The first MSPT Potawatomi $1,100 Main Event of Season 8 attracted 495 entrants to downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a weekend full of play, it was well-known poker pro Ari Engel who emerged victorious to capture a $114,876 first-place prize.
With the win, Engel brought his lifetime live earnings up to nearly $4.6 million. Now, he’s not only an eight-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner and the 2016 Aussie Millions champ – a win good for a career-high $1,120,110 – he’s a MSPT champion, and it was all the result of a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“There’s a Jewish holiday that starts tomorrow night, so I didn’t want to play any tournament that went into Monday,” Engel said after the win. “That excluded some tournaments. I was looking around and this looked like a good one. I was in Florida last week, went to the WSOP Circuit in Council Bluffs for one day, and then came here.”
A poker nomad, meaning he literally doesn’t have a place to call home, Engel bounces around the world for whatever poker tournament tickles his fancy. So, what’s next for the pro?
“I’m going back to Florida for the holiday with the parents, and then I’m in the tank between going to England for the partypoker Nottingham series of the WSOP Circuit in Cherokee.”
With 1,500 MSPT Player of the Year points early in Season 8, Engel said there’s also a good chance we’ll see him back on the tour this year.
“How could I not play more?” he asked rhetorically. “We’ll just have to see how it fits in my schedule. I’d like to obviously, this went really well. I was sick the last time I was at Potawatomi, so I didn’t enjoy it much. Plus, it was cold, and I don’t like the cold. However, I’m here for the poker, everything else is kind of on the side.”
Day 2 saw 92 players return to action, but with only 45 spots getting paid more than half the field would leave empty handed. Among those to fall short of the money were Minnesota radio host Cory Cove, 2016 MSPT Iowa State Poker Champ John Sun, and the defending champ Alex Aqel, who won back in November and followed it up by taking down the World Series of Poker Circuit Potawatomi Main Event three months later.
After James Paley fell as the bubble boy, the in-the-money finishes came quick. Some players to earn a payday were WSOP Circuit Potawatomi High Roller champ Nadya Magnus (42nd - $2,393), MSPT Season 6 Player of the Year Mark Hodge (36th - $2,872), and two-time champ Jeremy Dresch (16th - $4,643).
Reigning MSPT Player of the Year Rich Alsup was the first to fall at the final table after his ace-eight failed to get there against Jim Juvancic’s ace-queen, and Patrick McCullough followed him out the door after he got it all in preflop with pocket eights against Engel’s sevens. A seven appeared on the turn and that was all she wrote for McCullough.
George Dietz then dispatched Dan Crawford in eighth place when his sixes held against Big Slick, and Brad Jansen fell in the very next hand when his king-queen failed to overcome Keith Heine’s ace-nine.
WSOP bracelet winner and inaugural America’s Poker Tour champ Alex Ziskin was next to go after his pocket nines fell to Juvancic’s ace-king, and shortly thereafter Engel notched his second elimination of the final table.
It happened in the 40,000/80,000/10,000 level on Hand #74 of the final table and began when Engel raised to 185,000 under the gun holding the . Juvancic then moved all in for 795,000 holding the in small blind and Heine called from the big with the . Engel proceeded to move all in, Heine had little choice but to fold, and the board ran out to give Engel a full house.
On Hand #97, which took place in Level 30 (50,000/100,000/10,000), Heine raised to 250,000 under the gun with the and Engel, who had the big stack, simply moved all in from the button with the . Dietz called off for 1 million with the in the big, and he was primed to double after Heine folded. However, the board ran out and Engel made a flush to eliminate Dietz in fourth place.
Heine, the MSPT Season 7 Meskwaki champ, took his leave in third place after his king-four failed to get there against the ace-eight of Carlos Monteiro. Heine, who was two weeks removed from finishing fifth in the #MSPT100, earned 1,200 points toward the MSPT Season 8 Kimo Sabe Mezcal Player of the Year race, which puts him in the lead with 2,200 total points.
Heine’s elimination set up a heads-up match with Engel holding a decent chip lead over his Minnesotan foe.
The final hand wouldn’t come for a while, but eventually in Level 32 (80,000/160,000/20,000), Engel raised the button to 355,000 with the and quickly called when Monteiro three-bet jammed for 3.2 million with the . The flop gave Engel trips, and he held onto the lead through the turn and river.
With that, Monteiro had to settle for runner-up and a $69,405 consolation prize while Engel etched his name in MSPT history.