There was certainly no shortage of drama at the PokerNews Mid-States Poker Tour season finale at Canterbury Park in December. The much-anticipated $1,100 buy-in Main Event attracted a solid field, despite the snow storm and below-freezing temperatures.
A total of 366 runners took their shot at the $94K first place prize, ten entrants short of the MSPT record set in December of 2012, also at Canterbury Park.
The prior two MSPT events at Canterbury Park saw champions exiting the state with their winnings. Adam Younis of Iowa won the April event by outlasting 373-runners for $95,328. Prior to that it was Canada’s James Gibson defeating a 376 entrants to pocket $96,205.
Reg Powell of Elk River, MN dominated Friday night’s Day 1a action, bagging 229,400. The next closest competitor when play ended was Shane Nelson of Hopkins.
Sam Desilva emerged from Day 1b with the most chips, accumulating 165,000 to hold down the third spot behind Powell and Nelson heading into Day 2.
In all, 48 players from Day 1a and 64 from Day 1b advanced, leaving 112 players battling for a spot in the top 36.
Four of the final ten players had reached a MSPT final table before. The odds looked strong for Minnesota to defend home turf as nine of ten resided locally.
Gennady Shimelfarb was making his second career MSPT cash and final table. Shimelfarb took ninth at Meskwaki in 2012 for $8,106. He would get one spot further this time, Gennady placed eighth for $10,611. Shimelfarb is known well in the area for playing the higher limit cash games several nights a week at Canterbury.
Gerrit Wierbo of Dent, MN was also playing his second career MSPT final table. Wierbo has a knack for silently navigating his way through a field. He would score his largest career cash here, finishing fifth for $17,686, surpassing his cash at MSPT Northern Lights in 2012 where he took third for $15,690.
The other two players to achieve multiple MSPT final tables needed no introduction. Brett Kuznia, an Office Manager from Stephen, MN, was in the midst of his record-setting, sixth consecutive MSPT cash and seventh overall. This was his fourth final table during that span and fifth overall. Kuznia had his sights set on tracking down the current MSPT Player of the Year leader Pat Steele of Chelsea, MI, who also made the final ten.
Kuznia and Steele were clearly having the two best seasons on Tour. Both were so impressive in 2013 that it was a shame for either to not be named Player of the Year.
Steele earned his fourth MSPT final table this season and fifth cash. He had already taken third once and fourth twice.
Despite the amazing success for both Kuznia and Steele, they were both still chasing their first MSPT bracelet.
When Steele was eliminated in tenth place by Hopkins’ Shane Nelson (A♣5♦ < A♠Q♠ all-in pre-flop), it was official that the cash and bracelet would be staying home as all nine remaining players were from Minnesota. That also meant that Kuznia had to reach third place or higher to surpass Steele in points to win the Player of the Year title. Kuznia was second in chips at the time but lost a substantial portion of his stack in a big pot against chip leader Nas Alkhatib. Kuznia would bust in seventh place, meaning Steele would receive the 2013 Player of the Year title.
Shane Nelson – Director Producer for Omnifusion.com - arrived at the final table on a life-high after recently purchasing his childhood dream-home. Nelson had earned his Main Event seat by chopping the Wednesday night weekly $235 event at Canterbury Park where Canterbury had added the seat to the prize pool.
Fun Fact: Shane Nelson creates the sweet MSPT promotional video featured at the beginning of each On Demand Final Table posted on the MSPTPoker.com site for all to watch any time.
Naser Alkhatib, Brent Kallman, Allen Chapman, Craig McClellan and Joe Beaulieu were making their first appearance in the money at an MSPT event.
Like Nelson, Kallman of Woodbury also earned a Main Event seat through the weekly Wednesday tournament at Canterbury. Kallman is a Pro Soccer Player for the Minnesota United FC, he apparently plays poker well too. Kallman placed third for solid $33,951 pay day.
Chanhassen’s Chapman was in the Main Event for next to nothing, he won his way through on a $60 satellite and turned that small investment into $22,991 after eventually exiting in fourth place.
Though this was Nas Alkhatib’s first MSPT cash, Nas tends to stroll into Canterbury Park from time-to-time for some extremely big wins. Nas won the 2008 Fall Poker Classic Main Event for $84,184. In 2012, Nas beat out 333 entrants to win the HPT for $118,482. His aggressive style and killer instinct tends to pay off in first place finishes.
Nas played superb throughout the final table – his ability to play a wide range of hands and play great poker post-flop made it tough for opponents to put him on a hand.
After eliminating Kallman, Nas entered heads-up play with a 6-to-1 chip lead on Nelson. Nelson aggressively shoved the first hand and got a fold. Nas then open-shoved 10♣7♥ from the button on the very next hand, getting a snap-call from Nelson with A♣2♥, which was a 57% favorite pre-flop.
Nelson exclaimed, “Ahhhh, ohhhh,” as the 10♦ peered in the window but was trumped by the A♥ underneath. The much-needed double-up had arrived for Nelson, but he still had a lot of work to do to catch Nas.
The two exchanged small pots for the next half hour before Nas was able to close it out. On the final hand with blinds at 60K/120K, Nas opened from the button with A♥J♦ to 240K. Nelson snap-shipped 2.3M holding A♠8♦. Nas called. The board ran out 4♥6♥10♥9♠3♣ giving Nas the win, $93,734 and the RF Moeller Diamond Championship bracelet!