The Mid-States Poker Tour Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, Iowa – which is just outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota – attracted 187 runners (87 Day 1a; 100 Day 1b), which surpassed the advertised $150,000 guarantee by creating an $187,000 total prize pool.
After two days, including one of the wildest hands in MSPT history, professional walleye angler Ted Takasaki, a 2010 inductee of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, emerged victorious to capture a $52,360 first-place prize.
The 58-year-old and father of three from Sioux Falls had been playing poker "semi seriously" for six years, and as soon as the final river card fell it was apparent how much the win meant to him.
"Poker's a hobby for me, fishing is my profession," said Takasaki, who is sponsored in fishing by the likes of Lund Boats and Mercury Outboards. "I get a big high every single time I win a pot. This is the biggest win I've ever had by far. I play online a lot, come out to the casino quite a bit. This is equivalent to the first $100,000 fishing tournament I won. I was jumping up and down. It was exciting. It was exactly how I envisioned being a professional fisherman would be like back when. This win is exactly the same euphoria, the same kind of emotion. It's like the culmination of all the work I've done."
While many poker players resort to fishing for their break from the grind, Takasaki has flipped the script.
"My work is my fishing business, so in the winter I'm doing seminars and attending sports shows," he explained. "During the summer I'm fishing tournaments or shooting television. Everybody asks why I'm not fishing the weekends; I say why would a plumber fix a toilet on the weekend? I love fishing, but poker is my hobby. To take a hobby and win a tournament like this is incredible."
Day 2 began with 49 players returning to action, but with only 18 places being pair, 31 of them left empty handed. They included 2014 MSPT Grand Falls runner-up Jeff Bryan, start-of-Day 2 chip leader Wesley Ismay, and Wisconsin's Brett Reichard, who busted as bubble boy in 19th place.
Among those to cash but fall short of the final table were Jon Maras (17th - $2,805), Keith Doering (14th - $3,460), and Terry Williams (11th - $4,301), just to name a few. After the eliminations of Robbin Green (10th - $4,301), Johnny McGriff (9th - $5,423), and Charles "Doc" Hanson (8th - $6,545) is when one of the wildest hands in tour history went down.
The hand began when Nebraska farmer Phil Mader moved all in for 110,000 and Chris Burke, who had been crippled the hand before, called off for just 10,000. Keith Ehlers then three-bet all in for 178,000 from the small blind and four-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner Mark Fink, who had them all covered, called from the big.
Fink actually had the best hand, and he didn’t give the other players much of a sweat when the flop came down to give him a full house. The turn left the other three drawing dead, and they all hit the rail after the completed the board on the river.
From there, MSPT Season 6 Player of the Year Mark Hodge busted in fourth place, and Joe Barnard followed him out the door in third. That set up a heads-up match between Fink and Takasaki.
Fink began the match with a 2-1 chip leader, but most hands went Takasaki's way until he pulled out to a chip leader. In the final hand, Takasaki shoved holding pocket threes and held after Fink called off with ace-eight.
"I think I'm going to start a poker bankroll," Takasaki replied when asked what he'll do with the prize money. "I'll use that money to fund my hobby and see where it goes. I'm not one to spend over my means, but I would love to continue play a few more MSPTs and travel a little bit. My dream right now is to win Angler of the Year on one of the big fishing circuits, and another dream is to fish the WSOP."