It was a typical winter day in Minnesota with snow falling and high winds, definitely not ideal for poker players trying to make the trek from surrounding areas to Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia to participate in the Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event.
The week leading up to the $1,000+$100, two-day Main Event drew fantastic numbers for the MSPT. There were a total of 585 entrants in $250 satellites advancing 117 players to the Main Event. Friday night alone drew 156 entrants. The $100,000 Guaranteed prize pool was easily accomplished by Friday afternoon.
It looked heading into Saturday’s Day 1 that 200 players in the Main Event was well within reach. Then Saturday morning, the first snow fall of the season hit. It was reported in Milaca – just 27 miles south of Onamia – that 7” of snow accumulated. Just 38 miles north in Crosby, a reported 12” of snow hit the ground.
Despite the harsh roads, many poker players fought through the slow drive times to build the third largest prize pool in the state this year, behind only the MSPT at Running Aces and the Fall Poker Classic Main Event.
“It took me five hours and twenty-three minutes to get here!” exclaimed longtime professional poker player Jim “Silent Bob” Meehan as he strolled in during Level 4.
Once everyone arrived, it was Lee Surma who stole the show. Surma amassed a large stack and led much of Day 1. He lost 25% of his stack in the last few minutes of Level 8 but still managed to enter Day 2 third in chips with 97,500. Ron Imgrund led all players with 121,900 after Day 1.
Surma, a Software Engineer from Maple Grove, had $500 invested in his title run. “I played the Friday night qualifier and bought in twice before getting my seat.” He said.
Just a couple months prior, Surma also went deep in the Twin Cities Poker Open placing 19th for $1,432.
His heads-up opponent David Marlow gave credence to the phrase “a chip and a chair”. 67 players survived Day 1. Entering Day 2, blinds would start at 800/1,600 with 200 ante. Marlow began the day in 61st place with 14,400. Eventual fourth place finisher Lance Lucas also started Day 2 short-stacked in 57th place with 16,700.
Marlow has been hot the last several weeks. He was fresh off a 6th place finish in the Fall Poker Classic Main Event for $15,632. Marlow also finished 7th in the 2010 Midwest Poker Classic for $10,389. His largest live cash came in the 2009 Great Minnesota Freezeout where he placed 2nd for $33,581.
Marlow had actually gotten healthy and doubled through Surma during four-handed play. Marlow held J-2 and Surma with Q-8 on a J-2-8-5 board. They got it all-in on the turn. The brick 4 kept Marlow’s hand good.
From there, Marlow eliminated Eric Dewitt. Dewitt had made a sensational run after earning his $250 qualifier seat through the River Rat Poker League. Dewitt then qualified for the Main Event and almost took it down, finishing 3rd for $14,793.
When head’s up play began, Marlow had Surma covered 2,100,000 to 400,000. That’s when the two began exchanging blows.
Surma doubled when his K-3 held over Marlow’s J-9. The board came K-J-3-5-8. Then shortly after, Surma’s A-K held versus Marlow’s A-8. Now Surma had the lead, 1,700,000 to 800,000.
Marlow recovered and delivered a shot of his own. He doubled with 3-3 against Surma’s A-4.
About 12 minutes later, Marlow attempted an ill-timed bluff with J-6 on an A-8-5 board. Surma made the call with 8-2 to cripple Marlow.
Finally at 10:46 pm, Surma delivered the final blow. The chips went in pre-flop, Surma had 9-7, Marlow with K-J. The flop was Q-Q-8. The turn was a 6. Surma rivered a 9 to win $47,667 and the RF Moeller Diamond Championship bracelet.
There were several other great stories as well. Everett Carlton of St. Paul accumulated his fourth MSPT final table and fifth MSPT cash, both accomplishments are MSPT records. Todd Melander also has five cashes and is second with three final tables.
Tom Hammers of Burnsville reached his 2nd consecutive MSPT final table, finishing 7th at Treasure Island and 7th again at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.
In the weeks leading up to the event, MNPokerMag.com held a random drawing to celebrate a milestone of 10,000 unique visitors and 1,000,000 views during the month of October. 217 people entered the drawing and Mark Bernier of Coon Rapids was one of two players drawn to receive a $250 qualifier seat. Bernier made good use of it. He qualified for the Main Event with that freeroll and placed 20th for $1,479.
MNPokerMag caught up with Lee Surma immediately after his exciting win.
MNPokerMag (MPM): Congrats on your win! How does it feel?
Lee Surma (LS): I usually play at Canterbuy which is a tough crowd, a lot of good players. I’ve been running pretty slow lately so this win really means a lot to me. I honestly thought David was going to win. When we got down to three players, I was really short-stacked and tired. It had been a long day. As much as I want to win I had basically accepted 3rd place and was really happy with that. I figured it was a done deal. Even when we were heads up, he had so many more chips than me I thought it was done. But all of a sudden it started to turn.
MPM: Have you been playing poker long?
LS: No, not really. I played online for about three years and obviously that ended back in April. I was like, oh God, I have to start going to live events. I had some immediate success playing the Wednesday nighters and Saturday tourneys. I don’t play cash, only tournaments. I wouldn’t even know how to play limit hold’em.
MPM: What type of things do you do to improve your game? Have you been working toward this for a while?
LS: Yeah definitely. I read a ton! I’ve read everything, all of them. The Harrington books I own are wore out, you have to read all three of them. I read them and then read ‘em again. Gus Hanson’s book is a little goofy. I read that and that changed my play a bit. I like Mike Caro’s stuff too, I think he’s the best. The “tells” really helps. That actually helped me win this tournament. Just a couple spots here and there where I could tell someone was breathing heavy, his neck vein was pulsing so I laid it down.