On Friday, the third stop of the Mid-States Poker Tour Season 5 visited the Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana for the very first time. The first of two starting flights attracted 126 runners, but after nine 50-minute levels of play, just 34 remained with Pavlin Karakikov and his stack of 187,800 leading the way. However, Kou Vang, who recently finished runner-up at the Belle of Baton Rouge, is hot on his heels with 187,400. Others who bagged up top-five stacks were Leon Morford (147,600), Brian Zimcosky (129,600), and John Simon (108,000).
Day 1a Top 10 Chip Counts
"I flopped a set against top pair and a flush draw," Karakikov said of his most critical pot before explaining that he built the majority of his stack in the last couple of levels.
As for Vang, once again he showed up late, but he made up for lost time by quickly building a stack. Easily his most important hand came against fellow MSPT Team Pro Matt Alexander.
It happened in Level 8 (600/1,200/200) when a player in the hijack opened for 2,700, and Vang called from the cutoff. The small blind came along, and then Alexander made it 11,000 from the big, which inspired the initial raiser to promptly fold. Vang pushed all in, the small blind folded, and Alexander called off for 60,800 total.
Alexander was well out in front and stayed there through the first four cards, which came , but then the spiked on the river to give Vang a set. Alexander, who has had his fair share of bad luck thus far in Season 5, hit the rail and turned his attention to the next starting flight.
With just about 90 minutes remaining in the tournament, Vang appeared to be the chip leader after winning several big pots, but Karakikov hit a heater to pass him as the clock wound down.
Vang, who is coming off of a second-place finish at the last MSPT stop two weeks ago, looks to continue his hot run by adding another big score to his more than $500,000 in career tournament earnings. Karakikov is no slouch himself though, sporting just under $150,000 in winnings logged mostly at World Series of Poker Circuit events in the Midwest.
Of course Karakikov and Vang weren't the only notable survivors. Also bagging stacks were Jeremy Dresch (80,300), Matt Kirby (72,800), Patrick Steele (60,000), Tim Ebenhoeh Jr. (58,300), Bruce "Hammer" Swart (45,200), and John "JohnnyGstaks" Hayes (38,000).
Those who weren't quite so lucky were MSPT Baton Rouge winner Shawn Schoreck, Tom Midena, Mike Holm, James Hunt, Dan Gruszka, and Terry Ring, who won the Heartland Poker Tour River City Casino & Hotel for $111,968 earlier this week.
Day 1b is set to kick off at 5 p.m. local time, and of course you can follow the action right here on PokerNews in our Live Reporting Section.