This past weekend, the Mid-States Poker Tour hosted its first $1,100 Main Event of Season 7, and it was a big one as the 2nd Annual Wisconsin State Poker Championship attracted 489 entrants to Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin Dells, up from 463 the year before.
In the end, the state title was taken across the border as Illinois' Andy Rubinberg, a 47-year-old computer consultant from Chicago, defeated Minnesota poker icon Kou Vang to capture the $120,808 first-place prize.
It was redemption for Rubinberg, who found himself in a similar spot two years ago when he finished runner-up in the 2014 MSPT Ho-Chunk Main Event. He followed that up back in November when he made another deep run, bubbling the final table in 11th place. After more than a decade of results, which up to that point include $220,585 in lifetime earnings, Rubinberg finally got his first-ever tournament win.
"This is my first major tournament win," said Rubinberg. "I have been to so many final tables. In my first HPT I took fourth place, then in a Daytona tournament I took second after chopping the money. I've been everything at the final table, I've made a lot of them, but I have never won until now. It's redemption, a relief. I've been playing for so long I just wanted a win, I needed it."
It was also a special win considering he almost didn't play it, at least not for a second bullet.
"I bought in once and just ran terribly, busted out at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night," Rubinberg explained. "I was ready to leave. I walked over to my buddy I'm staying with here and said I was driving home. I was pissed off, I ran terrible, I was done. He said he had $1,100, why don't you buy in? I didn't want to buy any money, so he said he'd take 20% so it'd only be $880, and here we are."
Final Table Results
|1||Andrew Rubinberg||Chicago, IL||$120,808||1,500|
|2||Kou Vang||Maplewood, MN||$69,742||1,300|
|3||Byron Ziebell||Greenfield, WI||$42,555||1,200|
|4||Richard Alsup||New Hope, MN||$34,280||1,100|
|5||Bruce Swart||Grass Lake, MI||$26,951||1,000|
|6||Josh Reichard||Janesville, WI||$22,454||900|
|7||Jason Ramos||Carol Stream, IL||$17,968||800|
|8||Scott Johnson||Maple Grove, MN||$13,172||700|
|9||Anthony Knepper||Asbury, IA||$9,457||600|
|10||Jason Reno||Madison, WI||$6,147||500|
The $489,000 prize pool on tap, which was more than two times the advertised $200,000 guarantee, was set aside for the top 45 finishers, and some notables who claimed part of it were Michigan's Mark Johnson (43rd - $2,364); World Series of Poker bracelet winner Nick Jivkov (41st - $2,364); Jason Bender (35th - $2,601), who was the MSPT Season 7 Player of the Year leader leading up to the stop; Day 1a chip leader Nick Pupillo (23rd - $2,932), Day 1b chip leader Nicola Ditrapani (15th - $4,728), and MSPT Pro Matt Alexander (14th - $4,728).
The final table kicked off with a bang as the field went from 10 to two at breakneck speed. The first to go was Madison's Jason Reno, who ran pocket fives into the queens of Byron "MadisonAce29" Ziebell, who finished runner-up in the 2010 World Championship Of Online Poker (WCOOP) $215 Razz. Not long after, Iowa's Anthony Knepper followed him out the door in ninth place for $9,457.
Then, on a flop, Scott Johnson checked from the big blind and Rubinberg bet 150,000 from the button. Johnson proceeded to check-raise all in holding the for overs and a gutshot, and Rubinberg thought long and hard before making a good call with the . The turn and river failed to help Johnson, and he was out in eighth place for $13,172.
From there, Jason Ramos fell when his failed to get there against Ziebell's in a monster pot, and then 2013 MSPT Ho-Chunk champ Josh Reichard took his leave in sixth when his failed to hold against Vang's after the board ran . It was the start of Vang's killing spree.
In the very next hand Bruce Swart fell in fifth place when his ace-king failed to get there against Vang's pocket jacks, which left MSPT Meskwaki champ Rich Alsup as the extreme short stack. He exited two hands later when he shoved his last 231,000 under the gun holding ace-three, and Vang defended the big blind with jack-eight only to flop two pair and score his third elimination in a four-hand span.
Although the final three players were all deep, a preflop raising war saw Ziebell get his stack in holding pocket tens against the ace-queen of Vang, which createda 6.2 million pot. Vang flopped two pair, and just like that he scored his fourth elimination in a row. Ziebell, the last player from the Badger state, ensured the Wisconsin State Poker Championship title would be leaving the state.
Despite Vang beginning heads-up play with a 2-1-chip lead, the match proved a long and grueling affair that last more than four hours. During that time the chip lead exchanged hands multiple times, but eventually the blinds caught up to force action. In what would be the final hand, Rubinberg flopped top pair and called when Vang shoved a heart flush draw. Rubinberg's hand held, and Vang was vanquished in second place for $69,742.
"It was just who wanted to push harder, I saw that," Rubinberg said of the epic match. "It was a tough, long match. I've never been in a heads-up match like that."
The MSPT next heads to bestbet Jacksonville for a $350 Regional from February 25-28 followed by a $1,100 Main Event from March 4-6. For more information visit msptpoker.com.