Ray Bendijo, a 52-year-old contractor from Ramsey, MN, has come close to winning big tournaments on a few occasions. He finished second-place in a Heartland Poker Tour event at Grand Casino Mille Lacs in 2008, then took sixth in an HPT event at the same location later that year. He also cashed in the Minnesota State Poker Tour Northern Lights event in June.
On Sunday, however, Bendijo broke through for a win at Jackpot Junction — a $24,206 score to go along with an MSPT championship bracelet.
His path to victory involved well-timed aggression, a poised sense of patience, and an epic final hand that induced a rollercoaster of emotions from both Bendijo and his heads-up opponent Tom Burandt.
With blinds at 10K/20K/2K, “Sting Ray” made it 60K on the button. Burandt called, and the two saw a flop of 6s, 9h, 9s. Burandt checked, and Bendijo bet another 60K. Burandt thought for a moment before pushing all-in for more than 400K. Bendijo snap-called with 88, but Burandt turned over K9 for three-of-a-kind.
The turn brought a 2, but the river brought a miracle 8, giving Bendijo a full house and the tournament title.
Burandt also reached the final table of the MSPT Northern Lights event, and he earns 27.5 points in the MNPokerMag Player of the Year race for his second-place finish at Jackpot Junction, moving him a lot closer to leader Everett Carlton.
3-Putts narrowly missed out on his first MSPT title as well, finishing third-place for $8,069.