To say the MSPT’s ninth visit to FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan was a big one would be an understatement.
Not only did it attract 1,066 entries, which surpassed last October’s MSPT field of 884 to make it the largest poker tournament in Michigan history, it also awarded over $1 million in prizes to players. Pretty amazing considering just four years ago “only” 272 runners played in the inaugural event.
After a long weekend of play in what was the MSPT’s largest-ever event held outside Las Vegas, Indiana’s Mike Shanahan, a 49-year-old attorney, emerged victorious to capture a $216,829 first-place prize.
“I’ve been knocking on the door for a couple years, and this is the best I ever played,” Shanahan said after the win. “I’m elated. This was fun. There’s nothing like going deep in a tournament and finishing it off. All the guys back home are following me. We play cash games at the Knights of Columbus and also at the Moose Lodge. A bunch of good players.”
The win was by far the biggest cash of Shanahan’s poker career. Prior to it, he had $164,291 in earnings with a career-best $29,329 for finishing 291st in the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event. Though that was a bit of a disappointing finish for him as he was at one time the tournament chip leader.
“I get teased about that so much,” he said of that run. “On Day 4, I had a million-chip lead on the field. If I knew then what I know now, it’d have been a different Main Event for me.”
As for what he’ll do with the money, aside from taking another shot in this year’s Main Event, the married father of two grown sons only had two things bookmarked.
“Pay some taxes and take a vacation,” he said.
To win the title, Shanahan bested poker pro Aaron Massey in heads-up play. Massey had won the MSPT FireKeepers one year prior, and amazingly it was his third MSPT FireKeepers final table in a row (he finished seventh in last fall’s MSPT Michigan State Poker Championship). To put it another way, he final tabled the three largest events – fields of 820, 884 and 1,066 entries – in Michigan history. He ultimately exited in second place for $131,646, which moved him into third place on the MSPT all-time money list.
Day 2 saw 206 players return to action, but with only 99 slated to get paid, more than half the field left empty handed. Among those to fall short of the money were MSPT Season 4 Player of the Year Pat Steele, 2016 MSPT Iowa State Poker Champ John Sun, and former MSPT FireKeepers champ Michael Ferrarotti.
Once the bubble burst, another 89 players exited before the final table was set. Among them were World Series of Poker bracelet winner Adam Friedman (95th - $2,272), 2016 MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Champ Andy Rubinberg (83rd - $2,375), 2016 MSPT Michigan State Poker Championship runner up Cy Church (44th - $4,337), three-time MSPT champ Carl Carodenuto (31st - $5,266), and the last champ in the field, Charlie Dawson (11th - $14,145), who bubbled the final table.
It took just two hands at the final table for Joe Hinton to get his stack of 1.6 million all in holding ace-queen at the 40,000/80,000/10,000 level only to run into the ace-king of Shanahan. The board ran out all low cards and Hinton was out the door in 10th place for $14,145, his first MSPT cash.
On Hand #32, Justin Rice raised to 220,000 under the gun holding the 7♣7♦ and Scott Skriba defended the big blind with the A♥10♣. The A♣7♥5♠ flop hit both players, and Skriba checked to Rice, who bet 180,000. Skirba woke up with a check-raise to 400,000, Rice just called, and the A♠ appeared on the turn.
Skirba led out for 500,000, Rice flatted, and the K♥ completed the board on the river. Skirba, who had 700,000 back, checked but ended up calling off when Rice moved all in. Skirba took home $18,276 for finishing in ninth place.
Two hands later, Dustin Smith got it in preflop with pocket deuces against Rice’s Big Slick, and an ace on the river ended his run in eighth place for $22,199. Five hands after that, Daniel Panone bowed out shoving his short stack from the button with jack-ten and failing to get there against the ace-nine of Frank Lucarelli.
From there, Terry Moore fell after getting his short stack in with jack-four and running it into Rice’s queen-jack, and a short time later Chris Meyers ran king-jack into the king-queen of Lucarelli. Neither player got lucky and fell in sixth and fifth place respectively.
On Hand #83 of the final table, with the blinds at 100,000/200,000/30,000, Rice three-bet all in for 3.8 million with the 5♣5♥ and was called by Shanahan’s Q♦Q♣. The board ran out a clean 3♠K♣8♥2♥3♥ and Rice headed to the payout desk in fourth place.
Lucarelli was the short stack three handed, and he became Massey’s first final table victim. It happened when Lucarelli shoved his last 1.1 million from the button holding the K♥4♥ and running into the J♠J♦ of Massey. The board ran out 10♠10♣5♠2♦9♦ and Massey took 13 million chips into heads-up play against Shanahan’s 8.1 million.
It only took a couple of hands for Shanahan to seize the lead, and about 30 minutes into the match things came to a head when Massey four-bet all in holding the A♦Q♦ and Shanahan called with the Q♥Q♠. The board ran out 4♠J♥8♥K♣J♦ and Shanahan became a MSPT champ.