Tropicana Evansville Casino near the southern tip of Indiana played host to the latest stop on the MSPT and when the last card hit the table it was Frank Covich who found himself posing for winner photos after capturing his first MSPT Main Event title, scoring $62,487 and earning bragging rights as the 2019 Indiana State Poker Champion.
After a wild first day of action, Joseph Lamkin was able to rise above the pack to claim the chip lead on Day 1A with 329,500 chips, besting the 120-entrant field. Ian Richardson finished close behind with 296,000. Eventual runner-up Donnie Phan rounded out the top 3 with 260,000. 14 players would survive to Day 2.
Day 1B attracted another 146-runners and it was Ray Litteken with 318,000 chips who bagged the lead, placing him second overall behind Lamkin heading to Day 2. Brian Jennings also put away a healthy stack with 312,000. Kent Brenneman amassed the third largest stack during 1B with 274,000. 21 of the 146 advanced.
With 35 of 266 returning Day 2 saw more non-stop thrills, several standouts who fell short of the final table but found a cash included 2018 Indiana State Poker Champion Tim Burdern (19th - $2,822), Terrence Esparza (14th - $3,828) and Day 1B chip leader Ray Littekin (11th - $4,617).
When we reached the final table of 10, the action took many shocking twists. Donnie Phan had a dominant stack as play began, nearly double that of three-time WSOP bracelet winner and recent MSPT Main Event champ Adam Friedman. Unfortunately for Phan, he would double up James Gidden which kicked off one of the slowest pace of eliminations in the history of the tour at a final table.
Eventually, Quentin Davis managed to pull off the first elimination of the final table taking out the Day 1 overall chip leader Joseph Lamkin with aces against his A-Q putting Lamkin out in 10th place ($4,617). Then Phan missed two more chances at eliminations against Ian Richardson and another versus Gidden tightening up the field. Adam Friedman could just not find any traction after being continually chipped down, finally running out of steam to be eliminated by Kent Brenneman in 9th place ($5,643). Friedman was just 21 days off his MSPT Cleveland title where he pocketed $121,405. This was his 13th MSPT Main Event cash and 7th final table. In total, Friedman has $343,780 in MSPT earnings.
Play dragged out eight-handed for nearly an hour before Ryan Johnson ran his into the of Brian Jennings to see his tournament end in 8th place ($7,183). Then came the seven-handed war which lasted nearly two hours, at one point six of the players being within 100,000 chips of each other. Eventually, Frank Covich and Donnie Phan began to inch away from the field and Brian Jennings finally broke the seven-way stalemate taking out Kent Brenneman in 7th place ($8,978).
Once the ice broke on seven-handed action, the pace of play began to improve. Quentin Davis was dropped by Covich in 6th place ($11,800) followed by Ian Richardson springing to life. Richardson managed to reach the two-million chip mark and proceeded to take out Brian Jennings in 5th place ($15,391) to claim nearly half the chips in play with four remaining.
Donnie Phan wasn’t done. He managed to crack the A-J of James Gidden with A-2 hitting a 2 on the river to eliminate Gidden in 4th place ($20,522) and then Phan turned a flush to edge out Richardson eliminating him in 3rd place ($27,961). This gave Phan a commanding 4,270,000 to 1,050,000 chip lead into heads-up play versus Covich.
Just two hands into heads-up play, Phan was all-in holding against the of Covich. Phan nailed the flop to take the lead and made it through the turn leaving him one card from the championship. But Covich caught the for a straight to double up and deny Phan the title. Not long after, Phan caught a flush on the river but Covich had already turned a full house flipping the advantage Phan had enjoyed to start heads-up play.
Finally, the end came when Phan went all-in with against the of Covich. This time Covich out-flopped Phan when the board came out . The cards ran out and in spectacular fashion, Frank Covich had claimed the 2019 MSPT Indiana State Poker Championship.
After the victory, Covich revealed a cool demeanor and a simple strategy to solving the puzzle of a unique final table. “It was a long tough final table. I just let other people knock each other out and tried to catch cards. Heads up I was just trying not bluff my stack off and catch good hands. All I can say is I’m feeling good!”