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Jason Zarlenga Wins 2014 MSPT FireKeepers Casino for $101,482

Jason Zarlenga

On Sunday, the final 65 players of a 411-entry field returned to FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan to play down to a winner in the latest Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) $1,100 Main Event. It took 12 hours of play, but during that time the money bubble was burst and Jason Zarlenga of Lansing vanquished all his opponents to claim the title and $101,482 first-place prize.

“You have no idea how bad I wanted this,” said Zarlenga, who also added that his next stop will be Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker.

MSPT FireKeepers Final Table Results

1stJason ZarlengaLansing, MI$101,482
2ndMike DeisAnn Arbor, MI$58,583
3rdMark JohnsonWarren, MI$35,745
4thJC ChenRichland, MI$28,795
5thNick PerkinsChesaning, MI$22,639
6thJohn MichalakCleveland, OH$18,866
7thDustin HargisGalesburg, MI$15,092
8thScott HammettChelsea, MI$11,518
9thDash DudleyLansing, MI$7,943
10thMarko DoljevicHighland, MI$5,163

Day 2 kicked off with a plethora of eliminations including those of Zane Palmer, Santiago Vila, Mike Ermie, Michael Bozzo, Darrell Newcomer, Bob Buyce, Denny Robinson, and Robert West, all of whom left empty-handed.

In Level 17 (2,500/5,000/500), just 46 players remained, and with all but one of them slated to make the money, the bubble was on. Now when you hear the name Bob Dillon (although spelled differently), you no doubt think of the American musician, singer-songwriter, artist, and writer, but at the MSPT FireKeepers that name is now synonymous with the bubble boy.

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"Wild Bill" Romer

That's because Robert Dillon, who goes by Bob, got his last 41,500 all in preflop and was up against "Wild Bill" Romer.

Romer: {10-Hearts}{9-Clubs}
Dillon: {a-Clubs}{j-Clubs}

Dillon got it in good, but the {10-Spades}{2-Hearts}{q-Diamonds} flop gave Romer the lead with a pair of tens. The {9-Hearts} turn improved Romer to two pair, meaning Dillon needed to fill his straight on the river to stay alive. Unfortunately for him, that didn't happen as the {Q-Spades} blanked. Dillon was felled in 46th place, meaning the remaining players were guaranteed a minimum payday of $1,986.

The in-the-money eliminations piled up throughout the afternoon and included Matt Soloman (45th - $1,986), “Wild Bill” Romer (34th - $2,184), MSPT Majestic champ Ken Baime (32nd - $2,184), Day 1b chip leader Carter Myers (24th - $2,462), and FireKeepers stud Adam Lamphere (17th - $3,138).

Lamphere, the runner-up the past two times the MSPT visited Battle Creek, began the day as the fifth-shortest stack. He got lucky to double early on when his Big Slick cracked aces, and he used those chips to make his way deep into the money. Alas, his run came to an end courtesy of JC Chen.

It happened in Level 22 (8,000/16,000/2,000) when Lamphere shoved preflop holding the {q-Diamonds}{j-Diamonds} and Chen called him with {a-}{8-}. The flop paired Chen's eight, but it also contained two diamonds to give Lamphere a flush draw. An {8-} on the turn improved Chen to trips, while an {A-} on the river gave him a full house. Lamphere missed his flush and had to settle for 17th place. Still, that's three times the MSPT has come to FireKeepers and three times Lamphere has shown he's one of the best.

After the last woman in the field, Heather Schuchaskie, exited in 16th place, a few other notables – including Tyler Caspers (15th - $3,972), Taylor Tollefson (14th - $3,972), and Ken Payne (12th - $5,163) – followed her out the door before the final table was set.

After a short dinner break, the final table of 10 returned to battle down to a winner. The first elimination of the final table came within minutes when Zarlenga and Marko Doljevic both picked up pocket pairs. A low flop saw the chips go in, and the sixes of Doljevic were in bad shape against Zarlenga’s jacks. Neither the turn nor river changed a thing, and Doljevic exited in tenth place.

Jason Zarlenga Wins 2014 MSPT FireKeepers Casino for 1,482 102
John Michalak

From there, Dash Dudley (9th - $7,943), Day 1a chip leader Scott Hammett (8th - $11,518), and Dustin Hargis (7th - $15,092) all fell, followed by John Michalak. Michalak’s last hand happened in Level 26 (20,000/40,000/5,000) when he opened for 100,000 from under the gun and then called a three-bet to 237,000 from Mark Johnson. The {k-Clubs}{10-Hearts}{j-Clubs} flop saw Michalak call a bet of 163,000, and then both players checked the {10-Diamonds} turn. When the {5-Clubs} completed the board on the river, Johnson moved all in and Michalak leaned back in his chair.

"Do you have nines?" he asked. "That's what I put you on."

About 20 seconds later Michalak called off his last 450,000 with the {j-Spades}{a-Diamonds}. It was the wrong call as Johnson had flopped Broadway with the {a-Clubs}{q-Hearts}.

"I didn't believe you," Michalak said before making his way to the payout desk in sixth place to collect $18,866.

Over the next couple levels, start-of-the-day chip leader Nick Perkins (5th - $22,639) and JC Chen (4th - $28,795) both fell. The former got it in with a weak ace against Zarlenga’s big ace, while the latter was on the wrong end of a set-over-set cooler. Not long after, Johnson lost a massive flip to Zarlenga, who then went on to face off against Mike Deis in heads-up play.

The two began essentially even in chips, but it proved to be a back-and-forth affair. Zarlenga fell behind early, but then doubled big into the chip lead. From there, he was able to seal the deal by winning a race in the final hand.

Congratulations to Jason Zarlenga, winner of the MSPT FireKeepers Main Event.

The next MSPT will be at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino in Las Vegas during their popular Deep Stack Extravaganza (DSE) series. The $1,100 buy-in Mid-Season Championship will take place from June 2-4 and boasts a $300,000 guarantee prize pool. For more on the MSPT, visit

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