Canterbury Park - Shakopee, MN
August 9-13, 2017
$350 Regional: 1,169 Entrants
Paul Cross Wins Largest Poker Tournament in Minnesota History, $61,911
The first-ever MSPT $350 Regional Event held at Canterbury Park set the Minnesota state record for largest poker tournament with 1,169 entrants (previous record was 1,114 set in eight flights Canterbury’s 2015 $115 buy-in Ultimate $100K). After four starting flights and a long Day 2, Minneapolis’ Paul Cross emerged victorious to capture a $61,911 first-place prize.
A well-known player in local cardrooms, Cross had a pair of MSPT cashes before his big win. The first came back in Season 5 when he finished 24th in the MSPT Running Aces Main Event for $2,274, and the other another 24th-place finish in the Season 6 Regional Event at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.
The 32-year-old Cross, who defeated MSPT Season 7 Meskwaki champ Keith Heine in heads-up play, is a finance manager at Thomas Reuters and has been a longtime recreational player in the Minnesota poker scene. Now he’s won the largest-ever poker tournament ever held in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.”
“It’s humbling and overwhelming,” Cross said of the win. “I actually got pretty emotional. I have been grinding these tournaments for a long time and have made a few final tables, but a MSPT final table was a big goal for me. It is the most prestigious tour that comes through Minnesota. So, to make my first and go on the heater of a lifetime was unbelievable.”
Social media congratulations poured for Cross, who has a reputation as an enjoyable player at the table.
“I try to keep poker fun man and that’s how I approach the table,” he said. “If you are having a bad time at the table when I’m at it, it's because you want to have a bad time.”
Wednesday’s Day 1A flight drew 281 entrants, but only 40 of them survived the night including chip leader Richard Brekke (329,000). On 1B, 237 players took to the felt with 34 of them advancing. Jeff Lloyd bagged the lead with 294,000.
Meanwhile, Friday’s Day 1C drew an additional 277 runners, which brought the total field up to 795 and saw Ryan Hohenstein bag the big stack among the 45 survivors with 305,000. The fourth and final flight brought in an additional 374 entrants, which helped set the new state record. Of those, 75 advanced with Luke Blindert and his stack of 459,500 leading, which gave him the overall chip lead among the 174 players who returned for Day 2.
Lloyd and Hohenstein would fail to cash while the other two chip leaders made the money but fell short of the final table.
Among the top 117 to get paid were Brekke (25th -$1,933) MSPT Season 5 champ Ken Pates (28th - $1,458), Erick Wright (30th - $1,458), Todd Melander (48th - $1,108), Blindert (54th - $1,108), Rob Wazwaz (55th - $916),Vlad Revniaga (68th - $882), MSPT Season 7 Running Aces champ Luke Arora (73rd - $848), Aaron Johnson (87th - $814), and Jon Kulkay (108th - $678).
Here’s how things stacked up at the start of the final table:
Seat 1: Mark Bloomberg - 4,000,000
Seat 2: Jarrod Blackwell - 1,050,000
Seat 3: Loki Abboud - 1,835,000
Seat 4: Riley Stahley - 2,700,000
Seat 5: Mark Anderson - 1,445,000
Seat 6: Paul Cross - 2,165,000
Seat 7: Keith Heine - 3,905,000
Seat 8: John Alexander - 3,365,000
Seat 9: Tyler Brackey - 965,000
Seat 10: Nate Fair - 1,760,000
On the first hand of the final table, Cross looked down at the A♦A♥ and used them to eliminated Jarrod Blackwell, who got it in with the Q♦Q♠. The action didn’t stop there as three more players would fall before the first orbit was complete. That included John Alexander, father to MSPT Pro Matt Alexander, who fell when his A♥A♣ was cracked by the A♦10♦ of Mark Bloomberg after a 4♦K♥6♦8♦K♣.
Down to the final three, Loki Abboud got his short stack all in preflop holding the J♣9♣ and found himself behind the A♣Q♠ of Cross. The 9♠J♠K♦ flop looked good for Abboud, and so did the 4♣ turn. However, the 10♥ spiked on the river to give Cross a winning Broadway straight.
Heine managed a quick double in heads-up play and took a commanding chip lead. However, two doubles for Cross evened things up, and from there he began to pull away. In what would be the final hand of the tournament, Heine got his short stack all in preflop holding the K♣4♣ against the 10♣10♠ of Cross. The 10♥9♥7♣ gave Cross top set, and Heine was drawing to runner-runner. The 4♠ turn took away any shot of that happening and Heine had to settle for second place and $37,988.
If there was a silver lining, it was Heine also received 567 points toward the Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 8 Player of the Year Leaderboard. Thanks to two other final table finishes earlier this year, that put him in first place with 2,767 points with his next closest competitor being Keith Block with 2,500 points.
“Keith just gets it,” Cross said of his heads-up opponent. “He is an inventive poker player that likes to talk and I love that. I had never played him with him before and I was really impressed. It was a great match which is something you don't get to do often.”
Cross added: “I want to give credit to Canterbury Cards for being the Midwest’s best card room, and Joel ‘Mutt’ Olson for being the best tournament director in the business.”
The latest record-breaking event came less than four months after the MSPT set the record for largest-ever major tournament ($1,000+ buy-in) at Canterbury Park. The 13th MSPT Main Event ever held at Canterbury Park attracted 475 entrants and was won by 56-year-old business development manager Mark Wadekamper.