Live tournaments return to the US at MSPT Grand Falls Casino series

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: August 31, 2020 09:09 PDT

MSPT event marks first major poker tournament since mid-March in the US

The live tournament poker circuit returned to the US this weekend, and players responded in record-breaking numbers.

The Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) wrapped up the MSPT Grand Falls Casino series Sunday, with 518 entries registering for the $1,100 Main Event. Illinois resident Mark Collins came away with the win and a $107,706 payday in an event that set multiple attendance records.

Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, IA, hosted the event. The 518 entries far surpassed the attendance record for any tournament held at Grand Falls Casino, located just outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The MSPT event also broke the Iowa record for the largest major tournament.

MSPT Grand Falls Casino marked the first mid-major or major tournament held in the US since mid-March. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the US tournament economy completely, but MSPT Grand Falls Casino drew players from across the US as live tournament poker came back.

Tournament poker returns to the US

US tours like the WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour, WPT Deepstacks, RunGood Poker Series, and several others, were forced to postpone or outright cancel events for the foreseeable future. As the pandemic prompted the shutdowns of casinos across the country in March, the live US tournament schedule ceased as well.

As US casinos slowly began to resume business over the past five months, live poker has continued as one of the hardest-hit areas of casino gaming. Poker rooms in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania remain closed, even as casinos in those states have reopened other areas of the casino floor.

The complications of the COIVD-19 crisis create a tricky situation for live poker rooms. Running a large-field tournament pushes those challenges to another level, and as a result, the US tournament scene remained shut down through the beginning of August.

The MSPT Grand Falls Casino Event offered the first opportunity in five months for US players to participate in a major live tournament. The event drew players from all over the Midwest, as well as other areas of the US.

The 518 entries far surpassed the previous record of 238 which stood as the all-time high for an event at Grand Falls Casino.

Collins comes out on top, guarantee smashed

The $1,100 buy-in MSPT Grand Falls Casino Main Event offered a guaranteed prize pool of $150,000. The overwhelming success of the event pushed the prize pool to $500,960, creating the opportunity for the eventual winner to claim a six-figure winner's prize.

The $107,706 payday went to Collins, who became a two-time MSPT champion with the win. Other top finishers included Colorado's Steve Wilkie (2nd - $66,180), another former MSPT champ who came up just short of becoming a two-time winner on the tour.

Several other final table finishers traveled from well outside the Sioux Falls area to play in the event. Nebraska's Kevin Berthelsen (3rd - $47,691) finished in the final three.

The next two payouts went to Sioux Falls locals Jason Reisdorfer (4th - $36,069) and Tom Sundling (5th - $27,052). Florida's Ricardo Eyzaguirre (6th - $20,539) rounded out the top six.

Outlook for live tournaments in the US

The MSPT hasn't announced any future dates yet, but the tour's return to the US circuit revealed a big demand for live tournament poker in the US. The final nine finishers included players from Illinois, Colorado, Nebraska, Florida, and Tennesee.

Tournament players in the US have had to turn to the online streets to compete for most of 2020. Online poker has flourished in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as a result, and some US players travel to countries like Mexico and Canada to play in online tournament series outside of US jurisdiction.

The MSPT return has to be looked at as an encouraging sign, however, for the US live tournament economy that's completely grinded to a halt in 2020.