Tyree Johnson took eighth place, winning $11,000.
Tyree Johnson has been a poker dealer at Canterbury Park for more than three years.
And when he made the final table at during the September 2018 Mid-States Poker Tour $1,100 buy-in event, Johnson had the support of his fellow dealers.
“I was thinking, ‘Do it for the home team.’ Not just for me, but for us,” he said.
Johnson considers himself a part-time dealer and part-time player, and got into poker like so many others, following the Moneymaker boom.
His eighth-place finish at the MSPT event, which concluded Sept. 16, came against some of the more well-known players on the local poker scene. The state’s all-time money leader, Blake Bohn (a Minnesota Poker Hall of Famer), won the title and the $94,776 first prize.
“I fell a little short (of first),” Johnson said. “I wanted to bring it home, but they got me. … It was a stacked final table.”
Still, he can take solace in the fact that he came away with an $11,000 payday, though it’s not the biggest win of his poker career. Last April he won a World Series of Poker Circuit championship in Iowa for $25,000.
Johnson’s MSPT run got off to a fast start. He recalled a hand during the early levels that helped swell his chip stack.
In the small blind with AK of diamonds, the action quickly built around the table, and Johnson ended up facing two all-ins. He studied the players and opted to make the call.
Both players held QQ. An ace fell and the board ran out clean as Johnson nearly tripled up.
“That’s what started the run right there, for sure,” he said.
Dealing and Playing
Johnson said being a poker dealer has helped his game in several ways:
• Picking up on live reads
• Recognizing betting patterns
• Identifying player tendencies
• Focusing at the table
“Dealing — it really helps me out in the long run,” he said.
As a dealer, he said he has an accurate read on hands about 80 percent of the time, and running a game helps him focus on the action and the players.
Plus, he said, “I take my craft seriously,” and recalled a rare misdealt card. “That hurt.”
Hole Cards Camera and Busting Out
After being near the top of the leaderboard throughout the MSPT event, Johnson found himself playing at a final table with several strong players, including Bohn and local pro Kou Vang.
But he said playing with hole cards cameras for the first time (the MSPT broadcasts the final table action) may have had an impact on his play. Looking back on the hand in which he busted out, Johnson said that in retrospect he could have tried to jump up in pay levels.
With A4 in the small blind and Bohn with a big stack in the big, Johnson said he knew he was ahead but his opponent would likely call him light, given the chip stacks. He opted to put it all in the middle, and Bohn called with A3. A trey hit and Johnson was out in eighth place.
He said the fact that the final table was being broadcast might have affected his decision — he may have found a fold and tried to find a way to level up.
“But my mind told me to go for the win,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he has found sustained success at the poker tables over the past two years, but he plans to continue dealing at Canterbury Park.
Even after his second MSPT cash, he was back dealing the next day.
“Bright and early, too,” Johnson said.