Vang and another MSPT Hall of Famer in Aaron Johnson, who both have 30 cashes.
Mark Feil was the next to fall, getting coolered when his pocket sixes ran into the pocket nines of Adam Tolander. Both players flopped a set, and when the money went in on the turn, Feil couldn't find the case six to survive, leaving him with $8,799 for his ninth place finish. Feil, a native of Superior, Minnesota, recorded his first MSPT cash.
The eliminations kept coming at a rapid pace, as Sladek, who came into the day with the overall chip lead, ran his king-queen into the ace-king of David Bashel just a few hands later to leave Sladek with eighth place and $11,578. Sladek, from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, notched his fourth MSPT cash and his biggest cash overall on tour.
"Minnesota" Jon Hanner grinded a short stack up a few ladder notches, but he finally jammed his last few big blinds with king-four suited, only to run into the aces of Tolander to hit the rail in seventh place for $14,820. This was Hanner's third MSPT final table in the past three seasons, including a runner-up performance to two-time MSPT champ Ben Marsh in the Season 8 Finale at Canterbury Park.
Matt Alexander found himself all in shortly after Hanner's elimination, with his king-queen dominated by the ace-king of clubs of Matt Kirby. Kirby flopped a flush and Alexander had to settle for sixth place and $18,988. This marked Alexander's fifth final table appearance and nineteenth MSPT Main Event cash.
The third elimination of Level 26 (25,000/50,000/5,000) claimed Bashel as a victim, when he got his last 1.1 million in preflop with ace-queen against the queens of Kirby. No ace came to save Bashel, and he claimed fifth place and $25,009. The Minneapolis native's third Main event cash was also his largest, and his first cash since Season 7.
Action slowed down a bit during four handed play, until Tyler Kolness found himself all in for his last five big blinds in Level 28 (40,000/80,000/10000) with ace-queen against the queen-eight of Kirby. Kirby was able to spike an eight on flop to send Kolness out in fourth place, taking home $33,345. This marked the largest cash in the career of Kolness according to Hendon Mob, and was his second overall MSPT cash after a 19th place finish in the Season 9 Grand Falls Regional event.
Tolander then made a stand in Level 29 (50,000/100,000/10,000), raise-calling off his last 1.7 million with ace-four, only to find himself against Kirby's jacks, and Tolander settled for third place and $44,090 when the jacks held up. Tolander has three Hendon Mob cashes on his resume; all MSPT Main Event cashes. He recently cashed the MSPT Poker Bowl III at the Venetian, and the Des Moines, Iowa native is one of ten players to boast two cashes already in Season 10.
Andy Redleaf, put up a valiant effort against Kirby in heads-up play despite being outchipped nearly 4:1 after Tolander's elimination. He doubled up once and pulled within striking distance of the chip lead, but Redleaf finally got short in Level 31 (60,000/120,000/20,000) and ripped his last 2 million in on the button, and Kirby called.
Redleaf was flipping for his tournament life, and he survived the flop. The turn brought Kirby some counterfeit outs, but the left Redleaf as our runner-up, and he took home $61,179 as a consolation prize. Redleaf, a Minneapolis hedge fund founder, scored his third MSPT Main Event cash and increased his lifetime Hendon Mob earnings to $186,966 with this score.