On Friday, the ffith stop of the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) Season 5 kicked off at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The tournament, which has set the state record for largest prize pool in its first three stops at the venue, attracted 148 entries on Day 1a, and after 14 levels of play, just 30 remained with Aaron Johnson and his stack of 233,500 leading the way.
Johnson led a group of three Minnesotans in the top five stacks, including Gennady Shimelfarb (196,500) and Kou Vang (167,500), who is looking to make his fourth MSPT final table in a row! Also in the top five were Ernest Garrett (177,500) and Ken Payne (175,500).
Johnson's climb began in a hand when he bet 5,000 with the board reading . Bill Romer put Johnson all in for about 26,000 total, and Johnson thought for about a minute before calling off.
"Nice call, young man," said Rob Wazwaz, who final tabled the tournament the last time the MSPT was in town. It got even nicer when Johnson's queens up held on the river.
Later, a player raised to 4,200 from middle position, and Johnson three-bet to 9,900 in the hijack. Action folded back to the raiser, who shoved for about 65,000 total. Johnson made the call and immediately flipped over the . His opponent tabled the , and Johnson flopped a set on the flop to widen his lead. An made it a sweat, as the queens would win if a heart came, but the board paired with the to give Johnson a boat.
It wasn't all big hands and dragged pots for Johnson, however. He also had to make some laydowns, including a big hand that prompted a colorful reaction from opponent David Gutfreund. Good play comes in many forms, and Johnson demonstrated this on Day 1a.
As for Shimelfarb, he made most of his bacon when he bet 6,400 from under the gun on an flop. Gutfreund raised to 14,200 in the cutoff, and Will Liebergen called on the button. Shimelfarb pushed all in for about 45,000 more, and Gutfreund folded after getting a count. Liebergen called.
Liebergen had sprung the trap by flatting with his set, and Shimelfarb needed a queen to survive. The turn was a brick, but the river was just the ticket for Shimelfarb.
Of course not everyone was so lucky. Among those to fall on Day 1a were Matt Kirby, Blake Bohn, Eddie Blumenthal, Bill Romer, Bryan Moon, Terry Ring, Lance Harris, Larry Ormson, John Hayes, Leon Morford, Rob Wazwaz, Mario Hudson, Patrick Steele, and the champion of the last MSPT stop at Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells, Josh Reichard.
Fortunately all of those players will be able to try again on Day 1b if they so choose. The second starting flight is set to kick off at 4 p.m. local time on Saturday, and only time will tell if a new state record will be set. Of course the PokerNews Live Reporting Team will be on hand to bring you all the action.