The first MSPT Potawatomi of Season 9 – the eighth Main Event held in downtown Milwaukee since 2014 – attracted 635 entries (312 on Day 1A, 323 on 1B) and saw poker pro Greg Himmelbrand walk away the victor for $125,958. Not only that, he captured his second MSPT title in just his third-ever event to become the tenth player to win multiple titles in the tour’s nine-season history.
“Feeling good,” Himmelbrand said after the win. “This is the third one of these I’ve played and I’ve won two. It’s pretty sick. I heard Milwaukee was a cool city so I wanted to check it out. The tour is run really well. I like how interactive everyone is, so I love to come out and play when I can. With the big prize pools, I’m always down.”
The 35-year-old Himmelbrand, who is based out of New York but previously attended the Ohio State University, previously won the MSPT Maryland Live! back in 2015, good for $72,910. The win, which was the third largest score of his career, helped move the grinder past $1.6 million in lifetime poker earnings.
Day 2 saw 113 players return to action, but with only 72 slated to get paid, 41 would leave empty-handed. They included 2016 MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Champion Andy Rubinberg, MSPT Season 7 Meskwaki champ Keith Heine, and bubble boy Mark Morris, who fell in 73rd place when his ace-king failed to win a race against Devin Looney’s pocket nines.
Once the bubble burst, the in-the-money finishes came quick and included World Poker Tour champ Ravi Raghavan (12th - $9,217), Minnesota’s Kou Vang (28th - $2,704), Chip Leader Coaching member Mike Younan (41st - $2,396), World Series of Poker Circuit Potawatomi Main Event champ Keven Stammen (44th - $2,396), MSPT Season 7 Player of the Year Rich Alsup (53rd - $2,273), and Martin Yates (72nd - $2,028).
Final Table Action
Himmelbrand actually began the final table as the short stack with just 560,000 going into Level 27 (25,000/50,000/5,000), while both Kevin “Bel0wA0ve” Saul and MSPT Season 8 Potawatomi Regional Event champ Craig Trost both had 2.1 and 2.8 million respectively.
Madison’s Cole Tautges was the first to go after getting his last 10 big blinds in with the A♦J♥ only to run it into the A♣Q♠ of Himmelbrand, who by that time had worked his stack up a bit. After that, Trost dispatched Steve Alonzo in ninth place after both players flopped two pair. Unfortunately for Alonzo, his kings and fours were no good against Trost’s kings and queens.
Former MSPT champ Ken Baime, who took down the Season 5 stop at Majestic Star Casino, took his leave in eighth place after jamming his short stack with the K♠10♥ and failing to get lucky against Trost’s A♥K♥ on an A♣4♦9♣2♠3♥ run out.
Umut Ozturk, who was at his second final table of the season, bowed out in seventh place after his ace-queen didn’t win a race against Matthew Buhler’s pocket sixes. The finish gave Ozturk 1,000 Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year points, which along with the 600 he earned at Canterbury Park tied him in fifth place on the leaderboard.
It was at this point that Himmelbrand really caught fire and went from a shorter stack to the big one. During this time, Buhler once again picked up pocket sixes and held against Josh Hergott’s ace-nine of diamonds to bust the latter in sixth place.
Saul was the next to go after three-bet shoving with the 4♣4♥ and failing to win a flip against the K♥Q♣ of Trost, who made trips after the board ran out Q♠A♠2♣2♥Q♥. Saul earned $31,951 for his fifth-place finish.
In the very next hand, James Karamanis, a lawyer who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Madison, shoved his last 10 bbs from the small blind holding the K♥J♦ and Himmelbrand called with the K♦10♣ out of the big. Karamanis was primed to double and looked good on both the Q♠K♠2♠ flop and K♣ turn. The only way he’d lose was to a ten on the river, and unfortunately for him, that’s what came when the 10♣ spiked.
Trost then lost a huge flip with ace-queen against Himmelbrand’s pocket fives and was left with crumbs. Buhler busted him in third place shortly thereafter, good for $57,144. That allowed Himmelbrand to take a more than 2-1 chip lead into heads-up play against Buhler, a member of the popular Madison Poker Community Facebook group.
In what would be the final hand of the tournament, which took place in Level 32 (80,000/160,000/20,000), Himmelbrand raised to 360,000 on the button with the Q♦2♦ and Buhler defended with the J♣10♦.
When the flop came down Q♣7♣5♣, Buhler check-called a bet of 375,000 and the dealer burned and turned the Q♥. Buhler checked, Himmelbrand bet 700,000, and Buhler check-raised all in for 3.305 million.
“Ughhhhh, this is so dumb,” a frustrated Himmelbrand said. He then thought through the hand for a bit before calling. That meant Buhler needed to catch a non-deuce club on the river to survive, but it wasn’t meant to be as the 9♥ bricked. Buhler took home $76,806 for his efforts, a far cry better than his previous best score of $4,546.
“The only hands I’m beating are naked club bluffs,” Himmelbrand reflected on the final hand. “I would have called earlier, I even said I might be nit rolling, but the problem was he double checked his cards deliberately, so it made me hesitate a bit thinking he might’ve flopped a flush. I just thought he has one club enough of the times for me to call.”