It was a grueling battle that lasted until about 1:00 AM Monday morning but Des Moines’ Josh Meyer found himself as the last player standing to claim the Iowa State Poker Championship winning his first-ever MSPT title at Meskwaki Casino in Tama, Iowa.
Day 1A was incredibly deep with all three MSPT Hall of Famers (Aaron Johnson, Richard Alsup and Kou Vang) in the house along with multiple past winners like Ken Komberec, Taylor Howard, Brian Soja and Steve Federspiel. The fun didn’t stop as current Player of the Year points leader Mike Shin joined the party along with Rob Wazwaz, TJ Ryan, Mark Hodge, Ryan Tepen, Alex Winter and WSOP bracelet winner John Reading.
Jovan Sudar of Omaha, NE claimed the chip lead for Day 1A with 346,500 which eventually led the entire field into Day 2. Jason Seitz climbed to 317,000. The remainder of the top five on Day 1A included John Sun (270,000), Jon Hanner (266,000) and Steve Wazwaz (259,500). Keith Heine (124,000) and Dan Sun (115,000) also escaped Day 1A along with Mike Shin who would look to add to his POY point total bagging 60,000 chips. For the flight, 21 players advanced out 164 entries.
Ryan Tepen and Dave Soderstrom dominated most of Day 1B and bagged the largest stacks as Level 15 ended. WSOP bracelet winner Grant Hinkle was also putting his incredible poker skills on display but ran into a little trouble late, conceding the chip lead to Tepen and Soderstrom. Tepen managed to put away 305,000 which was good for third overall in the tournament and Soderstrom wound up with 276,500.
Henry Gingerich was third with 231,000, Grant Hinkle finished at 197,500 and Taylor Howard closed out the top five with 189,000. Aaron Johnson, Brian Soja, Steve Federspiel, Ken Komberec. Ahmed Talib, David Gonia, Ryan Skluzak and TJ Ryan missed the cut. Mark Hodge also fell short of his quest for his final cash to make the MSPT Hall of Fame and will have to wait one more event. The flight added another 237 entries with 33 players advancing taking the meaning 54 players would advance to Sunday’s Day 2 out 401 entries easily clearing the tournament’s $300,000 guarantee.
The Iowa State Poker Championship returned to action on Day 2 just nine players short of the money and it didn’t take long before Tim Garles took a brutal four-flush against Timothy Murphy to burst the bubble and send the tournament into a frenzy as the run toward the title got underway. Shortly afterward, Mike Shin was knocked out in 40th place putting more points in his pocket as he continued to pile onto his Season 10 Player of the Year lead.
The most critical run of the tournament before the final table took place when Josh Meyer’s jacks cracked Jason Seitz’s kings on the river vaulting Meyer up to 500,000. Meyer then took out David Steger with kings against Steger’s jacks. He then quickly busted Timothy Murphy, Howard and Seitz to build a massive 2,300,000 chip stack on the road to the final table.
When we reached the final ten players, here were the chip counts:
Seat 1: William Reynolds - 40,000
Seat 2: James Kasputis - 495,000
Seat 3: Matt Riedesel - 360,000
Seat 4: Jesse Bowman - 925,000
Seat 5: Jonathan Hanner - 1,180,000
Seat 6: Ryan Tepen - 500,000
Seat 7: Yanni Orfanos - 265,000
Seat 8: Josh Meyer - 2,690,000
Seat 9: Jovan Subar - 100,000
Seat 10: Steve Wazwaz - 1,475,000
The chase was on to catch Meyer and it started off with a bang as Steve Wazwaz caught a four on the river to make two pair taking out Iowa’s all-time leading career money winner William Reynolds in 10th place ($6,200) and James Kasputis in 9th place ($7,362). Shortly after that, Jovan Sudar had a set of jacks fall victim to a rivered straight by Yanni Orfanos to get eliminated in 8th place ($10,074) taking the field down to seven. In rapid-fire fashion, Wazwaz then ended Ryan Tepen’s tournament run with his kings holding against Tepen’s A-Q knocking the two-time WSOP Circuit Event ring winner out in 7th place ($12,787).
Yanni Orfanos was the next to fall in 6th place ($16,274) at the hands of Jon Hanner, putting Hanner over the million chip mark. Then Jesse Bowman managed to crack Josh Meyer’s kings by rivering a flush to clear the million chip mark as well, putting a dent in the former chip leader’s stack and closing the gap. Hanner unfortunately had his stack whittled back down and was put away in 5th place ($21,311) after running into Jesse Bowman’s aces. Bowman then continued his hot streak wiping out Matthew Riedesel with a set of queens making Riedesel the tournament’s 4th place finisher ($28,285).
At this point, the tide had completed turned from Meyer and Wazwaz leading the way to Bowman now holding over half the chips in play three-handed. Bowman continued to be the dominant force at the table for nearly an hour before Wazwaz managed to have an all-in bet with second pair hold up against Bowman’s nut flush draw. At his peak in the duel with Meyer and Bowman, Wazwaz reached 5,400,000 chips and looked well on his way to securing the title.
As play went deeper in the Iowa night, Bowman caught a straight to crack Wazwaz’s two pair. Then Meyer had his tens hold against Bowman’s flopped pair of nines and the road to the championship began to take another twist. Meyer then doubled on an A-5-K-A-K board with him holding an ace and Wazwaz showing a king giving him a bigger boat and thrusting Meyer back in the tournament. With all this action going on, Jesse Bowman tried to steal one away from Wazwaz going all-in and hitting a pair of tens on the turn but Wazwaz rivered a flush to end Bowman’s run in 3rd place ($38,360) and sending he and Meyer into heads-up play. Wazwaz would lead holding 4,910,000 to 3,120,000 as the two would face off for the MSPT title.
Heads-up play started at 11 P.M. and nearly no progress was made for an hour and a half as the duo traded small pots feeling each other out trying to find a way to break through. There was some excitement around 12:30 AM right before a break when both players caught a nine-high straight but wound up in an anti-climactic chop to send the evenly matched duel further into the morning.
With the blinds at 150,000/300,000 and the fatigue starting to take its toll on the two players who had been grinding away for over fourteen hours, Meyer had now managed to take a slight edge. Meyer moved all-in pre-flop and was quickly called by Wazwaz. Meyer held against the of Wazwaz. The flop came out giving no help to Wazwaz. The turn brought the which left Meyer pacing in circles saying “One card from an MSPT title.” The hit the river and Meyer found himself able to celebrate the victory taking home the championship and $85,241. Steve Wazwaz finished as the runner-up scoring $52,696 for his outstanding effort.
After the tournament, Meyer was incredibly grateful for the victory. “This is just amazing. I feel like I’m dreaming. I’ve been playing for a decade and I know how rare it is to get to a final table let alone win one so twenty years from now I’ll be able to say I’m an MSPT champ!”
The final table played out into Meyer’s style of play, “I play a ton of six-handed play online - cash and tournaments - they’re my favorite and I’m very comfortable so the way the table played out was great.”
When asked how he’ll spend the money Meyer responded, “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be paying off my wife’s student loans and I just got a new car so some of it will be going there, the rest will probably go into a savings account. I’m an actuary by trade so I’m pretty boring.”