This past weekend, 25-year-old Ahmed Taleb, who four years ago traveled from Morocco to the United States to pursue his education, beat out 215 other entrants to win the MSPT Grand Falls Main Event for $54,098.
Taleb, who had just $1,777 in lifetime tournament earnings before the win, was the last player to enter this tournament. He entered the field on Day 1B with just one minute remaining in late registration. It was the first time he’d ever played a major tournament.
“I fired a bullet in the qualifier and didn’t qualify,” he explained. “I was debating should I play, should I not, and then I played $2/$5 no-limit cash and ran really good. I decided to fire a bullet at the last minute.”
He plunked down the $1,110 buy-in for the tournament with a $150,000 guarantee, and there was no looking back.
When Taleb made it to heads-up, he held 2.7 million in chips to Lucas Christoffer’s 1.6 million. However, the counts soon flipped when Christoffer doubled up with Ace-King against Taleb’s pocket jacks.
Over the next 90 minutes, the two battled back and forth before Taleb reclaimed the chip lead. Then, in Level 27 (25k/50k/5k), Christoffer raised to 135,000 from the button with A♠K♣. Taleb just called holding 9♦8♦. Both players checked the 9♣8♠5♠ flop, and then Taleb checked for a second time on the K♥ turn.
Upon turning top pair, Christoffer bet 150,000. Taleb check-raised all-in, and Christoffer called. The 10♦ river was no help, and the tournament was over. Christoffer had to settle for runner-up and a $32,243 consolation prize.
Taleb, who works and studies at a university while playing poker on the side, traveled to the casino just outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota, from his adopted home in Minnesota.
“This was my first time at Grand Falls,” he said. “It’s great. Probably lucky for me it’s my first time here and I’m winning.”
The win comes three months after Travis Gant bested a field of 426 entries to win the MSPT Grand Falls $350 Regional for $29,782.
Hall of Fame Fisherman Snagged
Perhaps the biggest story at the MSPT Grand Falls final table was professional fisherman Ted Takasaki, who also happened to be the defending champ. In 2016, the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer took down the MSPT Grand Falls for $52,360. He was looking to go back to back, but he faced an uphill battle as a short stack.
In what would be his final hand, which took place in Level 21 (6k/12k/2k), Takasaki shoved all-in from the cutoff for 95,000 holding 10♥10♠ only to run into JW Nelson’s Q♠Q♣. The board ran out a clean 4♣5♦3♠7♠8♠ and that was all she wrote for Takasaki, who earned $5,409 for his ninth-place finish.
Day 2 started with 41 players returning to action, and after Doug Ficken exited as bubble boy in 28th place, the in-the-money bustouts began to mount. They included MSPT regular Todd Melander (26th for $1,872), last year’s 10th-place finisher Robbin Green (18th for $2,392), 2017 South Dakota State Poker Champion Ryan Skluzak (17th for $2,392), last year’s third-place finisher Joe Barnard (14th for $3,120), and Bill Eichel (11th for $4,160).
Season 8 of the MSPT continues in at Minnesota’s Running Aces Casino, which is just north of the Twin Cities, from September 16-24.
Final Table Results
1 Ahmed Taleb (Moorhead, MN) $54,089
2 Lucas Christoffer (Marshall, MN) $32,243
3 JW Nelson (Alta, IA) $20,594
4 Aaron Johnson (Red Wing, MN) $14,769
5 Harold Brenden (Rapid City, SD) $11,441
6 Wesley Ismay (Vale, SD) $9,361
7 Swadeep Mishra (Sioux Falls, SD) $7,801
8 Kurt Bales (Cedar Falls, IA) $6,449
9 Ted Takasaki (Sioux Falls, SD) $5,409
10 Erick Woehlhaff (Sioux Falls, SD) $4,160