The MSPT Season 10 Cleveland Poker Open at JACK Cleveland Casino drew 725 entries creating a $703,250 total prize pool, which made it by far the largest major poker tournament ($1K+ buy-in) in Cleveland’s history, breaking our own record from the previous year. In the end, it was 33 year old professional poker player Sean Munjal Sean Munjal of Ann Arbor, Michigan, who navigated the field to take down a $140,654 first-place prize.
“I feel amazing!” Munjal said while reflecting on his victory. “This is my first huge score. I was never a tournament player, I always played cash, I play a lot of higher stakes PLO cash games across the country, but I never play tournaments much. This was my first tournament of the year, so I’m off to a good start!”
Many players with PLO backgrounds have penchants for being action players, but Munjal took a different approach to this tournament. “It’s different skill sets. Tournament No Limit Poker is a game of patience, a game of endurance; it’s a marathon. So, you have to adjust. And, today was my day!”
Munjal’s girlfriend, described as “the love of my life,” was also on the rail through the final table, even bringing him chocolates at one point. “The first thing I’m going to do is pay off all my student loan debt. To be honest, I’ve been playing poker for close to ten years, and for me this is a dream come true. I’m really excited about it, and I think I’m going to use this to propel myself into other tournaments, play bigger games and stuff like that.”
Munjal also had props for Adam Friedman, who was a thorn in his side all day. “Adam was one of the toughest opponents in the field today, I actually kinda blew up at him when I knocked him out, but it was because throughout the day he was difficult to deal with. So, props to him, he came and played a great tournament. He’s phenomenal.”
Day 2 saw 109 players return to action, but with only 81 slated to get paid, a few had to leave empty handed, including Colorado’s Mace Reed, Chris Moon, former MSPT FireKeepers champ Mike Shanahan, Nick Davidson, and bubble boy John Michalak, who final tabled this very event last year.
The bustouts came swiftly after the bubble burst, and many notables fell short of the final table, including final table bubble girl Sherry Hammers (11th - $10,478), Vance Essak (25th - $4,079), Season 8 MSPT POY Chris Meyers (34th - $3,094), former WPT champ Ravi Raghavan (37th - $2,602), Season 9 MSPT POY Aaron Johnson (38th - $2,602), Season 4 MSPT POY Pat Steele (41st - $2,602), Gary Herstein (53rd - $2,391), Alex Winter (60th - $2,250), Cooper Wanty (62nd - $2,250), WSOP Bracelet winner Joe Ebanks (66th - $2,110), and Montana’s Mikiyo Aoki (73rd - $1,969).
Final Table Action
A former Cleveland Poker Open final tablist was the first to fall, when Michael Pempin’s king-queen couldn’t best the ace-jack suited of Clinton Hubble. Pempin, who finished sixth last year, joins Adam Friedman as the only two-time Cleveland Poker Open final tablists.
Hubble was the next to fall, when the Midland, Michigan native got tens in on a seven-high flop, only to run into the set of Anthony Carbone. Hubble, who made a deep run in Season 8’s Indiana State Poker Championship with a 21st place finish, logged a career best cash of $12,659 with his ninth-place finish.
Carbone added another knockout a short time later, when his pocket deuces flopped a set and rivered a full house, which bested the ace-trey of eighth-place finisher Sean Troha, who flopped a flush draw and a gutshot and rivered a flush. Troha, a two-time WSOP Circuit ring winner, recorded his first MSPT cash.
Cleveland native Edward Mogilnicki made his last stand with king-jack offsuit on the button a few hands later, but Sean Munjal’s pocket deuces prevailed on an eight-high board, leaving Mogilnicki to settle for his second career MSPT cash in seventh.
It took an hour for the next player to fall in sixth, and it was Kentucky’s John Mingus, who came into the final table as the chip leader, held jack-ten suited against Munjal’s ace-eight offsuit. Mingus now has three MSPT Final Tables in the last year and a half, and this cash marks the second biggest score of his career.
Just a few hands later, Munjal would claim another victim after calling an all-in three-bet shove of Igor Ioffe, who held ace-nine off. Munjal’s pocket sevens held, and Ioffe was eliminated in fifth-place. Ioffe’s first MSPT cash was a career best for the Reminderville, Ohio native, who was also the Day 1B chip leader.
The other two Day 1 chip leaders wound up clashing a short time later, with Joel Brink jamming ace-ten in the small blind and Munjal calling with king-eight suited in the big blind. Munjal spiked a king to send Brink home in fourth place. Brink, who resides in Erie, Pennsylvania, previously shipped an $1,100 Main Event at Naples Fort Myers for $40,000; this cash, his first with the MSPT, now stands as his largest cash of his career.
The most accomplished player at the final table, two-time WSOP Bracelet winner Adam Friedman, had spoken all day about how ironic it would be to finish third in this event in back to back years. He limped in with an ace-seven from the small blind, and Munjal checked ace-ten in the big blind. An ace-high flop was checked through, and the queen of hearts turn gave both players a flush draw with their kickers. The chips got in, and Friedman had to settle for third and a MSPT career-best $63k cash, along with his fifth career final table. He also moved up to 36th on the all-time MSPT career earnings list with the cash.
Heads up play was swift, and it ended in Level 33 (100,000/200,000/30,000) when Carbone limped the button, and Munjal raised to 700,000. Carbone then shoved for 4 million and Munjal snapped him off.
Carbone needed a jack after the flop brought no immediate help, but the turn added an open-ended straight draw for Carbone, while giving Munjal the nut flush draw.
“Always a sweat!” Munjal said with a grin.
The river bricked off for Carbone, and the twenty-two year old’s second cash at the MSPT Cleveland Poker Open fell one spot shy of the winner’s podium. Carbone, who had a substantial rail sweating him for heads up play, improved vastly on last year’s 60th place finish in this very event, and pushed his lifetime tournament earnings to just over six-figures with his runner-up performance.