The sixth edition of the $1,100 buy-in Poker Bowl at The Venetian in Las Vegas featured a $500,000 guarantee, and a massive turnout of 1,027 entries over two starting flights resulted in a $991,055 prize pool. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the day of the NFL Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, a winner was crowned in the MSPT Poker Bowl VI after Ron West defeated popular poker vlogger Johnnie “Vibes” Moreno at the conclusion of a two-hour heads-up battle. West took home the trophy and the $168,488 top prize.
There were 118 players who began the day, and with only ten eliminations before the money, the bubble didn't take long to burst. From there, it took around ten hours to make it to the final table. Among those to cash but fail to make the final nine were Michael Trivett (21st - $7,730), Jamie Kerstetter (25th - $5,550), Poker Bowl II champ Kfir Nahum (31st - $4,767), Kristen Nyman (34th - $4,767), reigning MSPT Player of the Year Kyna England (48th - $3,568), Jesse Lonis (50th - $3,568), Tim Reilly (59th - $3,072), Michael Wang (99th - $2,180), and Joseph Cheong (105th - $2,081).
With the final table set, a huge pot quickly developed with a three-way all-in on the flop. Anthony Danna had flopped a set, but was eliminated in ninth after West rivered the nut flush to take the chip lead and leave Brendan Shiller without many chips. Shiller soon hit the rail after running into a better ace. Brian Sivertsen made his exit next when flopping top pair, but ultimately losing the hand against a better kicker which improved to two pair on the river. Haoyu Tang made his way to the payout desk in sixth place when the rest of his stack went in against Moreno, and his dominated hand failed to improve.
Go Mori fell in fifth place when he lost a chunk of chips to West, and then the rest to Cedrric Trevino, who had Mori pipped. Trevino himself was the next one eliminated when he got his chips in and was flipping against West. Trevino made a better pair on the turn, but a two-outer came on the river to secure the pot for West.
Poker pro Aaron Massey bowed out in third after running his sevens into the nines of Moreno. The board ran out without any improvement and Massey was gone. That set up a heads-up match between Moreno and West, with the former holding a small chip lead. Moreno and West both had notable hands early in the tournament on their journey to the final table. Moreno tripled in the very first hand he played on Day 1, and West eliminated an opponent on a rollercoaster runout early on Day 1.
The players played heads up for over two hours and engaged in mostly small pots as the chip lead went back-and-forth. At one point, Moreno had an opportunity to lock up the win but he needed to improve with an inferior ace. Unfortunately for him, the board ran out without any help and the lead was relinquished to West. Eventually, Moreno moved all in with pocket deuces and West called with king-queen. A queen on the flop put West ahead, and he stayed there as the turn and river failed to improve Moreno, locking up the trophy and the $168,488 top prize for West.
Winner's Reaction “I feel really good,” West said. “I’ve had some close calls in the last few years, had a hard time closing out and had some rough patches today, but got lucky at the right time and stayed out of trouble at the right time… I think my biggest cash before this was just under $100k, so this smashed that.” West final tabled another MSPT tournament at The Venetian less than two months ago and earned $32,849 for that sixth-place finish. This time he improved upon that to earn not only his first MSPT win but also his all-time biggest score.
West came into the final table as the second-shortest stack, but quickly became the chip leader on a single hand that created a massive pot that was key on his path to eventual victory. “I was texting some friends over the course of the final table, ‘There’s no better feeling in poker than having eighty big blinds at a final table.' It’s just so unusual. It’s a credit to MSPT and the great structures, and it’s a credit to getting lucky, that’s for sure.” West had some words of praise for his heads-up opponent Johnnie “Vibes” Moreno, saying, “He was really solid. He’s obviously an incredibly nice guy… I absolutely just had better cards than him for a good portion of the final table and I was able to push him around a little bit because I had the goods most of the time… I think I had a pretty good feel for his game, and like I said, I got pretty lucky too.” “I’m dedicating this win to my friend Matt Salsberg who’s a really good friend of a lot of people in the poker community. A phenomenal poker player and an even better human being who has some real health struggles right now, and just sending him all the love and all the good vibes, and he knows that this one was for him.”