Mark Brazis of Lafayette, Ind., walked away with the top prize of $221,323 after winning the Mid-States Poker Tour event May 20 at FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek, Mich. The event created a prize pool of more than $1.2M with a state-record 1,287 players. The 36-year-old Brazis was playing his first MSPT event and had just three career cashes.
“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “The structure was wonderful, not too slow, not too fast. FireKeepers has a great establishment here; they’re always first class.”
Bryant Miller of West Unity, Ohio, was second ($137,158), followed by Henry Zou ($99,751); Bryan Norris ($76,185); Kou Vang ($57,357); Justin Lee ($43,641); Michael Reardon ($33,666); Jason Zarlenga ($26,185); Aaron Soulliere ($21,197) and Charles Baryames ($17,456).
FireKeepers hosts the Michigan State Poker Championship Oct. 11-14.
RUNNING ACES CASINO: Ian Matakis of Faribault, Minn., took home $30,500 for winning the Mayhem in May event in Columbus. The final three players chopped but agreed to play it out for $3K and the trophy.
Matakis maintained his lead after the chop, beating Jacob Dasilveira and Zach Schneider for the title. This win more than doubled Matakis’ career earnings, bringing him to $56K.
The $280 tournament offered six Day 1 flights with a $1,200 buy back for the smaller stacks that made Day 2.
There were 718 entries, generating almost $145K for the prize pool.
MSPT HOF: Kou Vang of Woodbury, Minn., became the first member of the MSPT Poker Hall of Fame. Unlike other organizations, there’s no voting or nomination process. Instead, there are standard requirements and Vang became the first to earn his spot.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Vang said. “It feels absolutely wonderful to get recognition for the commitment and dedication put into chasing live poker glory. I am very glad MSPT found a way to acknowledge the players that have supported them throughout the years. It feels good, feels at home.”
RIVERSIDE CASINO: The new, but reduced, poker room launched in May with the 11th annual Riverside Poker Challenge. Ryan Housel won the title, good for $12,570, beating Austin Pasker heads-up. Up next at Riverside is the $200 Stars & Stripes event July 6-8. First place may pay $10K if there are enough entries. Call the poker room for details.
MESKWAKI CASINO: The MSPT returns to the Tama property July 21-29 for another $300K guarantee. This is an 18-and-older event and has plenty of satellites running during the first part of the week if you’d like to get into the main event cheaply.
BAD-BEAT JACKPOTS: At press time, Prairie Meadows’ BBJ was $161,700 while Diamond Jo Casino in Worth was approaching $200K.
Alex Ziskin outlasted 624 entries to win the Heartland Poker Tour’s main event and more than $201K. He was the dominant stack for most of the final table.
He ended up in a lengthy three-way struggle with runner-up Michael Kamenjarin and Ben Castle. When play reached heads-up, Ziskin lost the lead to Kamenjarin briefly before regaining the lead and the victory.
Ziskin is one of a handful of players to win two main events in Chicagoland, taking America’s Poker Tour’s inaugural main event in 2016.
For the first time in Chicagoland, big blind antes were used during the main event.
“The big-blind ante is being adopted across America’s cardrooms like a California wildfire,” HPT co-host Kenna James said. “I think it’s a great concept, but like all new processes, needs a little bit of tweaking so as not to dramatically change the end game.”
James, a one-time Ante Up strategy columnist, came out on top of 188 entries to win the six-max for $7,511.
“It’s always special to win a tournament,” James said. “I’m going to be 55 this year and it’s nice to steal one away from the young guns that seem to dominate these days, especially in this format. Makes me feel good to stay competitive and be rewarded for my efforts. I think it’s vital to continue to learn, adapt and grow with this ever-evolving game of poker.”
Skylar Galberth defeated 1,021 entries to win the $350 Monster Stack opener for $56K. Michael Cummings took home $12K-plus for capturing the $300 seniors; Mike Holm earned the $200 seniors title after a chop for $5,630. Bob Chow won the mixed-games event for $3,605.
The HPT returns Aug. 23-Sept. 3 and the $2,500 HPT Championship will be here Nov. 1-13.
WSOPC: The 2018-19 schedule shows Horseshoe Southern Indiana hosting Sept. 27-Oct. 8. Also, Horseshoe Hammond has two events scheduled, Oct. 11-22 and Feb. 21-March 4.
WINDY CITY POKER CHAMPIONSHIP: Paul Fisher won the $2K SNG. Last summer, Fisher made the WPT main-event final table at Choctaw Resort Casino in Durant, Okla.
CHARITY: Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells closed its poker room with the $250 Rick Syverud Memorial tournament, which raised funds for Camp One Step.
The tournament drew 99 entries, which meant $2,970 got donated to the charity. Additional donations brought the total to $3,190.
The top-10 players earned a piece of the $21,780 prize pool. Larry Wagner and Steve Pike chopped for $5,172 apiece.
ONEIDA CASINO: In early May, the Green Bay poker room saw its $195,880 bad-beat jackpot hit.
POTAWATOMI CASINO: Milwaukee’s MSPT $350 regional has been moved up a week and will run July 12-15. The $200K guarantee will feature three starting flights with a single re-entry option.
PLAYER NEWS: Milwaukee’s Mike Shin, who finished 12th in the 2016 WSOP main event, placed fifth in the HPT East Chicago main event for $41,173. It marked the third-largest score of his career.
HOLLYWOOD CASINO TOLEDO: The Hollywood Poker Challenge runs Aug. 23-Sept. 3. The $1K main event sports a $150K guarantee. Three Day 1 flights will run Aug. 31-Sept. 2; $150 satellites will be available beforehand.
Other events include a $350 tournament with a $75K guarantee ($90 satellites), Omaha/8, HORSE, PLO and seniors-only. Details are available on the Bravo Poker app.
JACK CASINO CINCINNATI: The Red Hot Summer High Hand cash-game promotion is running all this month.
During the designated times, $400 high hands will be paid every 30 minutes. The minimum qualifying hand is aces full of deuces.
SHARK TANK POKER CLUB: The Columbus club has a poker cruise series planned. Go to sharktankpokerclub.com for details.
Meet Aaron Johnson
Pro Aaron Johnson lives in Red Wing, Minn., where was born and raised. He started playing poker in seventh grade with friends after watching the World Series of Poker on television. He has around $700K in lifetime earnings and several prestigious final tables, but was missing a major win until he won the recent Heartland Poker Tour at Belterra.
What skill gives you the biggest edge at the table? I think my strong fundamentals, ability to think well in game and my stamina-concentration all combine to give me a solid edge at most tables.
What is your biggest poker achievement? Winning HPT Belterra this year followed closely by my 72nd-place finish in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event.
What goals do you have for your poker career? MSPT Hall of Fame, Minnesota Poker Hall of Fame, multiple titles in all tours I play regularly, WSOP bracelets, etc. Ultimately, I’d like to make enough money to find something to invest in and not rely on poker for my income. — John Somsky