Big Poker Returns to Deadwood as Rick Burleson Wins MSPT South Dakota State Championship, $63K

4 min read

Deadwood is rich in poker history, but in the South Dakota town where Wild Bill Hickok met his end holding aces and eights, it had been nearly a decade since there had been a tournament like the 2018 MSPT South Dakota State Poker Championship, which went down this past weekend.

Newly crowned South Dakota State Champion Rick Burleson says he works six days a week as a car salesman and has a one-and-a-half-year-old boy at home, so he doesn’t get to play poker as often as he’d like. (Image: MSPT)

Since 2011, Silverado-Franklin Casino had hosted the South Dakota State Poker Championship as a standalone event. For 2018, they opted to partner with the Mid-States Poker Tour (MSPT), which marked the first time a poker tour hosted an event in Deadwood since the 2009 Heartland Poker Tour Lucky Nugget Gambling Hall, which drew 176 entries and created a $250,230 prize pool.

Title Remains in South Dakota

The 2018 MSPT South Dakota State Poker Championship attracted 286 entries over two flights, which easily surpassed the tournament’s previous best turnout of 136 entries. It also set the record for largest turnout for a poker major ($1K+ buy-in) and overall prize pool in state history.

When the final table began, half the players at it were looking to keep the title on home turf. One of them, 29-year-old Rapid City car salesman Rick Burleson, managed to do it after defeating Minnesota poker pro Aaron Johnson in heads-up play, good for $63,462.

“I feel amazing, it’s life-changing,” said Burleson, who earned his first-ever documented tournament cash. “It’s the biggest tournament in South Dakota state history, so it’s awesome. You just have to be patient in these big tournaments.”

The pair began their heads-up match with Burleson holding 3.6 million to the Johnson’s 2.11 million. Before long, the former pulled out to a big lead when, in Level 28 (30k/60k/10k), Johnson limped holding 7♦7♥ and then moved all in after Burleson had raised with the K♣10♣.

Burleson called and turned the best hand on the 6♦Q♠2♦K♠8♦ run out.

“Wish I would have played as well as I ran,” Johnson tweeted afterward. “Several significant errors. Lots of room to improve. Absolutely awesome venue/location. Hope this is a yearly event!”

In addition to winning $39,181 for finishing runner-up, Johnson took the lead in the Kimo Sabe Mezcal MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year race with 2,600 points.

Fink Foiled Again

The MSPT Deadwood final table. (Image: MSPT)

Others to earn some money in Deadwood were Henry Gingerich (11th for $4,663), Rollie Tescher (18th for $3,173), Ken Lybeck (28th for $1,931), and back-to-back champ (2016 & 2017) Ryan Skluzak (31st for $1,931).

Likewise, Sioux Falls’ Mark Fink, a four-time World Series of Poker Circuit ring winner, finished in fourth place for $20,970. It marked the second time Fink has come close to an MSPT title after he finished runner-up to Ted Takasaki in the MSPT Season 7 Grand Falls Main Event.

Fink was primed to make a run at the 2018 MSPT South Dakota State Poker Championship title as chip leader during four-handed play. Unfortunately for him, two big hands led to his demise.

In the first, Fink lost when his pocket aces were out flopped by Burleson’s jacks and tens. The two got it in on the flop and Burleson doubled into the chip lead. Two hands later, Fink got his remaining stack in with the A♠7♦ only to run it into Burleson’s A♦8♠. The board ran out 7♥6♦9♣10♣9♦ and Burleson made a straight to send Fink out the door.

Season 9 of the MSPT continues this weekend with a $1,100 buy-in, $300K GTD Main Event at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minnesota.

Final Table Results
1 Rick Burleson (Rapid City, SD) $63,462
2 Aaron Johnson (Red Wing, MN) $39,181
3 Eric Eelkema (Brooklyn Park, MN) $28,420
4 Mark Fink (Sioux Falls, SD) $20,970
5 Michael Campbell (Rapid City, SD) $15,727
6 Larry Christensen (Kennebec, SD) $12,140
7 Mark Larson (Larimore, SD) $9,381
8 Kris Evans (Winner, SD) $7,450
9 Rosie Paules (Torrington, WY) $5,767
10 Jon Wurden (Fisher, MN) $4,663

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

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