The MSPT Season 9 Finale at Canterbury Park drew 977 entries creating a $977,000 total prize pool, which made it by far the largest major poker tournament ($1K+ buy-in) in Minnesota history. In the end, it was Illinois’ Andy Rubinberg coming out on top to win a $179,776 first-place prize and his second MSPT title.
With the win, Rubinberg moved into the No. 10 spot on the MSPT’s all-time money list with $386,537 in earnings. His other title came back in 2016 when he won the MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Championship for $120,808.
“This is wonderful. Back in 2016 was my first big win, but this one confirms my game,” said Rubinberg, who was the short stack with 27 players remaining. “2016 was such a big year for me. I traveled in 2017 and lost money. A lot of travel n 2018 and losing money, I’ve been down all year. I’ve been working so hard, working with Chip Leader Coaching, studying, I felt so much more confident going into this final table and just feel I played so much better. Hard work pays off.”
He continued: “This was a tough field, but aside from being such a big field a lot of big pros came. I knew if I could win this one it would mean something. Outside of Vegas, this might’ve been the toughest field ever.”
For Rubinberg, this was his 11th MSPT Main Event cash and 3rd final table which includes 2 wins and a runner-up finish.
Day 2 saw 148 players return to action, but with only 99 slated to get paid nearly a third of them left empty handed including 2015 MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Champ Ben Wiora, poker pro Jeff Fielder, three-time MSPT champ Carl Carodenuto, and bubble boy Larry Ormson.
Among those to cash but fall short of the final table were MSPT Season 8 POY Chris Meyers (15th - $11,354), MSPT Season 9 Canterbury Park champ Rob Wazwaz (19th - $7,759), Aaron Johnson (32nd - $4,163), Craig Trost (35th - $4,163), MSPT Meskwaki champ Taylor Howard (39th - $3,217), Day 1C chip leader Cherukuri Sandeep (43rd - $3,217), Day 1A chip leader Brad Berman (51st - $2,933), and Day 1B chip leader Rocco Crivello (73rd - $2,460).
Final Table Action
Iowa’s Jason Bender was the first to fall after running fives into Joel Klipping’s aces. For Bender, this was his 9th MSPT Main Event cash and 4th final table. Bender also has also reached 4 MSPT Regional final tables on 5 cashes. He was followed out the door by Stuart Luhm, who fell when his pocket kings were cracked by Jesse Rockowitz’s ace-nine all in preflop.’ This was Luhm’s 1st MSPT cash.
Rockowitz then dispatched Soccer Coach Jovan Sudar in eighth place – the results of queen-ten making a straight against ace-nine all in preflop. This was Sudor’s 4th MSPT cash and 1st final table. Sudor now has over $500K lifetime live earnings which includes a $95K score for winning a WSOPc event in 2010.
Then Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer and professional poker player Mike “Schneids” Schneider busted after losing two big hands to Ronnie Lamb. In the first, Lamb doubled with kings against ace-queen suited, and in the second Schneider failed to get there with queen-jack against king-ten suited. This cash gave Schneid’s 8 total on the MSPT and this marked his 2nd final table and boosted his live career earnings closer to $1.8M.
Maple syrup farm owner Tom Sadowski hit the rail after getting his short stack in with queen-jack and failing to get there against Klipping’s Big Slick, and then Poker Dealer Shawn Douglass ran ace-jack smack dab into Rubinberg’s ace-queen to bust in fifth place.
Rubinberg then got lucky with ace-three all in preflop when he flopped two pair against Rockowitz, a 2010 WSOP bracelet winner, who had ace-queen. Two pair held and Rockowitz, the longtime chip leader at the final table, had to settle for fourth place and $61,502 in prize money. Professional poker player Rockowitz now has over $1.5M career live earnings.
Klipping, the MSPT Season 6 Mahnomen Regional Event winner, then fell at the hands of Rubinberg running pocket fours into eights. This was Klipping’s 10th MSPT Main Event cash and 2nd final table. Klipping also has 3 MSPT Regional cashes with 2 final tables. All told Klipping has $183K earnings on the MSPT. Rubinberg took a big lead into heads-up play and it didn’t take him too long to finish off Lamb.
In the final hand of the tournament, Lamb check-raised all in holding middle pair only to get called by Rubinberg’s top pair. Lamb turned an open-ended straight draw but missed it on the river. Lamb took home a career-high $110,704 for his runner-up finish.
Brandon Welter Nabs Platinum Pass
One of the big stories in the season finale was the $30,000 Platinum Pass Giveaway, which saw one lucky person win their way to January’s PokerStars Players NL Hold’Em Championship (PSPC) in the Bahamas!
Names were drawn from a barrel each flight for an eight-player heads-up Flipout Tournament held on Sunday before Day 2 got underway. Among those to compete were Joan Sandoval, Royce Cannon. Jolene Jensen, MSPT Season 6 Canterbury Park champ Dan “DQ” Hendrickson, MSPT champ Mark Sandness, Kevin "1sickdisease" Eyster, Eric Wasylenko and Brandon Welter.
Ultimately it was Welter who defeated Hendrickson, Sandness, and Sandoval in three flips to win the coveted Platinum Pass.
Aaron Johnson Named Season 9 POY; Wins Way into MSPT Hall of Fame
With the eliminations of MSPT Hall of Famer Kou Vang and three-time champ Blake Bohn early on Day 2, Aaron Johnson officially locked up the MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year title.
Few players have had as much success in 2018 as Minnesota’s Aaron Johnson, who has thus far won a career-high $343,587. On Sunday at the MSPT finale at Canterbury Park, Johnson was named the MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year after leading the race for the majority of the season.
“It feels amazing. It’s surreal to have a year like this where you ship two Player of the Years on two different tours,” Johnson said. “Coming into 2018 I wanted to have a good year, but I would never have imagined I’d be in this situation right now. It really feels surreal and I hope it’s not a dream.”
To date, Johnson has $857,187 in lifetime earnings, which puts him 22nd on the state's all-time money list. Two years ago, Johnson notched a career-high score of $96,787 when he finished 72nd out of a field of 6,737 in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event.
As far as the MSPT is concerned, Johnson has 28 Main Event cashes and 6 Regional cashes for $250,981. Six of those cashes were Main Event final table appearances with his best finish to date being both second to Rick Burleson in April’s 2018 MSPT South Dakota State Poker Championship for $39,181, and second to Ryan Skluzak in August’s MSPT Grand Falls for $33,834. He also took fourth place in February’s MSPT Canterbury Park for $34,183.
Not content to stop there, Johnson took down May’s MSPT Grand Falls Regional Event outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota, good for $21,268 before placing 15th in the MSPT FireKeepers for $13,715.
Over the summer, he placed 226th in an MSPT Venetian event for $3,936, and then finished 29th in the 2018 MSPT Iowa State Poker Championship at Meskwaki Casino for $2,375. He also took 32nd in the 2018 MSPT Michigan State Poker Championship for $5,172.
Not only that, Johnson recently won the HPT 2018 POY race. Earlier this year he topped a field of 394 entries to win the HPT Belterra Main Event in southern Indiana for $86,189, and also finish eighth out of 624 entries in the HPT Chicago for $22,377 before finishing sixth in the season-ending championship.
That means Johnson has accomplished the remarkable feat of winning two mid-major tour POY races in the same year! Truly unprecedented!
To top it all off, by winning POY Johnson has also become the third player to win his way into the MSPT Hall of Fame alongside Kou Vang and Rich Alsup. Johnson did so by amassing 25 Main Event cashes with either a Main Event win or POY title.
“I’m very proud of that accomplishment,” Johnson said. “I wanted to get in the Hall of Fame. I had a couple shots this year but I couldn’t win a Main Event which would have put me in. So to get it through POY is just awesome. I hope it’s the start of more things to come.”
For good measure, Johnson ended up finishing the season finale in 32nd place for an additional 350 POY points to bring his yearly total up to 5,967.