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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.” [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zgone="888poker NJ"][ptable zone="GG Poker"] 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 Brazilian online pro Geraldo‘ grealdocesar’ Cesar picked up his first PocketFives Leaderboard victory in March holding off top-tier pros like ‘C Darwin2’ and Conor ‘1_conor_b_1’ Beresford. 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.
With 90 events on the schedule, it seemed like an inevitability that somebody would win more than one bracelet at the 2019 World Series of Poker and it took until nearly 75% of the schedule had passed to make it a reality. Robert Campbell earned his second win of the summer on Tuesday and that moved him into prime position to win WSOP Player of the Year Robert Campbell Wins $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Robert Campbell came to the 2019 World Series of Poker hoping to play well and come out ahead. On Wednesday, the 35-year-old Australian did a little more than that, locking up his second win of the summer and moving into sole possession of top spot in the WSOP Player of the Year race. Campbell beat Yueqi Zhu heads-up to win the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo event for $385,763 and 1,045 POY points. After his win, Campbell spoke about how hot he ran at the final table. "More than pure. Like whatever that next phase is after pure. It was like really sick, I was like, 'Holy fucking shit man. He just got barbecued that poor man'," Campbell said. "It’s just outrageous. Even when I thought I lost I won. That’s how sick I ran." Campbell's first win came in mid-June when he won the $1,500 Triple Draw Deuce to Seven. He has five other cashes this summer including an eighth, a seventh, and a fifth place finish. His win propelled him past Dan Zack into top spot on the WSOP Player of the Year race with 3,079.56 points. It was Zhu's second consecutive runner-up finish. The Chinese-born poker pro finished second in the $1,500 Omaha Mix event on Sunday and immediately registered for this event. He now has 11 cashes this summer. Mike Wattel finished third for $164,647. Final Table Payouts Robert Campbell - $385,763 Yueqi Zhu - $238,420 Mike Wattel - $164,647 Mike Matusow - $116,255 Ryan Hughes - $83,971 Qinghai Pan - $62,079 Andrey Zhigalov - $46,999 Steven Wolansky - $36,460 David 'ODB' Baker Takes Down $1,500 Limit Hold'em Just a few short months after winning the World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic, David 'ODB' Baker added a second career WSOP bracelet to his resume by taking down the $1,500 Limit Hold'em event. The 46-year-old poker pro earned $161,139 for the win and while the money is certainly great, winning another WSOP bracelet is a special moment for Baker. “I think it's pretty obvious that I wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to the World Series and how much it means to me," Baker said. "I'm one of the people who will really, really care about it. I do, and I don't make an apology for it. Hopefully, I'll only have two for a short period of time." Baker started the final day with the chip lead and beat Brian Kim heads up to wrap up the win on Tuesday afternoon. He now has nine cashes this summer. Chris Ferguson was eliminated in fifth place and now has a WSOP-leading 16 cashes this summer. The former part-owner of Full Tilt Poker owns the single year record (including WSOP Europe) with 23. Final Table Payouts David 'ODB' Baker - $161,139 Brian Kim - $99,564 Dominzo Love - $68,353 Ruiko Mamiya - $47,747 Chris Ferguson - $33,948 Chicong Nguyen - $24,574 Kenneth Donoghue - $18,118 Danny Woolard - $13,609 Vivian Saliba Makes $888 Crazy Eights Final Table Brazilian poker pro Vivian Saliba has traveled the world representing the 888poker brand. Now she's gone and made the final 10 of the 888-branded WSOP tournament, the $888 Crazy Eights event. Saliba sits third with just 10 players remaining, trailing only Aleksandras Rusinovas and Thomas Drivas. Rusinovas has a healthy lead over the rest of the field after bagging up 114,625,000. Drivas meanwhile has slightly more than half of that with 58,600,000. Saliba ended Day 3 with 43,500,000. Mark Radoja and Vlad Darie also made the final ten. Action resumes at Noon and will play down to a winner. Top Chip Counts Aleksandras Rusinovas - 114,625,000 Thomas Drivas - 58,600,000 Vivian Saliba - 43,500,000 Uselis Gediminas - 43,400,000 Mark Radoja - 36,100,000 Patrick Clarke - 36,000,000 Vlad Darie - 26,750,000 Rick Alvarado - 21,150,000 Mario Hofler - 15,200,000 Kevin Kwak - 12,000,000 Andres Norbe Lead Mini Main Event Final Table The monstrous field that was the Mini Main Event has been whittled down to just eight players. Andres Norbe has so far outlasted 5,513 other players and begins the eight-handed final table with the lead. The Argentinian pro, who won a bracelet in 2017, ended Day 2 with 75,000,000. Jeremy Saderne sits second with 64,000,000 just ahead of Yi Ma with 62,600,000. The day started with 546 players still alive. Among the notables who busted on Tuesday were Yuval Bronshtein, Francisco Brito, Michael Wasserman, Rex Clinkscales, Barry Greenstein, Chris Ferguson, Blair Hinkle, and Jeff Madsen. The final table begins at Noon PT. Final Table Chip Counts Andres Norbe - 75,000,000 Jeremy Saderne - 64,000,000 Yi Ma - 62,600,000 Koji Takagi - 44,000,000 Lula Taylor - 30,500,000 Stefan Widmer - 28,400,000 Ben Alloggio - 13,900,000 Philip Gildea - 12,400,000 Vieira, Cada, Hunichen Chasing $5K Six Max Title Joao Vieira was the only one of the 28 players who survived Day 2 of the $5,000 No Limit Hold'em Six Handed event to bag more than 2,000,000 chips. The Portuguese poker pro finished with 2,100,000 while his next closest threat, Shahar Levi, ended the day with 1,800,000. Olivier Busquet sits third with 1,433,000 which puts him just ahead of four-time bracelet winner Joe Cada's 1,389,000. Other notables still chasing the $758,011 first-place prize money include former #1-ranked PocketFiver Chris Hunichen, Patrick Tardif, and Ankush Mandavia. The 212 players who survived Day 1, combined with the 64 players who registered before the start of Day 2, made for a total field of 815 players. Some of the players who managed to make it into the money on Day 2 included Ryan Laplante, Mustapha Kanit, Peter Traply, Samuel Vousden, Dan Smith, Brian Yoon, Jake Schwartz, and Nick Schulman. The final 28 return at 2 PM and will play down to a final table of six. Top Chip Counts Joao Vieira - 2,100,000 Shahar Levi - 1,800,000 Olivier Busquet - 1,433,000 Joe Cada - 1,389,000 Bartlomiej Machon - 1,265,000 Ivan Galinec - 1,096,000 Chris Hunichen - 1,051,000 Barry Hutter - 1,047,000 Timothy Cramer - 1,032,000 Ryan Jones - 1,031,000 Salute to Warriors Draws 1,723 Entrants Another one of the new events on the WSOP schedule this year, the $500 Salute to Warriors event brought out 1,723 entries on Tuesday. The event pays tribute to those who have served in the military but is open to anybody wishing to play. Dominique Terzian managed to work his way through Day 1 with a massive chip stack. Terzian finished with 801,000 to top the 287 players who survived Day 1. Garry Stevens-Smith ended with 572,000 for the second best stack. Michael Nosek was third with 517,000. Mike Sexton finished Day 1 with 300,000. Other notables advancing include David Oppenheim, Tim West, and Vinny Pahuja. $40 from each entry is donated to the USO and other veterans organizations. Day 2 begins at Noon PT and is scheduled to play down to six players. Top 10 Chip Counts Dominique Terzian - 801,000 Garry Stevens-Smith - 572,000 Michael Nosek - 517,000 Jordan Knackstedt - 480,500 Stanislav Angelov - 391,000 Fred Li - 388,000 Chad Gravenor - 375,500 Ben Yu - 370,500 Jacky Wong - 360,000 Yifan Zheng - 354,500 Andrew Brown Leads $10K Limit Hold'em Championship Andrew Brown finished Day 1 of the $10K Limit Hold'em Championship with 337,000 chips, good enough to lead the 51 players who made it to Day 2. Anthony Marsico sits second with 283,500 and Eli Elezra is third with 255,500. Josh Arieh, Matt Glantz, Shaun Deeb, Phil Hui, Terrence Chan, Benny Glaser, and Juha Helppi all managed to advance to Day 2. There were 110 entries on Tuesday, however, registration is open until the start of Day 2. Action resumes at 2 PM PT. Top 10 Chip Counts Andrew Brown - 337,000 Anthony Marsico - 283,500 Eli Elezra - 255,500 James Little - 249,500 Kyle Ray - 237,500 Kevin Song - 233,000 James Chen - 226,500 David Mosca - 222,000 Robert Mizrachi - 219,000 Eric Wasserson - 215,000
The first World Poker Tour event of 2020 reached its final table on Monday. Now, just six players remain in the Season XVIII WPT Gardens Poker Championship, with Chance Kornuth leading the way. The final six will be on hiatus until Tuesday, March 31, when they will resume play at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The final six come from a 257-entry field and are guaranteed $111,795 in prize money. First place takes home $554,495, including a $15,000 buy-in into the season-ending WPT Tournament of Champions, and a Hublot watch. Joining Kornuth at the final table are Markus Gonsalves, Tuan Phan, Jonathan Cohen, Qing Liu, and Straton Wilhelm. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zgone="888poker NJ"][ptable zone="GG Poker"] WPT Gardens Poker Championship Final Table Seat 1: Straton Wilhelm - 435,000 Seat 2: Markus Gonsalves - 2,370,000 Seat 3: Qing Liu - 795,000 Seat 4: Tuan Phan - 2,070,000 Seat 5: Jonathan Cohen - 1,615,000 Seat 6: Chance Kornuth - 2,995,000 How the Final Table Was Reached The Season XVIII WPT Gardens Poker Championship had a field of 257 entries. It wasn't the largest turnout for a WPT Main Tour event, but the $10,000 buy-in attracted some of poker’s biggest names and generated a prize pool of $2.467 million. Among those to compete were Darren Elias, Anthony Zinno, Maria Ho, and Phil Laak, but none of them made the money. Entering Day 3 of the tournament, 48 players remained. The top 33 places paid, which meant whoever finished in 34th place would win the unwanted title of 'bubble boy.' The player to fall in 34th was former WPT Player of the Year Joe Serock, who couldn't win a flip with the [poker card="Ac"][poker card="Kd"] against the pocket queens of Gonsalves. After the money bubble burst, WPT Champions Club member Larry Greenberg was the first player to bust. Others followed him to the payout desk, including David Peters (30th - $18,825) and David 'ODB' Baker (18th - $25,130), before Day 3 ended with 14 competitors left. Among the final 14 returning for Day 4 was Jared Griener, who ultimately finished in 13th place for $35,720. Griener is no stranger to WPT success in the Southern California region. He’s cashed seven times in WPT Main Tour events in Southern California, and that’s the region where all of his WPT final tables have taken place. Additionally, Griener has a deep run in a WPTDeepStacks event in San Diego and two deep runs in WPT500 LA. On Day 4, Ali Imsirovic busted in ninth place to take home $53,950, and then Sebastiaan de Jonge finished in eighth for $67,790. One more player needed to be eliminated to set the official TV final table, and it happened when Phan knocked out Qi Hu in seventh place. Kornuth the One To Beat With a stack of 2.995 million, Kornuth is the player to catch at the final table. He's been one of the big stacks throughout the event, including finishing atop the field after Day 3. Kornuth came into this event with more than $7.4 million in live tournament earnings and one previous WPT final table under his belt. That previous final table was a sixth-place finish in the Season XII WPT Seminole Hard Rock Showdown for $247,954. Kornuth has several other deep runs in World Poker Tour events, including a handful that have come at the $10,000 buy-in level, but his first WPT title has eluded him. Closest to Kornuth on the leaderboard is Gonsalves, who bagged 2.37 million in chips for the final table. Like Kornuth, Gonsalves has been close to a WPT title before, but he's also yet to win one. Gonsalves' deepest run in a WPT event came in the Season XIV WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event, where he took fourth and picked up a payday of $91,616. Gonsalves also has a 10th-place finish in the Season XIV WPT Five Diamond for $68,181. The final six will now wait until the end of March to play for the title in Las Vegas, as the event moves from the Gardens Casino to the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel & Casino. There is no former WPT champion in the final six, which means there will be a brand new member of the WPT Champions Club when this one is all said and done.