His black t-shirt said "#WINNING" and that's exactly what Greg Himmelbrand did in the 2015 Mid-States Poker Tour Maryland Live! Casino Main Event, claiming a $72,910 first-place prize after a tough heads-up battle with fellow East Coast grinder Justin Liberto.
Himmelbrand, who started the day as the chip leader, expertly preserved his big stack, never finding himself in significant danger on Day 2. He added to a lucrative tournament résumé that features over $870,000 in cashes.
Himmelbrand's victory march was very much in question when three-handed play hit, when MSPT Team Pro Blake Bohn, Liberto, and Himmelbrand, easily the three most accomplished and experienced players, remained. The three-handed match proved as aggressive as one would expect, but Himmelbrand eventually prevailed.
The MSPT's maiden voyage in Maryland drew 270 runners, and 47 of them advanced to Day 2. As the tournament quickly worked towards the money, with 27 paid, Himmelbrand remained in first, though the field narrowed the gap on him.
Day 1a leader Mo Mostafa busted out just short of the money, and notables Adam Friedman and Matt Alexander busted out just after the bubble burst. Christian Harder fell in 12th, and when the final table was set after Matthew Kottal's elimination, Himmelbrand and Bohn seemed destined to compete heads up, taking nearly half of the chips in play to the final table.
Bryan Maxin was the first to go after dinner, losing most of his stack with queens to Nick Bond's aces. Daniel Fisher then fell in ninth to a slow-played nut flush held by Vinod Moorjani in a blind-versus-button battle. Moorjani then sent Trevor Savage packing in eighth with AxJx against Ax8x.
In the meantime, Liberto started his surge, having began the final table in the middle of the pack. He busted Bond in seventh and then came after Moorjani in numerous pots, stacking up to more than 1.1 million at Level 22 (8,000/16,000/2,000). Himmelbrand, Bohn, and Liberto were distancing themselves from their competitors at that point, and it was only a matter of time before Tim Bryan (sixth), Moorjani (fifth), and Billy Jacobini(fourth) fell by the wayside.
Jacobini managed to get it in good with the 7♠7♥ against Bohn's 6♦6♣ for his last 450,000 at Level 24 (12,000/24,000/4,000), but Bohn turned a set and faded a combo draw to get the knockout.
The MSPT Team Pro lost a couple of early pots to Liberto but managed to double up with the 8♦7♦ all in preflop against the A♦9♦ to even things out again. Himmelbrand, who had a rough seating draw with Bohn and Liberto to his left for most of the final table, must have been happy to have his positional disadvantage eliminated, and he won the key three-handed pot when Bohn jammed in on a pure bluff on a 6♦Q♠4♦10♦ board and ran into Himmelbrand's 10♠6♠. Bohn was drawing dead with the K♣8♣ and had to settle for third.
Himmelbrand had nearly a 4-1 lead when the heads-up match began, but Liberto doubled early with the K♠Q♥ against the A♦3♠. Himmelbrand retook command in a three-bet pot when the 6♣Q♣J♦ flopped in Level 26 (20,000/40,000/5000) and he called barrels of 170,000 and then 335,000 on the 9♠ turn. When the K♦ river hit, Liberto checked and saw Himmelbrand fire 875,000. It took a three-minute tank for Liberto's cards to hit the muck.
Finally, Liberto check-jammed second pair against Himmelbrand's aces moments later, and that was that.
The MSPT will be in action again next weekend at its original venue, Canterbury Park in Minnesota. Be sure to come back for more live coverage right here on PokerNews.