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  1. The World Poker Tour unveiled the first half of its celebratory Season XX this week. The initial lineup includes a trio of Main Tour stops, another three WPTDeepStacks events, and an international online festival held in partnership with Poker King. The WPT will kick everything off with the return of the Lucky Hearts Poker Open Main Event. The opening event will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida with a $3,500 Main that features a $2 million guarantee. The Main Event has two starting flights beginning on January 21, however, the tournament takes place in the midst of a two-week-long festival at the property that boasts $5 million in total guaranteed prize money across all events. “We could not be happier to be launching our historic 20th anniversary with an amazing partner in Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino,” said Adam Pliska, World Poker Tour CEO. “We have a number of special incentives planned for the rest of the year to give the poker community amazing ways to celebrate with us.” The Main Tour doesn’t have to go very far with the next event also taking place at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL. The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown is another $3,500 Main Event and will look to bring out the crowds like it did last year when 2,482 entries turned the event into the largest live field in the history of the tour. Last year, Brek Schutten took down the final table for a $1,261,095 payday for his first WPT title. The third Main Tour event is a return to Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma. The WPT Choctaw event is in its seventh year of being a part of the WPT schedule and is a big draw for players in the area. Last year, Dapo Ajayi topped the field of 964 entries in the $3,700 event to win his first WPT title and the $588,610 first-place prize. Both April’s Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown and WPT Choctaw final tables will have the final tables paused and reconvene at the HyperX Esports Arena at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas in Nevada on May 25 and 26 where a winner for each event will be crowned. In between Seminole Hard Rock events, the WPT Spring Festival will take place. The online poker series, sponsored by Poker King, will run from January 27 - February 7 with roughly $1.9 million in total guarantees and a Main Event of $345 on February 1-7 with a prize pool of roughly $1.25 million (depending on current currency conversions). In addition to the Main Tour, three WPTDeepStacks events will help fill out the first half. The first is WPTDeepStacks Amsterdam at the Holland Casino from March 25 - April 2 with a €1,100 buy-in. Next up, the tour pops up down under for WPTDeepstacks Sydney which will run from March 30 - April 11 at The Star in Sydney, Australia, and culminates with an AUD $1,500 buy-in Main Event. Finally, the WPT returns to Thunder Valley Casino in Northern California for WPTDeepStacks Thunder Valley from April 19 - May 1 and a $1,500 buy-in Main Event. The World Poker Tour will have more Main Tour dates announced in the near future. [table id=286 /] [stakingupcoming]
  2. When one thinks of the World Poker Tour it’s almost impossible not to think of Darren Elias. His success is nearly synonymous with the brand. Elias, famously, sits alone at the top of the heap when it comes to any number of World Poker Tour categories including Main Event titles (4), final tables (12), and cashes (43). However, Elias’ extensive poker resume is much more than WPT Main Event victories, and at 35 years old, it's something he’s proven year over year. Elias has excelled in 2021, picking up big-time scores in a trio of High Rollers on the PokerGO tour (totaling nearly $1 million in earnings) as well as having a breakout year playing online that saw him grab a prestigious GGPoker Super MILLION$ title for one of the biggest cashes of his career. As the World Poker Tour prepares to wrap up Season XIX with the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event at the Bellagio, Elias is headed to Las Vegas looking to add to his 2021 High Roller totals and, perhaps, pick up title number five. We caught up with him for an extended conversation about his success on the WPT, his aspirations for the World Series of Poker, balancing his home and poker lives, and the pressure he puts on himself to succeed. __ For many fans, when they first hear the name Darren Elias, they probably think of the World Poker Tour. You sit alone with four WPT Main Tour titles and Matt Savage has taken to calling you the “WPT G.O.A.T.”. How have you been so successful on the WPT? What is it about those events that play to your strengths? Yeah. I love the World Poker Tour and that makes up a bulk of my schedule during the year. I play about 50 to 60 tournaments every year, I'm pretty consistent, and World Poker Tour tournaments probably make up a dozen of those - and I do like that most are in America or Canada. I traveled internationally a lot in my early '20s playing EPTs, Macau…basically everywhere in the world, and I kind of found that I liked playing in the [U.S.] and North America. A couple of reasons behind that, and probably linked in with my success is that I like the knowledge of the player pool in these events. Most of the time these WPT events, it's the same group of guys, and each stop has its locals, but I do think knowing the players gives me a bigger edge. I wouldn't say that my results are equal to my edge, where I would say I probably over-performed on the World Poker Tour and under-performed at the World Series, luck-wise or expectation-wise, but I do love the events and I do love that they're all basically in the states. I know you plan on playing the $25K High Roller at the upcoming WPT Five Diamond but didn’t realize how many High Roller cashes you actually have on your resume. How do you differential between playing your normal schedule of events and when you jump into high rollers? Is playing higher something you continue to aspire to or are you just picking the best spots you can? Well, I would say I kind of hand pick the high roller events that I want to play and I try to pick the bigger ones, the ones with the biggest prize pools and most runners. I don't have a ton of interest in traveling internationally to play small field 100Ks or 250Ks. I mean, I've done it in the past, but for me, my biggest value is time. Especially now that I'm home with a family, I really have to pick my events that I want to go to. I probably play five to ten 25K plus events a year - maybe, 25K, 50K, 100K, something like that - and they do play differently than, like, a World Poker Tour Main Event, obviously, and you have to be sharper. I might do more preparation beforehand if I know I'm playing a tough 100K, and you have to be more fundamentally sound in an event like that because you're playing higher tier players, some of the best players in the world are in those events. In the World Poker Tour, that's not always true. When you decide you are going to play higher, do you put in extra study time? Absolutely. Yeah. I think most players would agree, at lower stakes, playing even $1Ks, $2Ks, $3,500, $5Ks, you can probably get away with not studying if you have good instincts and still win. But if you play in bigger events, these $50Ks, $100Ks, and you're playing with the elite players, you really need to put in your practice study work or you're going to find yourself in there guessing a lot, which is not the way to win. [caption id="attachment_637478" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Darren Elias, four-time World Poker Tour Main Event champion.[/caption] You just mentioned that time is one of your most valuable currencies and you’ve decided to take on a role as an ambassador for BetMGM/partypoker U.S. For some players becoming an ambassador is an aspiration, was it one for you? In the past you’ve talked about how public speaking wasn’t really your thing, do you feel any added pressure taking on this new role? I wouldn't say it's added pressure but it is something that's taken me a while to get comfortable with. It's not my natural personality to put my face on something and put it out there. It's taken some time to get used to, and the main reason of my drive behind this is, I felt so terrible for the American online poker players over the last 10 years, and I feel like this is a good opportunity. If there's anything I can do to further our cause and get bigger tournaments online in the US, get more states legalized, linked up, organize tournaments, work on schedules - anything I can do to help get online poker back in the US should be a priority. I think at this point I'm in a position where maybe I can make a little bit of difference, and that's kind of my long-term goal with BetMGM and partypoker. Speaking of online poker, you have a reputation as a live pro but this year you cracked the worldwide PocketFives Top 10 rankings, have more than $8 million in career earnings, and have both a WCOOP and Super MILLION$ title on your online resume. Where does an online grind fit into your schedule right now? I guess most of that took place this year while you were traveling abroad? Yeah. Last year I played a lot on GGPoker during COVID. I feel like I cashed for more last year than I probably did in my whole online career just because the stakes of the tournaments nowadays on the international sites are huge. That may have been kind of a one-off year because of COVID, there weren't any live tournaments and that was just a weird year. I do see myself playing a lot more online in the states, but my international, rest of the world, online career is probably drawing to a close I would say. You talked a little about how maybe variance has been on your side in WPT events, more so than the WSOP. You don’t yet have a WSOP bracelet and I wanted to know if WSOP success, outside of the money, is on your list of things you’d like to achieve? Are you thinking ‘I would like to win a bracelet’? I would like to win a bracelet, but I would say it means less now than it used to, just in how easily they're giving them away nowadays with the online events and these Flip & Gos. You can play a 50 runner, $200 event online and win a World Series of Poker bracelet and that kind of takes some of the prestige away from it. But, sure, when I go to the World Series every year I'm trying to make final tables. I'm trying to win. I don't play the full WSOP schedule where I'm in these $1,500 No Limits, battling ten-handed all day. I'm not in a lot of those, but I do play most of the $5K+. I play Deuce-to-Seven, so some of these events are smaller fields, like under a hundred players, and I am in there and I'm trying to win a bracelet. That would mean something to me, to win one of those events, the high roller 10K Deuce-to-Seven no limit, something like that. I think those events still carry some prestige, and when I'm going out there, I'm trying to win those. Where do you land on mixed games? Do you like them and are those fields you would like to be competing in? Not really. My experience with mixed games is, I don't really like the limit games. I never have. I mean, I played Limit Hold’em when I first started playing poker. I was 17, 18 years old at casinos, and I played a little bit of Stud and 08, that kind of thing, and to be honest, I find them a little boring. I'd gravitate more towards No Limit games, so I like No Limit Deuce-to-Seven. I've played Pot Limit and No Limit Triple Draw online quite a bit. I like those games, and I could see maybe down the line I play more PLO, but I really don't have much interest in limit games, so I'm a bit restricted in that regard. I'm sure if I put in the study and really tried to learn these games, then I could become a winning player, but I don't enjoy them so I'm not really devoting my time there. What are your thoughts on the WSOP moving to the Strip? Are you planning on making the quick turnaround this summer for the World Series of Poker? Yeah, I’ll be there, and I kind of don't know what to expect. I have low expectations. I'm kind of happy to get out of the Rio and erase all my memories of the World Series when I haven't done amazing. So maybe I'll get new mojo here at Ballys or whatever it's going to be called when we're there. I think it's cool that it's on the Strip. I really don't know what to expect, but I will be there and I'll be playing. You have a family with two small kids, how do you strike a balance between grinding the circuit and being present for your family? I’ve learned a lot about it over the last five years, and one important thing I found, is keeping the trips short. I can't go to Las Vegas for a month and play the WSOP and be away from my kids and my family that long. So, kind of breaking it up into shorter trips, which is one of the reasons World Poker Tour's great now. They have a Main Event, maybe a high roller, but it's one or two events. It's a week. I'm there. I'm back. I really like that, and mentally, kind of, when I'm on a poker trip and I'm there competing, battling, I'm thinking about poker and I'm 100% focused. When I'm home, I'm being dad and I'm being a husband and trying to do these duties, and I think keeping them separate has worked well for me. One more, do you put any pressure on yourself to stay ahead of the pack when it comes to WPT titles? There’s a number of heavy hitters with three titles looking to make it four, so just wondering what your state of mind is when you think about that. I put pressure on myself regardless of who's chasing me. Like, I get to these final tables or deep in these events and I feel huge pressure to execute just to do the right thing. I'm in such a good spot, usually deep in these things against weaker players, playing for a lot of money where there are big opportunities and these are kind of what I've trained and prepared for. I always feel pressure to execute at these final tables, and I don't think I'm driven too much by who's on my tail or what other people are doing, because if I mess up in one of these final tables, these big spots that you get once a year or once every other year, that's going to drive me crazy no matter who has three titles, who has four titles. I'm tough on myself in that regard, so I don't think I need any extra motivation.
  3. The World Poker Tour returns to the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this month to bring Season XIX to a close with the $10,400 buy-in WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic Main Event. The WPT mainstay tournament will run from December 15-19 with the final table taking place at the HyperX Esports Arena located inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino. The final table will be recorded for future WPT programming to be aired on Bally Sports network. “The Bellagio holds a special significance for the World Poker Tour,” said Adam Pliska, WPT President and CEO. “The Five Diamond World Poker Classic was the first World Poker Tour event, and it seems fitting to finish our current season there before launching our historic 20th season in January.” The WPT Five Diamond has been the most consistent tour location in WPT history with the event being run every season dating back to Season I in 2002 when Gus Hansen defeated John Juanda heads-up to take home the $556,460 first-place prize and his first of three WPT titles. Since that time, the tournament has emerged as one of the most popular poker events of the calendar year. Notable players including Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Chino Rheem, Dan Smith, and Antonio Esfandiari are among those who have walked away with a Five Diamond Main Event victory. It's also been one of the WPT's more lucrative tournaments with 15 of the 18 Five Diamond Main Events awarding a seven-figure score. The last time the WPT was at the Bellagio for the event was at the end of 2019 when Alex Foxen outlasted the event’s record-high field of 1,035 runners to win his way into the Champions Club and take home a $1.69 million first-place prize. The event didn’t run in 2020 due to postponements brought about by COVID-19. This also marks an end of an era for the World Poker Tour. After 20 years, the WPT is adjusting its seasons to coincide with the calendar year. Traditionally, the WPT had started seasons in the spring and allowed them to carry straight through each New Year, well into the following months. Now, it will be easy to follow along with WPT seasons, knowing that the Five Diamond will likely mark the end of their season and a Player of the Year will be crowned before year’s end. The change kicks in immediately and the Season XIX Player of the Year race will be decided this month. Currently, there is a three-way tie at the top as three-time WPT Champion Brian Altman is playing for back-to-back Player of the Year titles. Altman is matched at the top of the leaderboard by both Rok Gostisa and Chad Eveslage, and all three players are closely followed by recent WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll champion Gediminas Uselis. The tight race adds an extra layer of drama to the event as the WPT will be keeping a spotlight on the race to see who emerges at this year's POY. “We are thrilled to be able to finish our season with a showcase event with one of our longest-running partners,” said Angelica Hael, WPT VP of Global Tour Management. “From there, we are ready to head into Season XX and put an even bigger spotlight on our partners, our champions, and our tour.” Looking to get in on the action for the WPT Five Diamond but unable to play yourself? PocketFives Staking will be offering shares of some of the players in the field to help give fans an end-of-the-year sweat to follow along. Not signed up yet? Get to it right here. Past Winners of WPT Five Diamond Main Event [table id=279 /]
  4. Gediminas Uselis displayed off his skills and leveraged his years of experience at the final table of the 2021 World Poker Tour Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Main Event after starting the day in the middle of the pack in the final table chip counts and weaving his way to his first WPT title and a career-high $778,490 first-place prize. Online grinders might know Uselis as one of Lithuania’s elite players, but he also has an extensive live resume that includes taking down the recent $1,600 MSPT event at the Venetian in Las Vegas for more than $325,000. It’s been a non-stop grind for Uselis as of late, something he acknowledged immediately after his victory. “I came here, and this [the Main Event] was the first tournament I sat down in,” Uselis said to the World Poker Tour in his post-event interview. “I didn’t sleep much, and I just kept going and going. I was playing small pots, big pots, slowly building. Slowly, nothing special.” “There was, for sure, a bunch of action,” he continued. “It was a crazy table, so I just needed to wait. I made a couple of moves because there were a couple of amateurs as well, so I was really lucky to make this final table.” The action kicked off early. With only five big blinds, Anshul Rai knew he was going to have to make a move sooner rather than later. And on the very first hand of the final table, he made his stand. From under the gun, Rai moved all-in for his final 875,000 holding [poker card="ah"][poker card="ks"]. It folded around to Harout Ghazarian in the small blind who put in a raise to 1.5 million with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="qd"], and Uselis let go of his big blind. Rai looked in good shape to double up with the dominating hand, however the flop came [poker card="as"][poker card="qc"][poker card="2s"], flipping the script and putting Ghazarian ahead with two pair. The turn came the [poker card="3c"], leaving Rai with just three outs to survive. The [poker card="2d"] river completed the board and just like that Rai was eliminated in sixth place for $170,835 and the table was down to five players. That was just the beginning some fast-paced early final table action. Clayton Maguire, who started the day third in chips, found himself slipping down the chip counts after the elimination of Rai. With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 (200,000 ante), Maguire lost back-to-back pots which led to his eventual elimination. First, he dropped an important pot to Ghazarian where Clayton held the [poker card="ah"][poker card="4c"] but Ghazarian showed down the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kc"] on a board of [poker card="kh"][poker card="9d"][poker card="4s"][poker card="3s"][poker card="ac"] for a pot of nearly 10 million. Then, the very next hand, Maguire completed the small blind with his [poker card="8d"][poker card="8c"] and Selahaddin Bedir jammed his bigger stack all-in holding the [poker card="ad"][poker card="4s"]. Maguire snap-called and was in position to score a quick double up, however the [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"][poker card="5d"][poker card="jd"][poker card="qh"] board didn’t cooperate leaving Maguire to hit the exit in fifth place for $211,925. Play slowed down until the first break of the day and the chip stacks evened out with everyone holding on to more than 40 big blinds. But soon thereafter, Bedir found himself getting short and with the blinds up to 200,000/400,000 (400,000 ante) he made his final stand. With roughly 15 big blinds, Bedir moved all-in from under the gun holding [poker card="7d"][poker card="6d"] and when it was on Jacob Ferro in the big blind, he quickly called with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="kc"]. The flop came [poker card="qs"][poker card="jd"][poker card="2c"], keeping Ferro’s ace-king in the lead and giving him a gutshot straight draw to the nuts. Bedir was in bad shape looking for a pair or backdoor diamonds to catch up. The turn came the [poker card="5h"] and Bedir was down to his final card. The river was the [poker card="4s"] and made his exit in fourth place for $282,380. Three-handed play saw Ferro holding on to a commanding chip lead but Uselis, steadily adding to his stack. Finally, roughly 45-minutes after the last bustout, another big clash took place. Harout Ghazarian completed the small blind with his [poker card="2c"][poker card="2s"] and Uselis put in a raise to 1.3 million holding the [poker card="ks"][poker card="kc"]. Ghazarian then three-bet all-in for more than 12 million and Uselis snap-called. There was little drama for the pocket kings on the [poker card="js"][poker card="7s"][poker card="7d"][poker card="9d"][poker card="jd"] board and Ghazarian was sent out in third place for $380,000. The knockout pushed Uselis over 30 million in chips and essentially pulled him event with Ferro headed into heads-up play. The heads-up match could have taken some time as both players started with over 75 big blinds. But Uselis quickly leveraged his experience and pulled ahead just before the next break. Immediately after the break, Uselis extended his chip lead to roughly four-to-one. But in the end, it was a cooler that cut short this battle. With the blinds at 300,000/500,000 (500,000 ante) Ferro raised to 1 million holding the [poker card="jd"][poker card="jh"] and Uselis put in a three-bet to 3.3 million with one better, his [poker card="qc"][poker card="qs"]. Ferro shipped all-in, Uselis beat him into the pot, and the pair saw the setup. There was a jack in the door, eliciting a gasp from the small crowd watching, but a queen right behind it. The board ran out [poker card="kh"][poker card="qd"][poker card="js"][poker card="6d"][poker card="2s"] ending Ferro’s run in second place for $573,605 and awarding Gediminas Uselis his first World Poker Tour title and the $778,490 first-place prize. WPT Seminole Rock ’N’ Roll Final Table Results Gediminas Uselis - $778,490 Jacob Ferro - $573,605 Harout Ghazarian - $380,000 Selahaddin Bedir - $282,380 Clayton Maguire - $211,925 Anshul Rai - $170,835
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