The $1,100 buy-in MSPT Poker Bowl III, which coincides yearly with NFL Super Bowl weekend, drew 1,022 entries to The Venetian, surpassing last year’s field of 827 and besting the $650,000 guarantee with a $996,450 prize pool.
After two starting flights and Saturday’s Day 2 (instead of Sunday, to allow players to be free to watch Super Bowl LIII), it was Brian Wilson of Ontario, Canada, taking home $143,929 after a three-way deal (Deals are permitted at MSPT Venetian Main Events).
Wilson, who plays poker regularly, said, "I feel great, it's awesome. This is my biggest cash by about seven and a half x." referring to his previous best cash of $18,406 for a 678th place finish in the 2014 WSOP Main Event.
Wilson wasn't shaken by the stacked final table lineup, and when asked if he had a specific strategy for the final table, he said, "Not really, it was pretty much the same thing all day. I had a lot of tough tables, a lot of really good regulars, but honestly, I felt really confident in my game and I just took it like one hand at a time and just tried to play the best I could." Even the presence of pros Kou Vang, Eddy Sabat, Eric "Basebaldy" Baldwin, and Shannon Shorr wasn't enough to frazzle Wilson, who went on to say, "I felt super comfortable with them all day, I didn't feel outclassed at all."
Obviously we had to ask him about his thoughts on Super Bowl LIII? "It's hard to bet against Brady,” Wilson said. “but I like the Rams."
Wilson also took the time to thank some of the people that helped encourage him to victory: "Shout out to my mom, my brother, my sister, just all my friends and family back home."
On Day 2, 132 players of the initial 1,022 returned to the felt. With 108 scheduled to get paid, that meant 24 players would leave empty-handed. Some of those unfortunate enough to fall before the money included Ryan Remington, Alex Condon, and bubble-boy Chris Nguyen, when his ace-deuce couldn’t overcome the ace-nine of Ira Friedman.
From there, a plethora of big names managed to secure a cash, including last year’s MSPT Poker Bowl II champ Kfir Nahum (11th - $13,950), Dan “Wretchy” Martin (12th - $13,950), Eric Worre (15th - $11,957), WSOP November Niner Bryan Piccioli (16th - $9,765), WSOP Bracelet winner Jared Jaffee (22nd - $6,776), Minnesota’s Hank Mlekoday (27th - $5,680) and Dedric Henderson (29th - $4,384), Jon “PearlJammed” Turner (30th - $4,384), Chris “Moorman1” Moorman (38th - $3,388), former MSPT Canterbury Park champ “DQ” Dan Hendrickson (41st - $3,388), Lee Markholt (50th - $3,089), Jordan Cristos (63rd - $2,790), two-time WSOP Bracelet winner Scott Clements (65th - $2,591), Ryan “Protentialmn” Laplante (67th - $2,591), two-time WSOP Bracelet winner Upeshka De Silva (75th - $2,491), Ian Matakis (84th - $2,391), Season 9 MSPT POY Aaron Johnson (85th - $2,391), and Jewook Oh (105th - $2,093).
Final Table Action
Brad Libson was the first to fall at the final table after flopping top pair with ace-queen and running into the kings of Dylan Thomassie. Libson, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, recorded his first MSPT cash to go along with an impressive resume of over $500,000 in recorded tournament earnings, including a third-place finish in a $3,000 Limit Hold’em event at the WSOP in 2016.
Next to go was the inaugural MSPT Hall of Famer himself Kou Vang. Vang got his last four blinds in with ace-four, but Thomassie’s hot streak continued when his nine-eight turned a straight to leave Vang out in ninth. Vang now sits just shy of $400,000 in career MSPT earnings with the cash, and he also jumps to eighth place in the all-time MSPT Career Earnings leaderboard with this cash.
Chris Coupal was next to go, his eights falling on the river to Shannon Shorr’s Big Slick. Coupal’s second MSPT cash was also the largest overall cash in his career, as Coupal has just a handful of recorded cashes to his name, including a fourth-place finish in the 2012 - $550 event at the Deepstack Extravaganza at The Venetian.
One of the most accomplished players fell next in seventh, as Eric “Basebaldy” Baldwin couldn’t win a flip with his king-queen against the deuces of Thomassie, who recorded his third knockout of the final table. Baldwin, a native of Beaver Dam, WI, has two WSOP Bracelets and over $6 million in lifetime tournament earnings, including a career-best $1,034,715 for a runner-up finish in the $25,000 buy-in Five Star World Poker Classic in 2010. This was Baldwin’s fourth MSPT cash.
Dylan Thomassie fell in sixth when his king-queen found a king high flop, but Pedro Mendes was waiting with Big Slick to felt Thomassie, who bagged the Day 1A chip lead in this event last year. Thomassie, originally from Illinois but now a resident of Las Vegas, made a deep run in the 2016 WSOP Main Event, finishing 79th for $80,721.
Alabama’s all-time tournament earnings leader Shannon Shorr was ousted in fifth, losing a flip with his sevens to Mendes’ king-queen. Shorr boasts $6.6 million in lifetime tournament earnings, including a career best $960,690 cash for a victory in the 2006 Bellagio Cup II. This was Shorr’s third and by far largest cash on the MSPT.
Eddy Sabat had his ace-queen cracked by Eli Ross and his king-queen a short time later to bow out in fourth. The California pro boasts over $3.4 million in lifetime tournament earnings, including a fourth-place finish in the 2017 - $2,500 No Limit Hold'em event at the WSOP, and he notched his second career MSPT cash with this final table appearance.