Potawatomi Hotel & Casino - Milwaukee, WI
July 20-23, 2017
$350 Regional: 1,658 Entrants (421 on Day 1a; 524 Day 1b; and 713 Day 1c)
Local Attorney and Recreational Player Matthew Vignali Wins Largest Tournament in Wisconsin State History for $70,240
The MSPT’s latest $350 Regional Event at Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in downtown Milwaukee turned out to be a record-setting affair. A monster 1,658 entrants (421 on Day 1A, 524 1B, and 713 1C) made it the largest poker tournament ever held in Wisconsin.
The previous record was 1,272 entries set by the World Series of Poker Circuit at Potawatomi back in February, though they set it with four flights as opposed to three. The distinction of winning the largest poker tournament in Wisconsin history goes to 47-year-old local attorney and recreational poker player Matthew Vignali, who struck a heads-up deal and instead of taking home the original $80,648 prize, earned $70,240 for his performance.
“I’m pretty exhausted but very excited,” said Vignali, whose prior best cash was just $1,299. “I play recreationally, I don’t travel the circuit or anything. I just play locally, and I always play in the MSPT and WSOP Circuit when they come to Milwaukee. I’m just a recreational player.”
Vignali, who fired two bullets into the tournament, is married with three kids. He said the money came at the perfect time as he just received his son’s Marquette University tuition bill.
He started Day 2 with 85,000 and managed to double up on the fourth hand. That helped him make a deep run, but late in the evening he lost two coin flips and was on the verge of elimination. That is when lady luck smiled upon him.
“A couple of times, with the blinds at 60K/120K, I was down to 300K,” he explained. “Then I tripled up with king-queen against aces and another hand.”
On Day 2, 294 players returned to action, but with only 171 getting paid more than a hundred of them left empty handed. They included Mike Kamenjarin, Day 1A chip leader Bryan Skreens, and reigning MSPT Wisconsin State Poker champ Andy Rubinberg.
Once the money bubble burst, the in-the-money finishes came quick and included former MSPT champ Ken Pates (164th - $626), MSPT Grand Falls Regional runner-up Jason Bender (102nd - $819), Day 1C chip leader Michael Castro (40th - $1,493), 2016 Minnesota Poker Player of the Year Saad Ghanem (37th - $1,493), and final table bubble boy Bob Van Syckle (11th - $6,259).
The final table began with Michael Berry holding an eight-figure stack of 10.5 million while his next closest competitor, Vignali, had less than half that. Still, the attorney was not deterred.
“When I got to the final table I felt pretty relaxed and pretty good,” said Vignali. “Things had been swinging my way and I felt like I’d been playing real good all tournament, not making many mistakes. I felt pretty confident actually.”
The short-stacked David Papais fell in the first hand of the final table, and before long he was joined on the rail by Jeff Olson, Ken Garbowicz, and Miroslav Semanisin.
It took a while for the next elimination to occur, but it happened when Joan Sandoval, the last woman remaining in the field, got her stack of 3.4 million all in on a 4♦K♣6♠ flop holding the K♥J♠. Unfortunately for her, Day 1B chip leader Alexander Hill held the A♥A♦ and neither the 8♥ turn nor Q♠ river helped her. Sandoval earned $16,370 in her first-ever MSPT cash.
Not long after, both Berry and Michael Filippo hit the rail, which set up a heads-up match between Vignali and Hill with the former holding 27 million to the latter’s 6 million. It didn’t take long for Hill to get it in with the 6♣4♣ and Vignali called with the J♥8♥. Hill ended up making two pair to double, and from there he inched back towards even stacks.
That is when the two agreed to a deal that saw them each lock up $60,000 and leave $10,240 on the table to play for. It’s worth noting that chops are allowed in MSPT Regional Events, but not in Main Events.
In the first post-deal hand, Vignali jammed the button and Hill called off, a decision he immediately regretted.
Vignali was way out in front, and he took a hammerlock on the hand after the 10♣A♠8♣ flop paired his ace. The 8♠ turn left Hill drawing dead, and he finished runner-up after the J♣ was run out on the river.
The MSPT will return to Potawatomi Casino one final time in Season 8. From November 11-19, the state’s premiere gaming venue will play host to the 2017 MSPT Wisconsin State Poker Championship, an $1,100 buy-in Main Event featuring a $200,000 guaranteed prize pool.