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Found 3 results

  1. In the first of a new feature series on Pocket Fives, we look back at a pivotal poker hand during the career of some of the best players on the planet. This week, four-time World Poker Tour Main Event winner Darren Elias casts his eye back on a crucial hand that led to him winning the WPT Borgata Open, where he won a huge pot from the chip leader at the time, Kane Kalas. The hand in question came at a final table that would prove to be the setting for Elias’ first major tournament poker title. Back in September of 2014, Elias was one of 1,226 entries in the $3,500 WPT Borgata Open Championship. With a prize pool guaranteed at $3 million and eventually reaching over $4 million, Elias went into the hand in question behind only Kalas as the top two had a clear lead over the field. It would be a hand between the two that would change the course of poker history and in particular that of Elias. Before the hand took place, Elias was well aware of the threat that Kalas posed. “I’d played with Kane in one other tournament before,” says Elias. “That Borgata Open was a six-day marathon, so I had played with him for a couple of days and recognized him as a competent player and someone who knew what was going on. He’d identified the dynamics with ICM where we’re playing for a lot of money with big pay jumps and he was playing well with the chip lead.” Kalas may have had the lead, but the hand in question was about to change all that. Pre-flop: Darren Elias: [poker card="Qh"][poker card="6h"] Kane Kalas: [poker card="Th"][poker card="4h"] Flushing From the Flop As Elias describes, Kalas, who had entered the final table with 14 million chips, miles clear of Elias in second place with 8 million, had a huge lead over the rest of the field. Starting out with roughly half the chips in play gave Kalas the ability to raise with a very wide range of hands to put pressure on every player. That was going through Elias’ mind when Kalas raised from the small blind with Elias in the big. “There are all kinds of ICM dynamics where he’s trying to pressure me in the blinds and I called pre-flop with my suited hand in position knowing that he’s going to be very wide,” says Elias. Flop: [poker card="Kh"][poker card="5c"][poker card="2h"] That flop gave both players a flush draw, but Kalas had two hearts that were ten-high, with Elias holding a queen-high flush draw, with the king one of two hearts on the flop. At that point, Kalas c-bet a million chips into a pot of 1.35m and Elias just called, making the pot now 3.35m. “I still put him on a very wide range,” says Elias of his thoughts at that point. I think he’s c-betting with almost his entire range.” Both men give each other a long look at this point, but Elias explains that he wasn’t necessarily going for a ‘staredown’. “I’m trying to get all the information I can, but at the highest level, these players are pretty well adjusted at guarding themselves against tells,” he confesses. Despite admitting that ‘I’m always looking to see if there’s something I can pick up’, in reality, the magnitude of the moment was prevalent at that stage. “It’s a big final table; I’m focusing and trying my hardest. It looks like I’m staring intensely, but I’m just trying to play my game.” [caption id="attachment_638090" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Darren Elias (front right) playing for the biggest top prize of his poker career to date.[/caption] Drawing on the Heart "I want to give him the rope to bluff if he has the naked ace of hearts." Turn: [poker card="8h"] When the flush draw came in on the turn, Elias didn’t put his opponent on a flush. “This is going to be great for Darren Elias; I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t double-up here.” Said the late Mike Sexton, legendary former WPT Main Event winner and a cornerstone of the brand’s on-screen coverage for many years. Darren Elias, however, had a lot to do to make sure he got full value on the hand. “I put him on a lot of bluffs that contain one heart, maybe some top pair type hands, but he’d probably slow down. He is most likely bluffing or has a flush or very strong hand when he bets the turn.” Elias remembers the moment on the turn specifically very clearly and says he ‘never’ wants to be bluffing that spot. “It’s an ICM nightmare to shove and I want to give him the rope to bluff if, say, he has the naked ace of hearts. We want to give him that chance to hang himself on the river. If I do shove that turn, I probably always have the nuts and I’m unbalanced. My hand might seem vulnerable if a heart comes, but I still feel pretty safe on the turn with one to come to be trapping.” Kalas bet 1.7 million and Elias called. River: [poker card="Tc"] With the made flush, Elias obviously wanted Kalas to shove the river, which he did. That’s a function of what Elias would want with his range, not just the hand he had. “If I had a king, I should never shove the turn. If I’m to shove the turn with my flushes there, it decapitates my range where I don’t have a lot of strong hands on the river.” Kalas shoved, Elias called and the New Jersey man took the pot and grabbed the lead in the process. With first place worth over $840,000 and second place paying $500,000, it was a vital pot in terms of equity. “You’re a bit handcuffed when there are two big stacks and you’re in second. That flipped the stacks, now I’m in first and there are a lot of other smaller stacks. It really shifts the table dynamics opened up the table, I’m able to open more bet more, pressure more.” The Mistakes That Stay With Champions "When I’ve made an error, it’ll bother me for months or even years." Elias went on to win, of course, and his landmark win at what he considered his home casino was his first major tournament victory. “I had my whole family there which was great,” he tells us. “My fiancée at the time was there, so was my Dad, and we went over to a bar and had a few too many beverages. Something like that gives you confidence in being able to execute on a big stage. That’s always something on my mind, being able to execute in big spots.” Elias clearly enjoyed a mental boost by making his moment in the spotlight count and has gone on to win three more WPT Main Events, a feat that has not been equalled by any player at the time of going to press. Despite that, the now four-time WPT champion confesses that the mistakes he has made in tournaments ‘eat me up’ far more than any victories might linger in the memory. [caption id="attachment_638091" align="alignright" width="650"] Darren Elias stares down Kane Kalas on his way to toppling the overnight chip leader on the home straight.[/caption] “Any time I get to major spots at a big final table, you don’t get the opportunity to play these high stakes games against those sorts of players too often. When I’ve made an error, it’ll bother me for months or even years. To be a professional poker player, you have to be tough on yourself and identify mistakes and make changes going forward, but at some point, you have to forgive yourself and move forward. You walk a fine line.” The win represented a huge return on Elias’ investment at the time. Costing $3,500 to enter the event, the man who was born in Boston and raised in Erie, Pennsylavania had almost all of his own action, so took home the majority of his $843,744 top prize. It didn’t change which tournaments Elias played, but it allowed him to have bigger pieces of himself in $25k and $100k high rollers. “You always want to have a pulse on how you’re doing with your bankroll and adjust your pieces accordingly, taking bigger shots when you’re doing well, so it definitely helped in that regard.” The hand that changed Darren Elias’ life may have been something of a cooler but it was worth a lot of money and propelled him to win that first major title. “It was worth a lot to me in my career,” he admits. “I’m not sitting around thinking about the hand, but I can go back to that vivid memory. I’m always looking forward to the next tournament. Most of the time, it’s the ones where I made mistakes that stick with me more than the flush over flush cooler for all the money!” Elias will continue to play WPT events and says he’ll wait for his career to be over before he even considers his legacy. He has other achievements to accomplish in poker in the years to come, including winning a WSOP bracelet, something he has never done. We wonder if he’s happy being among the best players never to win a bracelet. “I’d like to win a bracelet,” says Elias. “It’s that list you want to be on but don’t want to be on. The World Series can be tough for me with a family, I can’t be out there for two months. I usually go back and forth and play a dozen events, especially the $10,000 2-7 single draw - it’s one of my favourite events. It doesn’t get a ton of players and I’ve got third twice. That’s probably my best shot at a bracelet. Eventually, I’ll break through at the World Series!” It seems like only a matter of time before Darren Elias’ next big victory on the world stage. The man whose mistakes drive him on will always enjoy the memory of that infamous flush over flush cooler that pushed him forward in his career. You can buy some of Darren Elias' action in the $50,000-entry Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on April 6th. Watch the hand that changed Darren Elias' life right here: [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8OkgXhxLA0[/embed] You can buy some of Darren Elias' action in the $50,000-entry Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on April 6th.
  2. After nearly two years away, the Global Poker Awards returned on Friday night, celebrating the people and events who made headlines in the poker industry in 2021. Hosted by Jeff Platt and Drea Renee, the awards show was a little like the game of poker itself - fun, casual, and packed with moments that keep you wanting more. Sure, it was clunky at times but also a very touching show. The broadcast was packed with heartfelt speeches from award recipients and an overall genuine sense of elation among those enjoying the opportunity to get back to celebrating the game in person, 23 months after the last awards ceremony. A number of the awards were announced ahead of the ceremony including those handed out to Ali Imsirovic (GPI Player of the Year), Nadya Magnus (GPI Female Player of the Year), and David Mzareulov (GPI Mid-Major Player of the Year) for their achievements on the felt. Maria Konnikova was honored with the GPI Award of Merit for authoring her book The Biggest Bluff. Veronica Brill was acknowledged with the Charitable Initiative Award this year for spearheading the effort to help fellow player K.L. Cleeton purchase the much-needed special transportation so he could make it to Las Vegas to participate in the World Series of Poker. Kevin Mathers (aka @Kevmath) was rightly recognized with a Service to Poker Award for his varied and non-stop contributions to the game for the better part of a decade. Finally, the GPI looked back on the life of one of poker's ultimate ambassadors, Mike Sexton, and bestowed his legacy with the 2021 Poker ICON award. Adam Friedman took down the trophy for the stacked category of Best Final Table Performance with his historic back-to-back-to-back victories in the World Series of Poker $10,000 Dealer’s Choice. Another too-close-to-call category was the GPI Breakout Player of the Year in which popular French poker pro and content creator Johan Guilbert was recognized. A pair of Fans Choice awards grabbed the spotlight including Doug Polk winning Best Hand of 2021 for his incredible fold to Phil Hellmuth on High Stakes Poker. Also, professional poker pro and content creator from Japan, Masato Yokosawa, topped the tough category of favorite Poker Personality. When the top 100 players were asked who the Toughest Opponent in the game was in 2021, they selected Ali Imsirovic, sending him to the podium to accept his second award of the evening. Here’s a look at the rest of the 2021 GPA Recipients: Best Event 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event Best Streamer Benjamin ‘Spraggy’ Spragg Best Vlogger Brad Owen Best Twitter Personality Jaime Kerstetter Best Industry Person Matt Savage Best Tournament Director Paul Campbell - Aria Resort & Casino Best Podcast Poker In The Ears - James Hartigan, Joe Stapleton Best Broadcaster Jeff Platt Best Media Content: Written Lance Bradley - Isai Scheinberg: His Company, His Legacy, and How Black Friday Impacted Both Best Media Content: Video Remko Rinkema/Run It Back for PokerGO Best Media Content: Photo Enrique Malfavon for PokerGO - The WSOP Main Event Bubble Best Live Reporter Christian Zetzsche, PokerNews Fans Choice Best Trophy Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup
  3. The Rio is absolutely packed and the energy has been electric as players have found their way back to the World Series of Poker. To chase bracelets, maybe win some cash, and to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of bad beats. But also, to be a small part of something bigger. The Reunion, the first massive field event of the fall, is capturing all of that nicely. The idea was to have a coming together of poker players to reignite the fire of live tournament poker and to, essentially, enjoy making moments in one of the most prestigious series in poker. For the most part, the players have embraced it. Lively table talk and laughs can be heard while taking laps through Brasilia. Hand histories between friends fill the hallway and while, yes, there are some formidable lines to get into The Reunion, many of those would-be bracelet winners are demonstrating the kind of patience that is praised as a profitable trait in the game. But as much as The Reunion is a time to celebrate, it’s also a good time to remember. It’s been more than 800 days since the last hand of the 2019 WSOP was dealt and in that time poker has lost a number of notable figures in the community that has made the WSOP great. Players who have made a lasting impact on and off the felt with their play and personalities. Players who are no longer able to join us to enjoy the final WSOP at the Rio. Mike Sexton is one of those players. The legendary voice of the World Poker Tour was an avid player at the WSOP. There’s simply no doubt that if he could be at the start of the 2021 series, he would. Sexton’s charm could light up a table and his $2.6 million in earnings let you know he could also take it down. His passing in September 2020 was a massive loss to the poker world and there’s a bit of a void for a high-profile, old-school player who is willing to mix it up at all levels of buy-ins. His last time at the series was in 2019, in the final event, the $1,500 Closer where he finished 61st for more than $8K. Layne Flack got his “Back-To-Back” nickname at the WSOP. A Las Vegas resident and six-time bracelet winner, Flack’s outgoing personality helped define the early ESPN poker boom broadcasts. Flack played all the games and locked up two of his six wins in 2003, first in a $2,500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo and then six days later in a $1,500 Limit Shootout. After Flack’s sudden passing, at 52, the poker world remembered him for his sense of humor and quick wit. Undoubtedly, he’d have a biting quip about the state of the WSOP, but it’d be great to hear it. Unlike Sexton and Flack, Darvin Moon doesn’t have a long storied history with the WSOP, but it’s no less memorable. He was the logger who won a satellite to the Main Event battled Joe Cada for the 2009 title. He told a fib to his wife on national TV about what he had in a hand and became another poker icon for the everyman, maybe the biggest since Moneymaker himself. He left the WSOP with $5.1 million before disappearing back into the woods from which he first emerged but you mention Darvin Moon at the WSOP and everyone knows who you are talking about. Moon passed away in September 2020, his runner-up finish was his only WSOP cash. Sam Grizzle’s first WSOP recorded cash was in 1990, bubbling the final table of the $1,500 Razz for roughly $4,000. While he never took home a bracelet, he splashed around in a mixed game event or three nearly every year for the better part of two decades and played as recently as 2019. Grizzle carried the reputation of pre-boom, old-school poker. A man who wasn’t afraid to say what is on his mind and even take it outside if pushed. Ask any longtime veteran about Sam Grizzle and surely a story will follow. Norm MacDonald, long-time Bay Area player and two-time bracelet winner Howard ‘Tahoe’ Andrew, and another two-timer Rod Pardey are among them as well. Plus, all of those grinders who have taken a shot over the years, enjoyed the chase and were a part of this community. This crop would likely shudder at the thought of being remembered with a black and white photo slideshow with “Tears In Heaven” playing in the background. They’d rather you check-raise bluff the turn. Double-tap the table when you've been beat. Take a photo in front of the WSOP sign. Don’t shed a tear, raise a glass and, maybe, make some memories and maybe a bit of history while you’re at it. But most importantly: enjoy. It’s a Reunion after all.
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