In early April, 439 entrants (119 Day 1a; 180 Day 1b; and 140 Day 1c) visited Black Hawk, Colorado to take part in the Mid-States Poker Tour Golden Gates Main Event, a tournament that created a $439,000 total prize pool – more than double the advertised $200,000 guarantee despite blizzard conditions.
In the end, 38-year-old poker player Josh Crain of Lakewood, Colorado emerged as the last man standing to walk away with the coveted MSPT trophy and a $102,199 first-place prize. Prior to the win, Crain had just one documented cash of $2,885 for a 228th-place finish in a $1,500 no-limit hold'em event at the 2009 World Series of Poker.
"Right when I bought into the tournament, I sat down and the first hand I had aces but a guy flopped a straight," Crain said of his journey. "I was down to 4,000, and now here we go off one bullet."
As for what he'll do with the money, Crain didn't hesitate.
"It feels like the biggest cash I've ever had," he said. "I take care of my family, that's all I do. My parents, my sister, my family, my girlfriend Katelyn, they're all stoked."
Of course he also plans to use a little to travel out to Las Vegas for this summer's WSOP.
Day 2 saw 82 players return to action, each looking to make the money at the top 45. That meant 37 needed to leave empty handed, and among them to do so were MSPT Pro Matt Alexander, former champ Kane Lai, defending champ Phanora Prom, and bubble boy Joseph Pergola.
Among those to earn a cash but fall short of making the final table were Ben Keeline (45th - $2,129), MSPT Golden Gates Regional champ Stephen Zipprich (41st - $2,129), PokerNews reporter Mo Nuwwarah (37th - $2,129), Nebraska farmer Phil Mader (28th - $2,555), and WSOP Millionaire Maker champ Adrian Buckley (11th - $7,239), fell after shoving with ace-ten and running smack dab into the pocket rockets of Mike Ross.
The final table proved to be an extended affair as more often than not the short stacks double. As the hours ticked by the eliminations began to mount starting with Tyler Corbett, who ran pocket sevens into queens. Khao Nguyen and TJ Thondup followed him out the door in ninth and eighth place respectively, and a short time later Griffin Malatino joined them on the rail, the result of running ace-king smack into Jackson White's aces.
After the elimination of William "Mexican" Prieto in sixth and White in fifth, Ross met his maker after his queen-ten failed to overcome the queen-jack of Nathan Hoh in an all-in preflop situation.
Hoh and Crain then got involved in the biggest pot of the tournament. It happened when Crain raised to 600,000 and then called Hoh's all-in three-bet of 3.095 million. Hoh held ace-king and was flipping against Crain's pocket sevens.
The walking sticks held, and that set up a heads-up match between Crain, who held a massive chip lead, and poker pro Jason Vanstom, who ultimately had to settle for runner-up and a $61,745 consolation prize.
Congratulations to Josh Crain on becoming the latest MSPT Golden Gates champ and joining the ranks of Prom (Nov. 2015; 510 entries; $123,180 prize), Lai (March 2015; 409 entries; $101,365 prize), Reza Yazdi (Nov. 2014; 500 entries; $120,765 prize), and Dan Colpoys (March 2014; 453 entries; $114,156 prize).