The latest MSPT Golden Gates $1,100 Main Event in Black Hawk, Colorado drew 472 entries, and after three starting flights and a long Day 2, it was 61-year-old Fred Garcia of Durango, Colorado who emerged victorious to capture a $109,881 first-place prize.
“I’ve been wanting to make a final table, that was my goal, and things just worked out,” Garcia said after the win. He then showed off his card protector, which was a picture of him and his fiancé. “My girl passed away in July, so she’s been with me all tournament.”
Garcia, who fired just one bullet into the tournament, has been playing poker recreationally for 30 years. He spent 25 of them working for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), but retired on November 1, 2009. Now, he manages properties in Durango and plays poker on the side. He’s also an accomplished pool player, motorcycle enthusiast, and a dancer – he can swing, two step, and waltz for those wondering.
As for the money, Garcia has two plans. The first is to head to Vegas this summer to try his luck in the World Series of Poker Seniors Event, and the other is to buy more property.
“I’ve been telling my boys that, if I made enough, I was going to buy a piece of land in California, just pay cash,” he said. “So, there’s some plans there.”
Prior to the win, Garcia’s best cash was $11,667 for finishing 13th in a 2013 Heartland Poker Tour Golden Gates Main Event, and back in February he finished 27th in the same tournament for $7,288.
Day 2 saw 88 players return to action, but with only 45 slated to get paid, nearly half the field left empty handed. Among those to fall before the money were Corey Zedo, who had won the MSPT $360 Regional Event the weekend before for more than $47K; start-of-the-day chip leader Jim Morrison, who lasted all of two levels; and World Series of Poker bracelet winner Ben Keeline.
Among those to cash but fall short of the final table were Nader Wahdan (39th - $2,289), Samuel Spiwak (28th - $2,747), MSPT Season 6 Regional champ Bobby Sanoubane (19th - $3,434), and the last woman standing Ruth Graham (13th - $5,952).
Sammy Aweida, who was one week removed from final tabling the MSPT $360 Regional Event, began the final table as the chip leader, but a lot changed over the course of six hours. It took just nine hands for Michael Campbell to fall after running Big Slick into Griff Malatino’s pocket kings, and that set up a lengthy nine-handed battle.
It wasn’t until Hand #49 that Erasmus Morfe, who finished 19th in the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event for $262,574, saw his pocket nines collapse against Baskaiyel Baker’s ace-king. Three hands later, the short-stacked Larry Davidson bowed out in eighth after running ace-three into Keith Block’s ace-eight.
After Day 1B chip leader Fernando “Certified Gangster” Galvan took his leave in seventh place – his king-nine failed to overcome Joey Michael’s ace-queen – Malatino followed him out the door on Hand #68 of the final table.
It happened with the blinds at 30,000/60,000/10,000 when Garcia raised to 120,000 under the gun with the . Aweida called from the button, Malatino shoved for 65,000 from the small blind with the , and Garcia opted to call. Aweida got out of the way and Garcia ended up the winner after the board ran out .
On Hand #81 in the 40,000/80,000/10,000 level, Block dispatched Baker in fifth place after the latter called off 1.6 million with king-ten and failed to get there against the former’s ace-seven. Ten hands later, Aweida took his leave after getting it in with ace-ten only to run smack dab into Michael’s kings.
Three-handed play turned out to be a back-and-forth affair as the trio took turns holding the chip lead. Eventually, on Hand #118 of the final table in the 60,000/120,000/20,000 level, Garcia looked down at the on the button and raised to 240,000. Block called form the small blind, Michael three-bet all in for 2 million with the , and Garcia moved all in over the top. Block folded and Michael hit the rail after the board ran out an unhelpful 3.
Garcia began heads-up play with a slight chip lead, but Block, an experienced poker pro from New York who once finished third in the WSOP’s $10,000 Heads-Up World Championship, wouldn’t go down easy. In fact, the two battled for well over an hour, each holding the chip lead on more than one occasion.
In what would be the final hand of the tournament, the blinds were 80,000/160,000/20,000 when Garcia limped the button with the and Block checked his option holding the . The flop was interesting in that Block flopped a straight, but Garcia held an open-ender.
Block checked, Garcia bet 300,000, and Block check-raised to 775,000. Garcia made the call and then called a bet of 1.15 million when the turn gave him top pair. Block had him right where he wanted him, at least until the spiked on the river to give Garcia a bigger straight. Block moved all in for his last 1.4 million and Garcia snap-called to put an end to the tournament.
Congratulations to Fred Garcia, winner of the 2017 MSPT Golden Gates for $109,881!