Travis Gant Upsets Jason Bender to Take Down MSPT Grand Falls Casino Regional

This past weekend, the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT) hosted its first-ever $350 Regional Event held at Grand Falls Casino, located just outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The tournament drew 426 entries and saw Travis Gant of Geddes, South Dakota walk away with a $29,782 first-place prize.

Former online grinder Travis Grant came back from a 4-1 chip deficit to win the MSPT Grand Falls Regional Event. (Image: MSPT)

Heartbreak for Jason Bender

Iowa’s Jason Bender, a regular on the MSPT, has several final tables under his belt, but thus far a title has eluded him. That looked like it was going to change on Sunday when he entered heads-up play with a 4-1 chip lead over Gant.

But thanks to two fortuitous river cards, Gant was able to turn the tables and put Bender on the ropes. In what would be the final hand of the tournament, the blinds were 80,000/160,000/20,000 when Bender got his stack of 3.5 million all in preflop holding the A♥10♥ against the A♣K♥ of Gant. The 2♥5♦8♠ flop didn’t do Bender any favors, and he watched helplessly as the 3♠ blanked on the turn followed by the 6♦ on the river.

Bender, who finished runner-up in the MSPT Grand Casino Mille Lacs last season, once again had to settle for second place. Despite the heartbreak, Bender’s Regional résumé is impressive, with all four of his cashes being final table appearances.

As for Gant, the win marked his first MSPT cash and came a week after he failed to make the money in the MSPT Canterbury Park Main Event. Prior to that score, he had $18,162 in tournament earnings including $8,700 for finishing fifth in the 2017 South Dakota State Poker Championship in early April.

“It feels pretty awesome,” said Gant. “I came in to today short and had to spin it up right away. I got back in the game, made a few hands, and got to the final table. Hands went my way and here we are. It’s been a long time coming, I’m really happy. I’ve been grinding online before they shut us down. I saw a lot of hands before I got this break.”

Final Table Results

1 Travis Gant (Geddes, SD) $29,782
2 Jason Bender (Keota, IA) $17,975
3 Darren Eide (Moorehead, MN) $11,741
4 Curtis Vierstraete (Wahpeton, ND) $8,119
5 Ken Pates (Brooklyn Park, MN) $6,198
6 John Cap (Scotland, SD) $4,772
7 Mark Steffen (Hot Springs, SD) $3,966
8 Paul Skjerseth ($3,285) $3,285
9 David Swanholm (Fargo, ND) $2,776
10 Dan Dykhouse (Sioux Falls, SD) $2,107

A Grand Falls Record

The turnout marked the largest poker tournament at Grand Falls Casino, which opened in 2008, to date. It marked the sixth time the MSPT has visited the property, though all previous stops were $1,100 Main Events.

Last year, the tournament attracted 187 entrants and saw Fishing Hall of Famer Ted Takasaki top a tough final table to walk away with $52,360. Two other notable winners over the years include Dan Sun, who beat the field of 215 entrants in the inaugural event in 2012 to win $60,486 and MSPT Pro Blake Bohn, who outlasted 200 other entrants to win in August 2014 for $54,607.

Among the 45 players to cash in the latest event were Minnesota pro Aaron Johnson (41st for $619), 2017 South Dakota State Poker Champion Ryan Skluzak (32nd for $743), four-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner Mark Fink (22nd for $929), and start-of-the-day chip leader Brian Wika (19th for $929).

“From the dealers on down, everybody was on top of everything,” said Gant, who helps his family ranch and plays baseball on the side. “It was smooth. As far as Grand Falls goes, it’s a great place to play.”

The MPST will return to Grand Falls Casino August 19-27 for their annual $1,100 buy-in, $150,000 guaranteed Main Event. As for the next stop, the MSPT heads to FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan for a $300,000 GTD Main Event May 18-21.

Editor’s Note: CardsChat and MSPT share a cross-promotional alliance. Chad Holloway is the Media Director for MSPT.

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