In mid-February, the Mid-States Poker Tour returned to Running Aces Casino for what turned out to be the biggest Main Event in four years. The $1,100 buy-in tournament drew 358 entrants (166 on Day 1A and 192 on 1B) and saw 27-year-old Luke Bohnen, a controls engineer from Blaine, Minnesota, walk away with an $86,440 first-place prize.
Not only did Bohnen defeat local hero Rob Wazwaz, who was at his seventh MSPT final table, in heads-up play, he did it after being back in the game for less than two months after a three-year hiatus.
“Poker was all I was doing for a whole year, but dad said I had to get a real job,” Bohnen said of time away from the game. “I sort of faded from poker. Last Christmas, I decided to starting playing again and had a lot of luck right out of the gate. This is my biggest win by far, but it’s still back to work tomorrow. It’s going to be a really fun day though.”
Bohnen was modest after the win chalking it up to “a lot of luck” and “getting good cards,” and while that may have been the case, he certainly showed a lot of discipline and skill. He finished as the Day 1B chip leader, steadily chipped up, and went wire-to-wire at the final table.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Bohnen added. “I’ve always liked the MSPT, and after today I’ll be playing every single one I can manage to get to.”
Day 2 saw 64 players return to action, but with 36 slated to get paid more than two dozen would leave empty handed including MSPT Pro Matt Alexander, 2015 MSPT Player of the Year Mark Hodge, and former champs Jason Seitz, Erv Bjerga, and Jason Sell.
Once Matt Andrews fell as the bubble boy, the in-the-money finishes began to mount. Among those to earn some cash but fail to make the final table were MSPT Pro Blake Bohn (35th - $2,178), reigning Player of the Year Rich Alsup (34th - $2,178), MSPT Canterbury Park champ Jon Kim (33rd - $2,178), and two-time champs Matt Kirby (26th - $2,766) and Jeremy Dresch (24th - $2,766).
By cashing, Kirby and Dresch notched their first cashes of Season 8, which meant their streak of cashing every season of the MSPT continues. Three other players – Kou Vang, Dan “DQ” Hendrickson, and Joe Matheson – still have the entire year to equal the feat.
The final table began with Bohnen holding the chip lead, and he put it to good use steadily building chips while his opponents hit the rail. In fact, he would never relinquish the lead.
Ron Olson was the first to go after running into Joe Barnard’s pocket kings. Not long after, Iowa’s Mark Reid joined him on the rail after his ace-six failed to get there against Nikki Nelson’s ace-queen.
Aaron Hintz was the next to go after he shoved a gutshot only to run into Jason Bender’s pocket queens, and then Scott Delong hit the rail in seventh place when his pocket deuces failed to hold against Bohnen’s ace-six.
After Thai Dinh bowed out in sixth place, the result of his ace-five getting outdrawn by Wazwaz’s queen-jack, Bender took his leave in fifth place after he flopped top pair against Bohnen’s top and bottom.
During four-handed play, Barnard lost queens against ace-king, and despite a brief comeback, he fell in fourth place. Nelson, who was looking to become just the second woman to win a MSPT title, exited in third after she jammed king-queen into Bohnen’s ace-queen.
Bohnen took a near 5:1 chip lead into heads-up play against Wazwaz. In the final hand of the tournament, Wazwaz flopped an open-ended straight draw with nine-seven and got it in against Bohnen’s pocket nines. The straight never got there, and Wazwaz had to settle for runner-up and a $51,864 consolation prize.
As for the $86,440 Bohnen won, he had this to say: “I’ll do my best to not be super responsible, I’ll get something fun at least.”