As 2019 draws to a close, PocketFives takes a look back at the year that was in poker news, going month-by-month through the biggest and most important stories of the year. The month of March was headlined by the attempted home invasion robbery of WPT champion Darren Elias and the emotional career-defining victory of David ‘ODB’ Baker.
Darren Elias Targeted In Home Robbery
In one of the scariest stories of 2018, four-time World Poker Tour champion Darren Elias was the target of a home invasion robbery by Shannon Soroka, a 24-year old part-time poker player.
Elias and his wife were not at home at the time. A babysitter was watching over Elias’ two-year-old daughter when Soroka, armed with a handgun, burst into the house and demanded to know where Elias kept his cash. Elias had recently returned home from a third-place finish at the World Poker Tour Los Angeles Poker Classic where he earned more than $473,000.
Soroka locked the babysitter in one of the home’s bathrooms and fled, eventually being caught by the Medford Township Police Department. Soroka was charged with robbery, aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon, mischief and making terrorist threats.
No one, including Elias’ daughter or the babysitter, was harmed during the incident.
“It’s incredibly scary for me and my family,” Elias said. “It was an awful feeling.”
David Baker Wins LAPC
In March, long-time professional poker player David ‘ODB’ Baker secured a career-defining win at the 2019 World Poker Tour L.A. Poker Classic, taking home a career-high score of over $1 million.
In the aftermath of his victory, an emotional Baker spoke about what the win meant to him. More than simply how much the money would help his family, Baker reflected on how it felt as validation of a hard-fought career on the grind.
“It kinda sounds corny, but it means so much to me,” Baker said. “I’ve battled my whole life in this business. I care about this business. I care about the prestige of these things and I know sometimes some of the guys are a little too cool for school to say that, but I do.”
Baker continued to run good in 2019 as he racked up 17 World Series of Poker cashes, including winning his second career gold bracelet in the $1,500 Limit Hold’em.
West Virginia Legalizes Online Poker
West Virginia officially became the fifth U.S. state to legalize online gambling, including online poker.
After the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act soared through both the House and Senate, all eyes were on the office of Governor Jim Justice. After all, it was just months ago that Michigan was in a similar situation. In Michigan, a bill had cleared and was simply awaiting a signature but outgoing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder shockingly vetoed the bill on his way out the door.
For West Virginia, once the Interactive Wagering Act passed, the Governor had 15-days to act on the bill. That time came and went without any movement from Justice which made it official – online poker would be legal by late June.
At the time of this writing, no online poker operators have gone live in West Virginia.
partypoker Launches Team Online
Less than a month after stepping away from his position as an ambassador for PokerStars, Jeff Gross announced he was joining the rapidly growing team of online ambassadors for partypoker.
At the time, the Poker Flow Show host was the highest-profile poker player to be picked up by partypoker. Eventually, the team was filled out with over 13 players including Jaime and Matt Staples, Hristivoje ‘AlLLinPav’ Pavlovic, and Kevin Martin, who has since left the squad.
Geraldo ‘grealdocesar’ Cesar Wins Monthly PLB
Cesar picked up seven five-figure scores in the month including a spotlight victory in the March 11 edition of the partypoker Sunday High Roller Bounty Hunter for over $47,000.