The Mid-States Poker Tour Meskwaki Main Event began with 405 entries (195 Day 1a; 210 Da 1b) – which surpassed the $300K advertised guarantee by creating a $405,000 total prize pool -- but after three days it was Wisconsin’s Ken Komberec who finished as the last player standing to capture a $93,922 first-place prize.
Interestingly, Komberec’s win comes just four months after his best friend, Iowa State Poker Champ and current MSPT Season 7 Player of the Year points leader John Sun, won his MSPT title at Meskwaki. Komberec, a 40-year-old poker player and proprietor of midwestsportsinvestors.net, was on the rail for that one, so it was only fitting his buddy was there for him.
“Feels good. I don’t play in a lot of these, so it feels great,” Komberec said after the win. “John won here in July. Hopefully you’ll keep having us back. We’ll be playing some more tournaments in the next six months for sure.”
“I just knew he was going to do it today, I just knew it,” added Sun, who moved to the United States from Korea at the age of 13 and has been best friends with Komberec ever since. Appropriately, Sun had 3% of his friend, their customary swap when playing in the same tournament.
“I think my wife, son, and i will be moving in the next year, so house money,” Komberec said when asked about his plans for the prize money.
Day 2 saw 69 players return to action, but with only 45 slated to get paid, 24 players are destined to leave empty handed. Among them were MSPT Season 6 Meskwaki champ Rich Alsup, NFL free agent running back Fred Jackson, and Omaha poker pro Ryan Phan.
After Charles Anderson fell as the bubble boy in 46th place, players began to make their way to the payout desk including MSPT Pro Blake Bohn (43rd - $1,957), former MSPT champs Jason Seitz (37th - $1,957), Rodger Johnson (32nd - $2,348), and Kou Vang (26th - $2,935); MSPT Pro Matt Alexander (17th - $3,796), and World Series of Poker bracelet winner John Reading (14th - $5,088).
Another player to go deep was MSPT FireKeepers champ Aaron Massey, who is engaged in a tight race with Sun for Player of the Year honors. Massey fell in 20th place for $2,935 and 200 POY points, which brought his total up to 3,100 with three stops remaining on the calendar. Sun has 3,300 points, so it’s definitely coming down to the wire.
The final table kicked off with a bang as two players – John Whitacre (10th - $6,653) and Keith Neuzil (9th – $8,766) – hit the rail at the hands of Josh Reichard. From there, Anthony Knepper and Ron McMillen, the last two players from Iowa, exited in eighth and seventh respectively, and then one player’s shot at MSPT history came to a halt.
Carl Carodenuto, who won the MSPT Canterbury Park last December and then successfully defended his title in April, fell in sixth place after losing a big race. Carodenuto, who began the final table as chip leader, saw his chance at a record three MSPT titles go out the door, but he did get his third cash on the tour. Amazingly, two of them are wins and the other a final table appearance.
After DJ Buckley bowed out in fifth place at what was his fifth MSPT final table, the last tour champ in the field followed him out the door in fourth place for $25,633. Reichard, who ran pocket deuces into jacks, bested his father’s sixth-place finish in the same event back in July while notching the third-largest score of his career.
Tom Hammers was the next to go after his pocket aces were cracked by the jacks of Komberec, who then took a more than 2-1 chip lead into heads-up play against Omaha’s Drew Woodke. The two jostled for a bit, but eventually Komberec sealed the deal when his pocket aces held against Woodke’s open-ended straight draw.
The win marked just the second tournament cash of Komberec’s career, the other being $3,528 for an 18th-place finish in the MSPT Potawatomi last season.