The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) returned to Iowa's Grand Falls Casino, just outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for an $1,100 Main Event and it set another high bar with 532 entries over two days with 73 players finding their way into Sunday's with their eyes set on the title.
After 12 hours of play, it was Nicholas "grizpoker" Smith who navigated his way through to the finish line was for a $110,633 first-place prize along with his first MSPT title.
"It's an amazing feeling", Smith said after his win, "I've worked for this for years, all I want to do is play poker".
Smith, also know as "grizpoker", had quite the weekend here at Grand Falls, as he left his home early Thursday morning and traveled 12 hours from Indianapolis just to play in the Main Event.
"I left home at 4:00 in the morning, played the Thursday night satellite, won that, sold the ticket, then played the Friday morning satellite, won that as well, busted my first bullet, and then rebought on Day 1a".
Smith finished with a top five stack in the first flight and now has future plans on continuing his poker endeavor.
"I've been playing poker for a very long time but this was my fist time playing in a big buy-in event, and after tonight I definitely plan on playing a lot more".
Smith continued, "I love this game and this is what I'm made to do, it's all I want to do."
Smith wears a passion for poker on his sleeve and we look forward to see much more of him in the future.
With 54 slated to get paid, more than a dozen players needed to exit before players reached. Among those to leave empty-handed were William Reynolds, Nicola DiTrapani, and MSPT Hall of Famer Aaron Johnson, just to name a few.
After John Menapace bubbled in 55th place, the march to the final table began. Among those to fall along the way, albeit with a payday, were John Orfonos (10th - $7,718),Dan Grossman (16th - $5,145), Joe Matheson (21st - $4,682), MSPT Season 12 point leader Cy Church (44th - $2,521), and James Pupillo (54th - $2,315).
Kenneth Johnson entered the final table with the chip lead with a stack of 2.5 million and once players returned from their dinner break, it didn't take long before Saad Ghanem dropped in ninth place after waking up with aces only to be out-flopped by Graham Beynon holding a suited jack-ten.
A few hands later, two-time MSPT Main Event Champ Taylor Howard hit the rail holding a king-queen offsuit only to be called by Tyler Kolness holding a dominating ace-king. The next player to be sent home was Jason Crews, whose flopped two-pair came up just short after Smith rivered a better two-pair.
Joe Osterbauer was next on the chopping block after his ace-four suited failed to crack Smith's pair of ladies. Shortly after, Kolness departed in fifth place after his king-jack suited was crushed against Smith's ace-jack.
Four-handed play went on for almost another two levels until Beynon hit the rail losing a race with Big Slick against Johnson holding a made hand of tens.
Three-handed action saw Smith and Johnson hold almost identical stacks with Larry Wagner sitting at the bottom and it was Wagner who found the exit in third place after his pocket threes came up short to Johnson's nine-six offsuit.
From there, the heads-up match proved to be a battle as Smith secured an early double to take the chip lead but Johnson won a few pots to even out the stacks. After another level passed, the two got stacks all in preflop with Smith holding a dominating ace-ten to Johnson's ace-six to earn him the MSPT trophy and payday good for $110,633.