The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) has come roaring back, and there's been no surer sign of the health of the tour than the state-record turnout of 862 entries that showed up for MSPT Riverside $1,100 Main Event in the tour's first-ever visit there.
Conquering that field after three long days of play was Indiana's Daniel Sepiol. The 27-year-old pro earned a career-best $162,750 that outdistanced his previous personal best of $52K by quite a bit. Playing for big money didn't rattle him at all though, as he said he was comfortable pretty much the whole time.
"I've played a lot of these tournaments and made some deep runs but never really made runs at the final table," he said. "So, it feels good."
Indeed, Sepiol had accrued four cashes on tour, but a ninth-place finish back in January 2019 had been his top placing. Here, he never put himself in danger of fizzling out as he held the chip lead nearly the entire time at the final table.
Sepiol had to deal with several accomplished players as the field wound down, sitting with the likes of Phil Mader and Byron Ziebell. However, they'd fall short of the final table while Sepiol chipped up and carried the lead into the final nine.
Once there, he continued to have things break his way as he won a key early flip against Lester Crew by hitting an ace on the river with Big Slick against pocket eights. As Crew had come in with the third-place stack, Sepiol took control of a third of the chips with eight players remaining.
Jovan Sudar briefly challenged for the lead when he busted Nick Pupillo, who was appearing at his seventh final table on the tour. Sudar couldn't sustain his surge, though, and he handed out doubles to both Kyna England and Jason Crews before bowing out in fourth.
Sepiol, on the other hand, continued to have the key spots go his way. England made a big call blind versus blind with king-nine and was ahead of Sepiol's queen-ten but he found a queen on the flop to bust her and get heads up.
"I ran really, really well all day," he admitted.
His streak of all-in luck finally ended heads up as Crews doubled through him once and then pulled out a runner-runner chop after Sepiol got him all in with two pair against Crews' top pair. That one left Sepiol cursing in frustration, but he won enough of the other pots that it just didn't matter and he busted Crews not long after.
The big score will aid Sepiol as he continues to transition more of his play from online to live. He said he's been playing for a living for about three years, and while he was comfortable playing online during the shutdown, he was eager to get back to cards and felt he could feel and opponents he could see.
"Definitely," he said when asked if he returned to live play as soon as it was available. "I had the itch."
There will be plenty more ahead as he plans to tackle a busy schedule coming up. He's going to start by heading back to Vegas, where he's been grinding since last year. Then, Sepiol and the MSPT will meet up in California for another new event at Sycuan Casino Resort in San Diego. Both will try to keep the momentum going after a hugely successful trip to Iowa.
Click here for more information on the MSPT's next stop, which will be its first-ever in California.