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First Major U.S. Live Poker Tournament Since COVID-19 Draws 518 Runners

Mark Collins Wins MSPT Grand Falls Main Event For $107,706

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Major live poker tournaments have been on hiatus for roughly half of a year now due to the COVID-19 pandemic that first shut down U.S. cardrooms back in March. Although some poker rooms have reopened over the past few months, some even offering daily tournaments, none of the mid-major live tours had returned to action until this week.

The MSPT Grand Falls Casino $1,100 buy-in no-limit hold’em main event was held from Aug. 28-30 in Larchwood, Iowa, just across the border from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The appetite for live poker proved to be strong as the tournament attracted 518 total entries to blow away the $150,000 guarantee, creating a final prize pool of $500,960. Players were required to wear masks to enter the tournament.

In the end, the lion’s share of that money was awarded to eventual champion Mark Collins. The 47-year-old systems administrator from the St. Louis area earned $107,706 and 840 Card Player Player of the Year points for the win.

As a result of this victory Collins has climbed into a 13-way tie for 88th place in the POY race standings, which are sponsored by Global Poker.

This was Collins’ second MSPT title, having won the main event at the Canterbury Park Racetrack & Card Club in Shakopee, Minnesota back in 2018 for $102,076. Collins now has career live tournament earnings of $236,319.

The final table began with Tom Sundling in the chip lead, while Collins sat on the second shortest stack with nine players remaining. Sundling extended his lead by picking up pocket kings against the K-J of Stephen Cleghorn (9th – $9,518) to win the first key confrontation of the final table. Jimmie Lucero was the next to fall when his A-7 offsuit ran into the pocket aces of Steve Wilkie. The pocket pair held up and Lucero was knocked out in eighth place ($12,524).

Collins scored his first elimination of the day by winning a battle of the blinds against fellow MSPT main event winner Max Havlish, who shoved for around three big blinds with KSpade Suit3Spade Suit from the small blind. Collins called with JClub Suit4Heart Suit from the big blind and improved to the best hand with a ADiamond Suit5Club Suit3Diamond SuitJHeart SuitAHeart Suit runout. Havlish settled for $16,031 as the seventh-place finisher.

Ricardo Eyzaguirre’s run in this event came to an end when his AClub Suit3Diamond Suit ran into the 3Spade Suit3Heart Suit of Sundling. Niehter player improved after five cards and Eyzaguirre was eliminated in sixth place ($20,539).

Sundling lost a huge chunk of his stack when his A-Q came up against the A-K of Collins in a preflop showdown. Collins flopped a king and held from there to leave Sundling on the shortest stack. He was eliminated shortly afterwards in fifth place ($27,052).

Jason Reisdorfer got his last chips in with QClub Suit9Heart Suit and was called by the KHeart SuitJDiamond Suit of Kevin Berthelsen. The king high held up through the river and Reisdorfer fell in fourth place ($36,069). Despite earning that knockout, Berthelsen was the next to be knocked out. He lost a flip with pocket eights against the ADiamond SuitQClub Suit of Steve Wilkie to finish in third place ($47,691).

Collins took 6,790,000 into heads-up play against Wilkie, who sat with 6,170,000 when cards got back in the air. Collins was able to extend that advantage before the final hand was dealt. With blinds of 100,000-200,000 and an ante of 30,000, Collins raised to 700,000 from the button holding KClub SuitJClub Suit. Wilkie three-bet shoved for around 3.4 million with QSpade SuitJHeart Suit. Collins called and the board ran out 6Club Suit4Spade Suit4Club Suit6Diamond SuitJDiamond Suit and Collins made jacks and sixes to secure the pot and the title. Wilkie earned $66,180 as the runner-up finisher.

Here is a look at the payouts and POY points awarded at the final table:

Place Name Earnings POY Points
1 Mark Collins $107,706 840
2 Steve Wilkie $66,180 700
3 Kevin Berthelsen $47,691 560
4 Jason Reisdorfer $36,069 420
5 Thomas Sundling $27,052 350
6 Ricardo Eyzaguirre $20,539 280
7 Max Havlish $16,031 210
8 Jimmie Lucero $12,524 140
9 Stephen Cleghorn $9,518 70

Winner photo credit: MSPT.