Mark Brazis Wins Largest Poker Tournament in Michigan History

Written By Kim Yuhl on May 24, 2018

The Mid-Stakes Poker Tour recently stopped at FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan.

The $1,100 Main Event generated 1,287 entries, making it the largest poker tournament in Michigan history. It surpassed the previous record of 1,067 set just last year.

Indiana‘s Mark Brazis claimed his first live tournament victory and took home $221,323 for his efforts.

“The MSPT FireKeepers is a great tournament, I really enjoyed it,” said the 36-year-old Brazis. “The structure was wonderful, no too slow, not too fast. FireKeepers has a great establishment here, they’re always first class. You’ll see me more on the MSPT and at FireKeepers Casino.”

Brazis’ win marks his fourth live tournament cash since 2011. His best finish prior to this event came in March, when he placed third at the 2018 Chicago Poker Classic in Hammond, Indiana. In 2014, Brazis took fifth in the 2014 World Series of Poker Horseshoe Hammond Event #1: $365 NL for $25,018.

The MSPT FireKeepers event

The two-day event at the Michigan casino began with three Day 1s that included some very fast action leaving only 173 players returning for Day 2. Only 135 of the returning players would make the money.

The field included some nationally known players and MSPT regulars, including:

  • MSPT Season 9 Player of the Year points leader, Aaron Johnson (15th – $13,715)
  • World Poker Tour champion, Kevin Saul (25th – $6,983)
  • Season 7 FireKeepers winner, Aaron Massey (87th – $2,743)
  • Minnesota’s all-time money leader, Blake Bohn (124th – $2,120)

MSPT Firekeeper’s Main Event Final table action

Charles Baryames (10th) and Aaron Soulliere (9th) made early exits from the final table.

Jason Zarlenga‘s quest for a third MSPT title came to an end when Bryan Norris paired his jack. The Two-time MSPT champion exited the field in eighth place.

Michael Reardon was the next player to hit the rail when his two-pair failed to improve against the flopped straight of Justin Lee. Lee quickly followed Reardon’s sixth-place departure when he ran ace-queen into Kou Vang‘s ace-king.

Then it was Vang’s turn to go when he lost the majority of his chips after his pocket eights lost a flip to Henry Zou‘s ace-king. Bryant Miller finished the job when his king-queen overtook Vang’s ace-deuce.

Fourth-place belonged to Norris when his king-six failed to improve against Miller’s king-queen. Zou followed Norris to the rail after his pocket nines couldn’t hold against Miller’s ace-ten.

Three straight eliminations gave Miller a 2-1 chip lead going into heads up. However, it didn’t take long for Brazis to claim the lead when he doubled through Miller.

Brazis put all his chips in the middle with king-queen only to find he was dominated by the ace-queen of Miller. Luck was with Brazis on that hand and again on the final hand. He went to the flop with queens against Miller’s ace-king and the queens held to give Brazis the victory nearly five hours after the final table began.

“It was a hard battle, he played really well,” Brazis said after the win. “He [Miller] took some bad beats but always handled himself well. He fought me to the end. I’m happy I was able to win tonight. You take bad beats earlier in the tournament, you win some you lose some. Just gotta be happy to come out on top.”

Here’s a look at the final table payouts:

  1. Mark Brazis (Syracuse, IN) $221,323
  2. Bryant Miller (West Unity, OH) $137,158
  3. Henry Zou (Saginaw, MI) $99,751
  4. Bryan Norris (Farmington Hills, MI) $76,185
  5. Kou Vang (Maplewood, MN) $57,357
  6. Justin Lee (Grand Haven, MI) $43,641
  7. Michael Reardon (St. Claire Shores, MI) $33,666
  8. Jason Zarlenga (Lansing, MI) $26,185
  9. Aaron Soulliere (Ontario, Canada) $21,197
  10. Charles Baryames (East Lansing, MI) $17,456

Kou Vang inducted into the MSPT Hall of Fame

Kou Vang became a member of the MSPT Hall of Fame during this stop of the MSPT. He is the first player to earn the honors at FireKeepers Casino.

A MSPT Hall of Fame nod requires 25 MSPT cashes plus one MSPT win or a Player of the Year title. Vang earned his title during Season 2 at Canterbury Park, Shakopee.

Kou has $1,358,059 in live tournament winnings and claimed a gold ring at the 2007/08 WSOP Circuit event at Horseshoe Council Bluffs. His fifth-place finish at FireKeepers gave him his 25th cash and the hall of fame honor.

What’s next for the MSPT

The MSPT is rolling into Las Vegas, Nevada. Season 9 continues with five events at The Venetian where there will be a combined $12 million in guarantees.

Don’t miss the marquee event – the $1,100 MSPT Venetian with a $3.5 million guarantee.

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Kim Yuhl

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at

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