The MSPT’s 13th Main Event at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota drew 475 entrants, which made it the largest ever held at the venue surpassing the 470 entrants from December 2015. After two long days of play, 56-year-old business development manager Mark Wadekamper emerged victorious to capture a $110,220 first-place prize.
Not only that, he managed to stop reigning champ Jon Kim, who back in December topped a field of 464 entrants to win the MSPT Canterbury Park for $107,659, from a title defense by besting him in heads-up play.
“I was not expecting to win, I was just happy to cash,” said Wadekamper. “There were a lot of good players in this tournament, a lot of former MSPT champs. I was just happy to cash. I didn’t think there was a possibility I’d win until the last hand.”
Prior to the win, Wadekamper’s previous best cash was $9,600 for finishing fifth in the 2009 Heartland Poker Tour Main Event Walker. As for what he’ll do with the money Wadekamper, who is married with three grown kids – two of whom player poker – he’s got a plan.
“I’ll pay taxes and probably help pay my daughter’s student loans,” he said.
Among those to play the tournament but fail to make Day 2 were 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Greg Raymer; 2016 MSPT Iowa State Poker Champ John Sun; Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer Mike Schneider; and MSPT Pros Blake Bohn and Matt Kirby.
Day 2 saw 89 players return to action, but with only 45 slated to get paid nearly half the field would leave empty handed. Among them were Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer Tony Hartmann, MSPT Season 7 Player of the Year Rich Alsup, and former Canterbury Park champ Dan “DQ” Hendrickson, just to name a few.
After MSPT Pro Matt Alexander exited as the bubble boy in 46th place – the result of running pocket deuces into queens – the in-the-money bust outs came quick. They included former champs Jason Sell (35th - $2,756) and Mark Sandness (31st - $2,756); professional footballer Bernando Anor (24th - $3,444); Day 1B chip leader Mike Ross (20th - $3,444); and three-time MSPT champ Carl Carodenuto (14th - $5,970), who won two of his titles in back-to-back events at Canterbury Park.
At the final table, two-time champ Peixin Liu, who won the Season 5 MSPT Canterbury Park for $106,483, was the first to fall after running queens into the aces of Joe Maas on the fourth hand of play. Five hands later, Nathan Boyer, who earned his first MSPT cash, followed him out the door after getting his short stack in with king-jack and failing to get there against George Shabatura’s ace-queen.
On Hand #24, with the blinds at 25,000/50,000/5,000, a 5♦8♠9♥ flop saw Maas jam with a double gutter holding the J♦7♦ and start-of-the-day chip leader Loki Abboud called with the 5♥8♥ for two pair. Neither the 9♣ turn nor 4♣ river help Maas, and he exited in eighth place for $12,170, his first MSPT cash.
The next elimination didn’t occur until Hand #55 in Level 29 (40,000/80,000/10,000) when Nes Coburn jammed the hijack for 725,000 holding the 5♦3♠ and Loki called from the small blind with the A♦Q♣. The board ran out 8♦10♠Q♦6♦8♥ and Coburn was out in seventh place.
Two hands later, Paul Eidem lost a flip with ace-seven to Bryan Andrews’ pocket queens, and then on Hand #72, with the blinds at 50,000/100,000/10,000, Loki busted Andrews. It happened when Andrews, a PLO player from Wisconsin, moved all in for 380,000 from the cutoff holding the 5♣4♣ and Loki called with the K♠10♥ on the button. The board ran out 6♥J♠A♠10♣Q♦ and Loki scored his third elimination of the final table.
Loki seemed to have the tournament in hand, but his luck soon turned after he slow played pocket kings and ended up losing a 4.6-million pot after Wadekamper hit a two outer on the river. Not long after, Loki got his leftover chips in with seven-deuce offsuit and was finished off by Wadekamper’s pocket eights. With that, Loki bowed out in fourth place after finishing sixth in last December’s Season 7 finale at Canterbury Park.
“I was surprised,” Wadekamper said when asked about the miracle two outer. “I was expecting to be done, to go cash out and get something to eat. That was a big one.”
Wadekamper and Shabatura then got it in on a 6♣10♠4♣ flop with the former’s 10♣3♦ behind the latter’s 10♦8♣. The J♦ turn was of no consequence, but the 3♥ river was as Wadekamper spiked another river to send Shabatura out in third place, his best-ever MSPT finish.
Wadekamper began heads-up play with 8.4 million in chips to the defending champ’s 1.1 million, and it didn’t take long for things to come to a head. In what would be the final hand of the tournament, which took place in Level 31 (60,000/120,000/20,0000, Kim shoved for 1.5 million holding the A♦2♣ and Wadekamper woke up with J♣J♥. The board ran out Q♣7♣9♣8♠3♥ and Kim came up one spot shy of defending his title, though he did receive a $66,593 consolation prize.