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On Sunday, the MSPT Meskwaki Main Event reached its conclusion after it took 10 hours to cut a field of 50 from the original 409 runners down to a champion.
Emerging as that champion was MSPT regular Aaron Johnson, who won his first MSPT Main Event title for $86,951. A Main Event title was the only thing missing from his MSPT resume as he did everything possible on the MSPT tour - including a Regional title and winning his way in the MSPT Hall of Fame - and came up just short in many previous close calls.
“Feeling really good. A runner-up finish might have just killed me. To get a Main Event win in a MSPT, it feels amazing,” said Johnson afterward, referring to his previous two second-place finishes and six final tables.
The Red Wing, Minnesota native, added the score to his over $1 million in career earnings as he continues to cement himself as one of the best players from the Midwest. When asked what he would do with the big boost in cash, he replied with a laugh, “I’ll probably start an IRA or something, nothing fun, unfortunately.”
Road To Title
Johnson began the day slightly above the average in chips, starting in 18th place out of the 50 starting players. He flew under the radar for most of the day, keeping a steady chip count, never getting too low but never emerging as a massive stack at any point either.
He entered the final table eighth in chips and slowly built his stack until he was heads up against Saad Ghanem. The heads-up battle would prove to be the defining moments of Johnson’s title as he began the heads up battle with a 3:1 chip disadvantage and had to start chipping away at Ghanem quickly. And chip away he did as he looked to play small pots and let Ghanem’s aggressive style do the bidding.
“My strategy heads up was to keep pots as small as possible. I know Saad likes to blow pots and kinda increase variance. My plan was to just play my game and grind him down and find the best spots,” he explained afterward.
Two hands were vital in pulling Johnson close and eventually beyond Ghanem. On both occasions calling down Ghanem’s aggressive betting to take the pots. The final hand followed the same formula as Ghanem triple-barreled into Johnson’s trip jacks, including a shove on the river which Johnson snap-called and turned over the winning hand to confirm his title.
Final Day Action
The day began with 50 players and play was rapid as eliminations went quick. The money bubble only took one hand to breach at 45 players. Before the three-table-redraw, Nick Marsh emerged as the first prominent chip leader of the day as he surged to above a million in chips when he hit a jack to crack queens and also take pocket tens in a double elimination. He would ride that momentum as the field continued to shrink.
Eventually, the final table was reached after about seven hours of play. Current MSPT Player of the Year points leader Mike Shin was eliminated in ninth place, but this result extends his lead on top of the leaderboard.
Start of day chip leader Derek McMaster bit the dust in seventh place when his ace-queen was one-outed by Johnson’s pocket kings when the case king hit the river after McMaster had flopped trip aces.
Play continued until three-handed when Marsh went from chip leader to the short stack after dropping some pots, and he was eventually eliminated in third place when his pocket fours went down to the pocket jacks of Ghanem.