The stop here at the Belle of Baton Rouge comes on the heels of a successful opener at Running Aces Harness Park in Columbus, MN, which attracted 353 entrants and created a prize pool of $355,200.
That tournament was won by Mark Sandness, who defeated Team MSPT Pro Blake Bohn in a heads-up match that lasted just two hands. Sandness, who had won the Great Minnesota Freeze Out for $46,910 the month before, earned $90,913 for his MSPT victory while Bohn received a $49,741 consolation prize for his runner-up finish.
In preparation for the Belle of Baton Rouge event, MSPT owner and operator Bryan Mileski sat down with PokerNews to talk about his tour's philosophy, the no-chopping policy, and more.
PokerNews: For those unfamiliar with the MSPT, can you describe your tour for the masses?
Mileski: We are really geared toward creating a big prize pool on the weekend, primarily for players with daytime jobs who aren’t interested to incur the costs associated with flying around the country and taking days off work to play. So many players can drive three or four hours at minimal expense to play 10 or more tour events a year. They really get the vibe of being involved with a major tour.
We run a number of low buy-in satellites and qualifiers and guarantee a big prize pool — the main event is $1,000+$100 and consists of two flights, one Friday night and one Saturday. Players who survive each flight come back Sunday for Day 2 where we play all day until a champion is crowned.
Because we are geared toward players with jobs, it’s important that we finish Sunday night. Not to mention, we get larger viewing audiences for the live broadcast when we air it Sunday night as opposed to Monday. I’ve found that if you build a tour for the Average Joe, the pros will come, too. We’ve got a large number of pros that play our events regularly.
The fifth season of the MSPT recently kicked off at that event. How did it go?
The event went fantastic. We always have a large, loyal following in our home state, and Running Aces does a great job running the event. Flight 1b on Saturday was a single-flight record for us.
The MSPT doesn't allow chops. What is the rationale for that?
This is no different than any other televised event. To be straightforward, there’s no story in a chop, it's bad for TV. Players play differently and carelessly, there’s no tension. Can you imagine we get our broadcast fired up, commentating fired up, and then we get a seven-way chop? Some of the most exciting moments that viewers rarely get to see is short-handed play. Viewers want to see how Matt Kirby closes out a tournament, when he pumps his fist. There’s no greater feeling than winning a poker tournament outright. This is a great viewing experience, it has drama and adrenaline. It’s reality TV at its best. Driving excitement to the tour in turn draws more players and larger prize pools, which is great for all MSPT players in the long run.
What is the MSPT's position on players swapping action? Do you believe this should be made public, especially at the final table?
This is more an industry question. There is no way we could monitor and track players swapping action. Players do this to help minimize variance. If we didn’t allow players to be staked, we’d probably lose half our field. Should we ask that swaps be made public at the final table? I could definitely see an argument for that and it's something we will consider doing. Obviously that requires the players to be open and honest, but I think anything that improves the integrity of the game is something that should be adopted.
Season 5 has added quite a few new stops and it continues to grow. What are you most excited about for the new season?
I’m excited for the new markets we’re entering — Louisiana, Colorado, and Chicago/Indiana. These are huge markets, which will hopefully attract even more players into the MSPT family!
Is it possible we see any more stops added to the schedule? If so, any hints as to where that may be?
For sure, we’re in talks right now with several big venues across the country — can’t stop, won’t stop. Obviously we’re pretty built up in the upper Midwest — so any additions will most likely be further out.
What's your favorite stop on the MSPT and why?
Come on, you know I love all my stops the same (laughs).
What do you think the future holds for the MSPT?
Who knows! I never thought when I launched the Minnesota State Poker Tour (which is now the MSPT) that in just a couple of years we’d have 20-plus events in nine states. I’m very grateful to so many loyal players that showed up time and time again to help build this thing so quickly.