Mid-December in Minnesota always creates potential concerns for weather issues and travel advisories, but this year’s thirty degrees and no snow was tropical for the land of 10,000 frozen lakes!
Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN – one of the premiere card rooms in the Midwest – hosted the BLUFF Mid-States Poker Tour event December 7-12.
Over 700 poker players entered a satellite or multi-table qualifier in hopes of earning their seat in the $1,000+$100 BLUFF MSPT main event and a shot at the RF Moeller Diamond Championship bracelet. In total, 230 players qualified or direct-bought their way in creating a $230,000 prize pool.
This event would also mark the first time a U.S. based tour would broadcast the final table LIVE using RFID technology.
Hidden inside this custom final table is a system of hi-tech RFID (Radio-frequency identification) electronics that tracks the movement of playing cards, and superimposes that information on a live video feed for viewers at home to see. The cutting edge technology, identifies exactly what cards have been dealt and replaces any need for hole cameras. The final table at BLUFF MSPT events is streamed on a 15-minute delay throughout each tournament, showing viewers the hole cards and the flop, along with the percentage chance of the winning hand. Just like the World Series of Poker broadcasts on ESPN.
The first BLUFF MSPT RFID broadcast on www.msptpoker.com totaled over 2,000 viewers! Future broadcasts will be streamed on www.bluffmagazine.com, which attracts on average 125,000 views per day.
When the smoke cleared at this final table, local stud Kou Vang from Maplewood, MN earned his first diamond bracelet and $64,465.
After navigating through two full days of poker, it only took one hand heads-up for Vang and professional poker player Everett Carlton to get it all-in. Vang had Carlton out-chipped 2-1. Carlton raised from the button with 8-6 off suit. Vang, looking down at ace-jack, re-raised. Carlton shoved and Vang instantly called. Vang flopped an ace and it held!
Vang was primarily an online pro prior to “Black Friday” but has had success on the live scene as well. Vang also won the 2010 Fall Poker Classic at Canterbury Park for $78K. This win was Vang’s second BLUFF MSPT cash, he placed 11th in the same event one year prior.
“This was one of the toughest fields I’ve ever played against,” Vang said. “I’ve really wanted one of these bracelets for a while, it feels great!”
Vang was likely glad to get heads-up play over with quickly as his opponent is known to be one of the best in the Midwest.
Everett Carlton has final tabled five of thirteen BLUFF MSPT events and cashed in six for $61,864 in earnings (see www.msptpoker.com/statistics). Carlton also has a WSOP ESPN final table on his resume.
At one point early on Day 1, Carlton was down to only 2,000 chips in Level 2. He was able to battle back and finish Day 1 as overall chip leader with 508,000 of the 3,450,000 in play. Kou Vang entered Day 2 eighth in chips at 180,000.
Vang went on a run, accumulating 619,000 chips to lead the pack entering the final table. Carlton remained steady entering the final table only behind Vang with 501,000 chips.
Once these two players have chips, its tough to get them back. Vang and Carlton would roll to heads up play with very few major hiccups.
Ultimately Vang would be crowned champ, taking home his first RF Moeller Diamond Championship bracelet. Carlton earned $31,876 for his runner-up finish.
The BLUFF MSPT caught up with Vang following his exciting win!
Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT): This was the first time a U.S. tour has used the RFID technology, it was broadcast on a 15-minute delay. So you knew at some point players may see or hear about certain hands. Did that affect your game at all or how you played?
Kou Vang (KV): Yeah I definitely considered that. During the first 15 minutes of final table play I wanted to get a couple of steals in there right away because I knew they were going to catch on down the road. I think I opened the pot a couple of times with 10-8 and stole another with 7-5 or something like that. I knew I had to do that in the first 15 minutes and at the same time try to set up an image where I was going to maybe play some big pots later on.
MSPT: It looked like you were able to set up the image you were hoping for, then you were able to pick up a couple hands down the stretch which helped you get paid off.
KV: Yeah for sure, the amount of luck it takes to win a tournament is tremendous. But at the same time you have to be aggressive and pick up some hands as well. I was fortunate to win a big pot when we were eleven or twelve handed, right before the final table. So I wanted to apply some pressure once we got there. I was able to do that against some stacks that were only 10-15% of my stack.
MSPT: We received a ton of comments from viewers about how well they thought you were playing? One gentlemen even asked how you knew what everyone had all the time?
KV: Well that’s one thing when you do this for a living is you just try to get better every day. You have your good and bad days, sometimes you just get in the zone.
MSPT: You use to play a lot online, what are you doing to fill your time these days? Are you still playing online?
KV: Yeah I still play a little bit on the Merge network. I take care of my son during the day until my wife gets home, then I play 3-4 tournaments each night. Since “Black Friday” I haven’t gotten to play as much because like a lot of other players, I have a lot of money stuck online.
MSPT: So what’s next for you?
KV: Well like I said, Black Friday hit me kind of hard, I really needed this win. I’ll probably lay pretty low through the holidays and then hit all of these MSPT $1K’s. I’ll for sure be at Running Aces for the next one and the $300K in Iowa. I’ll make the rounds here in the Midwest area.