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Poker players in the United States have several options for live poker tournaments on American soil, and more people than ever before are flocking to the live tables. The loss of online poker in the US due to Black Friday in 2011 forced many players to find local cardrooms and casinos, and without that online option in most states, Americans are rediscovering the joys of live poker.

The Mid-States Poker Tour is a tour that has garnered much attention through its past seven seasons, as it focuses on areas of the country that see far too few solid tournament options. Players on the coasts of the United States can find numerous tournament series, but the vast areas of the middle section of America needed something like the MSPT. So what started as the Minnesota State Poker Tour in 2009 grew into the Mid-States Poker Tour and expanded to many more regions of the country.

In contrast to larger tours like the WPT and WSOP, the MSPT is geared toward a wider range of poker players and enthusiasts, those who mostly play on the weekends and have limited bankrolls. They seek reasonable buy-ins with even cheaper satellites but want big prize pools. And with the recent news from the Players Poker Championship, a poker tour that turned out to be untrustworthy and now embroiled in a lawsuit for player winnings, players want some assurances that they are competing in tournaments hosted by a reputable company. The MSPT is that answer for many players.

Just this month, the MSPT announced its eighth season of events, with regional tournaments already underway in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the first festival of the year set to take place in Jacksonville, Florida, from January 19-29. The action then heads to Las Vegas for a special Poker Bowl event set for February 2-4 to cater to players in Sin City for NFL betting action. That tournament is larger than most and will guarantee a $300K prize pool for its $1,100 buy-in. Action for the rest of the season will offer events from Minnesota to South Dakota, Iowa to Indiana, and Colorado to Nevada. The full schedule is available on the MSPT website.

Media Director Chad Holloway talked to Poker Update about us about the MSPT, what players should expect at the tournaments, and why the poker community can trust its name and reputation.

PokerUpdate:  It seems like the MSPT has grown more in the last year or two than in its early seasons. To what do you attribute the recent growth?

Chad Holloway:  It has grown leaps and bounds since Season 5 for many reasons, including the introduction of both a player-friendly structure developed by Allen Kessler and our $350 Regionals, live reporting in our Main Events, and an expanded schedule. Specifically, the Regionals were introduced to offer players an MSPT experience at a more affordable price. Since not all markets can host a Main Event, the Regionals are more suitable for their players.

PokerUpdate:  What does the average new player at an MSPT event look like?

chad-hollowayHolloway:  The average MSPT player is what we like to call a “weekend warrior,” someone who works a full-time job during the week but likes to play poker on the weekends. So, our events usually start at 4pm on Fridays and finish on Sundays.

Our players run the gamut. We have a lot of farmers, factory workers, a veterinarian, and even a South Dakota judge as regulars on the tour. Thanks to our full slate of $65 and $250 qualifiers, really anyone can compete for a six-figure prize in an MSPT event.

PokerUpdate:  Is there an effort to make newcomers to the tour feel welcome?

Holloway:  Absolutely. We put a big emphasis on not only creating a great player experience but also making them feel at home. When someone plays an MSPT event, they’re part of the larger tour, which means trying to introduce them to not only our tournament but also our live blog and the new monthly MSPT Magazine.

PokerUpdate:  What can a player expect when playing an MSPT event for the first time?

Holloway:  They will get the most bang for their buck, as there are very few tournaments where someone can put up $1,100 and compete for a $100K+ first-place prize, which is the case at many of our stops. They also meet me, MSPT President Bryan Mileski, and the tour’s Eric Anderson, known to many players as MSPT Eric. He’s the hardest working man in poker that no one knows of, as he runs the live stream, serves as our tech guy, event manager, etc.

Players will also find consistency, as the MSPT utilizes the same structure at each stop. It’s important that players know they’re a part of the MSPT experience no matter where we’re at in the country.

PokerUpdate:  For players who may be wary of live tournaments after the PPC news, how can they feel comfortable that the MSPT is different?

Holloway:  The MSPT is properly licensed in each state in which we operate. Not only that, all player funds are held, facilitated, and protected by our host casinos. Unlike some tours, the MSPT neither withholds nor takes anything out of the prize pool other than three percent for dealers and staff. (There are a few states in which the law alters this, such as Colorado.) Finally, when our players are eliminated in the money, they’re immediately escorted to the payout desk to fill out any necessary paperwork and collect their prize money. There’s no waiting to get paid!

Another thing that sets the MSPT apart is that it is owned and operated by an individual, Bryan Mileksi. Not having shareholders or a corporate casino means it’s not always about the bottom dollar. Instead, we do what we feel is right for the players, which I believe is a big part of the tour’s success. If you ask any player from the Midwest, chances are they’ll tell you the MSPT is their tour of choice, as evidenced by our eight seasons of delivering great poker experiences.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.