When online poker was prevalent in the U.S., John Hayes was well known as a stone-cold-killer. At the time the U.S. government put a stop to online poker on April 15, 2011 – dubbed “Black Friday” in the poker world – Hayes had earned over $2.4 Million on the virtual felt, mostly under the screen name “JohnnyGstaks”.
With his income stream cut off, Hayes had to take his skills to brick and mortar casinos where he has continued to shine. On May 19th, Hayes completely dominated the PokerNews Mid-States Poker Tour Main Event at Northern Lights Casino in Walker, MN, finishing off the field in record time. In most instances, the final table often runs 5-6 hours and doesn’t even begin until Level 18. Hayes was wearing the bracelet and posing for photos before Level 17 ended.
Hayes cruised through Day 1, appearing more focused than he’s ever been. He entered Sunday’s Day 2 third overall in chips. It didn’t take long for Hayes to mix it up.
With chip leader Christian Pham in the one seat on his immediate right, Hayes executed a five-bet shove pre-flop on Pham – who tank-folded. Hayes then flipped up the 5♥.
A couple hours later, the two went at it again. With blinds at 1,500/3,000, Hayes three-bet shoved pre-flop with K♥Q♥, this time Pham tank-called with AQ. Hayes would hit a King, leaving Pham with only 1,700 chips. To Pham’s credit, he would battle back by winning the next five hands and within a half hour be back over 200,000 chips. Pham would continue his sensational 2013 campaign by reaching another final table.
“Gstaks” has become a regular on the MSPT circuit the last two seasons, this was his fifth MSPT cash over that span – which ranks him 3rd all-time - and second MSPT final table. This win for $43,473 gives him $72,608 on the tour overall.
Since transitioning from online to the live scene, Hayes has already accumulated $229,705 in winnings. His largest score was during the 2012 WSOP where he placed 3rd in the $1,500 NLHE Ante Only event for $99,409 – he had three cashes in last year’s series.
“It felt really good to take down an MSPT event,” Hayes said. “I have played quite a few and have had some good runs but hadn’t been able to walk away with one. I’m not going to take this bracelet off for a while.”
The final table was littered with accomplished MSPT players. Seven of the final ten players had previously reached an MSPT final table. Mario Filippi was there for the third time. Romer, Pham, Schummer, Kuznia, Hayes and Stevermer were all making their second appearance. This was Reg Powell’s first final table but his third MSPT cash. The fact that there were so many strong players makes it even more impressive that Hayes was able to defeat them all so quickly.
The tournament ended in dramatic fashion. It came down to Hayes, Romer and Powell to determine the next MSPT champ. Entering the final hand, Hayes held 2.4 million of the 3.2 million chips in play.
On the button, with blinds at 10K/20K, Hayes opened for 50K holding pocket 3’s. Romer and Powell both called, holding AQ and A5 respectively. The flop was unreal - 3♣2♣4♦ - Powell flops the wheel and Hayes mid-set. Romer and Powell both check. Hayes c-bets 75K - Romer check-shoves his last 164K into a mind field – Powell follows Romer into the pot with an all-in shove of his own. Hayes without wasting much time calls as well. The turn is the 2♥, pairing the board to trump Powell’s straight and giving Hayes the title. The 5♥ on the river is irrelevant.
Northern Lights Casino is one of the original stops on the tour and known to tour regulars as the “Party Stop”. Everyone in attendance can attest that this time was no different!
“The atmosphere is completely different here at Northern Lights than any other stop,” said MSPT Ambassador Chris “Fox” Wallace. “It’s louder, less serious and full of influenced characters. The poor server never gets a break but she probably earns more tip money in one weekend than she does over the rest of the year! This is always one of the most memorable stops of the season – but don’t ask questions, I can’t talk about it.”
Northern Lights Casino is located on Walker Bay, a resort area which draws tourists from all over the country for its relaxing lakeshore atmosphere.
This was the seventh event of Season 4 and marked the halfway point of the season for the Poker News Mid-States Poker Tour. The tour will enjoy two months off during the WSOP and resume action in late July for the second stop of the year at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama, Iowa. The first stop generated a $342,700 which was won by Terry Ring for $87,694. As always, the MSPT and Meskwaki have partnered to offer another $300,000 Guaranteed prize pool.