The 2017 MSPT Grand Falls Casino $1,100 Main Event drew 216 entrants (105 on 1A, 111 on 1B), which was up from last year’s 187 runners. After two days of play, 25-year-old Ahmed Taleb, who was literally the last player to enter the tournament, emerged victorious to capture a $54,098 prize for his first-ever MSPT cash.
“I’m feeling great, man,” said Taleb, who came to the United States four years ago from Morocco to study. “My first tournament, and my first buy-in in a MSPT. I came here, I fired a bullet in the qualifier and didn’t qualify. I was debating should I play, should I not, and then I played cash and ran really good. I decided to fire a bullet at the last minute.”
Taleb, who works and studies at a university while playing poker on the side, said that we will next see him at the MSPT Running Aces in September. In the meantime, he enjoyed his first visit to a new casino.
“This was my first time at Grand Falls,” he said. “It’s great. Probably lucky for me it’s my first time here and I’m winning.”
Day 2 started with 41 players returning to action, but with only 27 of them getting paid more than a dozen would leave empty handed. Among them were two-time MSPT champ John Hayes, Wisconsin’s Yao “YY” Yin, and bubble boy Doug Ficken.
Those who cashed but fell short of the final table included MSPT regular Todd Melander (26th - $1,872), last year’s 10th-place finisher Robbin Green (18th - $2,392), 2017 South Dakota State Poker Champion Ryan Skluzak (17th - $2,392), last year’s 3rd-place finisher Joe Barnard (14th - $3,120), and Bill Eichel (11th - $4,160).
Swadeep Mishra began the final table as the only player over a million (1.188 million), while his next closest competition was Aaron Johnson (724,000) and JW Nelson (649,000). The other seven players were all under 413,000 with the blinds at 6,000/12,000/2,000.
Erick Woehlhaff was the first to go after his five-six suited failed to get there against the ace-eight of Mishra, and then defending champ Ted Takasaki, a professional fisherman and member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, followed him out the door in ninth place. It happened when Takasaki jammed eight big blinds with pocket tens only to run into Nelson’s pocket queens.
Kurt Bales was the next to go after he failed to win a race with ace-queen suited against Mishra’s two black eights. Surprisingly, Mishra took his leave shortly thereafter. He had clashed numerous times with Nelson, who got the better of him time and again. However, it was Lucas Christoffer who dealt the biggest blow with aces and eights against Mishra’s aces and deuces.
Wesley Ismay, who was second in chips at the time, wound up busting in sixth place after getting it in with straight and flush draws, plus two overs, to Nelson’s flopped middle pair. It ended up being too many outs for Ismay and he bricked both the turn and river.
The short-stacked Harold Brenden was bounced in fifth when his queen-six fell to Christoffer’s ace-queen, and then Johnson exited in fourth when his ace-nine suited ran into Taleb’s pocket kings.
Nelson, the Day 1B chip leader, was ousted in third place after flopping a pair of threes and getting it in against Taleb, who had him crushed with pocket fours. That set up a heads-up match with Taleb holding 2.7 million to Christoffer’s 1.6 million, but the counts soon flipped when the latter doubled holding ace-king against the former’s pocket jacks.
The two proceeded to battle back and forth for the next 90 minutes, and eventually Taleb sealed the deal after flopping two pair with eight-nine and getting it in on the turn, which gave Christoffer top pair with top kicker.