Mark Jaroslawski of Stillwater, Minnesota, navigated a grueling MSPT Canterbury Park this weekend, shipping the title and $95,700 after a five-and-a-half hour battle at the final table. His unorthodox style of making large bet sizes preflop worked to his advantage, and he explained them by saying, "I like to play big pots, I like to mix it up, catch somebody off guard. My motto was 'No free cards anymore,' because Day 1 on Friday, I lost six pots early, all because I got rivered because I let them get there. I decided after that, just hammer down."
Jaroslawski knew that he was in for a challenge when reaching the final table of ten, as he came in eighth in chips with just under eleven big blinds, while the chip leaders Eric Eelkema and Thai Dinh were both sitting above fifty big blinds. "Everyone was great, I came in short-stacked, I was just looking to double up and grind from there. A couple players got knocked out early, and I just picked up some pots and was fortunate enough to get some cards to just push all in with." When asked what he would do with his windfall, he said, "Pay some stuff off, maybe go on vacation in a few weeks, have a fun summer obviously!"
Day 2 saw 59 players return to Canterbury Park in search of an MSPT title, which meant that fourteen unfortunate players would be left empty-handed, including MSPT Hall of Famers Kou Vang and Aaron Johnson, 2017 MNPokerMag POY Todd Melander, Nghia “3-Putts” Le, and co-bubble boys Tony Hartmann and Jeremy Calverley.
From there, a host of notables walked away with a cash, including final table bubble boy Ryan Ellison (11th - $6,960), Day 1A chip leader David Pederson (13th - $5,655), Brad Sailor (15th - $5,655), WSOP Bracelet winner John Reading (17th - $4,785), Season 7 MSPT Meskwaki champ Keith Heine (19th - $4,090), Colorado’s Sammy Aweida (20th - $4,090), two-time MSPT champs Jeremy Dresch (22nd - $3,524) and Ben Marsh (24th - $3,524), Matthew Hamilton (27th - $3,045), Season 9 MSPT Meskwaki champ Steve Federspiel (30th - $2,601), three-time MSPT champ Matt Kirby (34th - $2,601), former MSPT champ Ben Wiora (39th - $2,392), Season 9 MSPT Canterbury Park champ Rob Wazwaz (41 - $2,392), and former MSPT champ Tom Stambaugh (43rd - $2,392).
Final Table Action
The first elimination at the final table wouldn't come until after a full level of play, as Plymouth, Minnesota native and final table short stack Gary Brakke got his last few blinds in with queen-ten, only to fall to the set of eights of DJ Buckley. The $6,960 tenth-place finish marks Brakke's second career MSPT cash, after he finished 17th at the Season 9 MSPT Grand Fall Regional event.
Brakke's elimination opened the floodgates, as the next three players to go would all fall within minutes of each other. First, Yao "YY" Yin's aces were cracked by Andy Tran, then he failed to spin his last few blinds up after losing a flip with ten-nine suited against Mark Jaroslawski's fours. Yin, a La Crosse, Wisconsin resident, notched his second career MSPT Final Table with his ninth-place performance, good for $8,265.
Soon after, Randy Bullen's jacks were coolered when he ran into both Buckley's queens and Thai Dinh's ace-king. Dinh flopped an ace, and that was all she wrote for the Marne, Michigan product, taking home eighth-place and $11,310. Bullen made his first MSPT Final Table in four cashes on tour.
The short stack exodus was complete a few hands later, when seventh-place finisher Gregory Kukowski three-bet shoved his queen-ten of clubs into Tran's king-jack of clubs, and Tran flopped a king to put an end to the Virginia, Minnesota native. This was Kukowski's first MSPT cash, good for $14,355.
It would be two hours between bustouts after Kukowski exited, meaning the stacks became shallow as play became a grind to see who would be the first to blink. Tom Hammers was able to double a few times in that span, but finally succumbed in sixth-place for $18,270 when his king-eight couldn't overcome the pocket nines of Buckley. Burnsville, Minnesota's Hammers was making his fourth appearance at an MSPT Final Table, the last coming in Season 7 at MSPT Meskwaki.
Tran would follow Hammers out the door a few hands later, his queen-jack no match for the pocket eights of Buckley. $23,935 and fifth-place were Tran's consolation prize to take back to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and he recorded his second career MSPT cash.
The stacks had evened out by this point, and it would be an hour before Eric Eelkema's second deep run in the last year would come to an end, his sixes getting crushed by Buckley's eights. Notably, this marked Buckley's third KO at the final table with eights, Eelkema, who received $31,755 for his fourth-place finish, finished third in Season 9's MSPT South Dakota State Poker Championship at Silverado Franklin for $28,420.
Thai Dinh, who has been on a tear in Minnesota in the last few weeks, winning $35,322 in a $500 tournament just two weeks prior, couldn't find his second title of the month. His ace-trey was outkicked by Buckley's ace-seven, and Dinh settled for third-place and $43,065.
Buckley started with a 5:4 lead in chips going into heads-up play, but Jaroslawski chipped away to take a sizable lead when the final hand of the tournament took place in Level 33 (150,000/300,000/40,000). Mark Jaroslawski jammed to put DJ Buckley at risk for his last 2.285 million, and Buckley called.
“TENNNN!” Hammers said from the rail, but the flop brought no help for Buckley. The on the turn meant Buckley needed a ten to stay alive, but the river sent the title to Jaroslawski. Buckley, the most decorated member of this final table, with now over $800,000 in lifetime tournament earnings as reported by Hendon Mob, took home $59,160 for his runner-up performance, which marked his sixth MSPT Final Table and his 23rd Main Event cash, which moved him into a tie for fourth with Season 6 MSPT POY Mark Hodge for the most all-time.