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Found 8 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. Every player from Joe Public to Daniel Negreanu has attempted to call poker cards before they are revealed, but it so difficult that to do so consistently invites ridicule. Get it right and you look like a wizard, get it wrong and you can look like the biggest fool at the felt. Doing so may be fraught with danger, but last night on PokerGO’s High Stakes Poker, Jean-Robert Bellande managed to predict his two hole cards, drawing gasps from some of the best poker players in the world. It's time we compare JRB’s moment as some sort of poker clairvoyant to others who have managed to put their opponents on exact hands or called even more unpredictable random cards to come. What Did Bellande Do? Of all the players to take part in Season 9 of High Stakes Poker, Bellande is the easiest to watch purely for the drama and frequency with which he takes on his opponents. No one is safe from JRB until he’s folded his cards, no matter what he has. One of the most experienced cash game players at the purple felt, the Long Islander was in the mood for fun on Episode 8 of the latest season of dollar-brick action continued. As commentators AJ Benza and Gabe Kaplan described, what Bellande asked for, he got. Pre-flop, Bellande said that all he wanted was two queens. When he revealed them to the table at the end of the hand, Phil Ivey’s reaction was one of the best ever seen in the history of High Stakes Poker. As Daniel Negreanu said, "That is just creepy." https://twitter.com/PokerGO/status/1513675401893072901 Bellande calling both cards is impressive, but is it the best card-calling in poker history? It turns out that despite the impressive nature of the clip, it’s not even close. Bellande doesn’t call the suits, and although the odds are long, it’s not like he specified the exact cards. We've found even better in the archives. A History of Calling Cards Sticking with pocket queens, picking them to jump out of the pack is one thing, but what about if it’s another player’s cards? Well, there are numerous examples of that, so let’s get our head around one. Daniel Negreanu, who recently told us about the hand that changed his life, calls his opponent’s ladies out of nowhere and saves himself valuable chips by doing so. Kid Poker has enjoyed some highly intuitive moments during his career, but this is right up there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9rZQWYqgWQ Romanello Reaches Deep to Save His Stack Both our previous examples are from cash games, but what about doing it in a tournament? It doesn’t get much bigger than the World Series of Poker Main Event's feature table, where the eventual Triple Crown winner Roberto Romanello made the fold of his lifetime with jacks full. Here’s how it went down, with Mike Matusow watching along the whole time. "As the commentary went at the tie, 'If he lays this down, I'll move to a Franciscan monastery and become head chef.'" https://youtu.be/5I62m9RvvN4?t=414 Seeing Through a WSOP Main Event Champion Both those previous reads necessitate that the opponent has a huge hand, but what if the player whose cards need to be read for this sort of hero fold are more polarized? It doesn’t get much better than this ridiculous fold four years ago from Ian Steinman against former WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen. The hand took place on the World Poker Tour and left the commentary team stunned. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InFMhKlDIxU As it was observed at the time, Steinman made the fold of a lifetime. The fold is only correct if McKeehen has either pocket aces or queen-ten, meaning the latter is so well disguised that Steinman’s ability to make the fold qualifies as wizardry. Sadly for him, all that hard work may have been enough to get the better of McKeehen, but Steinman would finish second in the event after leading heads-up by 2:1 in chips. Still, $201,428 and the reputation for possibly the sickest fold ever is a fine consolation prize. https://twitter.com/MattClarkPoker/status/971186130581204993 What Are the Odds? Finally, what about being able to predict all five community cards? Yes, it really has happened, and on a live stream too. Take a look at the amazing powers of American poker player Troy Clogston during The Lone Star Poker Series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aH1fq5Eb834 The reactions around the room at Champions Poker Club in Houston from the other players are incredible. They’re justified on the final two cards, due to the specific card and suit, with the [poker card="4s"] and [poker card="2h"] called out just before they land. The huge action pre-flop gives the mystic player the notion that premium cards are already in the players hands who remain interested. Choosing the flop cards, even without calling the suit, is extremely unlikely. Add in the exact turn and river cards, and it’s no surprise to see the other players get out of their seats and head for the nearest cold drink. Bellande choosing both queens to come out of the pack would be likely to happen once in 221 hands. Therefore, if Bellande called out "two queens" each time the dealer shuffled the pack, then playing 30 hands an hour, he’d only have to be at the felt for an average of less than a 9-5 shift to be proven right. There have been well over a hundred episodes of High Stakes Poker to date, so if there were two predictions in each episode, then we should have already seen a player get it right by now. Jean-Robert Bellande managed to get the better of Ivey with the pocket queens he called in pre-flop. Whether he’ll be about to see out the next five episodes of High Stakes Poker Season 9 to stay in profit by the time the curtain comes down is still up for debate, but calling cards for this kind of reaction should really catch on among the elite. Make it a prop bet, but make it happen.  
  3. In an age where the perception of poker players has changed markedly, how players look at their own future is changing. There was a time when poker players would have a bankroll and a ‘life-roll’ and would plot out a course of action tailored to improving both. From tournaments to cash games, bricks and mortar to buy-ins, poker players had a much more linear method of reinvesting their hard-earned money. In the modern age, however, poker players who reach a certain level are now far more aware of investment being key to improving their bankroll and improving their lives. One player who has taken it to the next level and improved countless others lives is Dan Smith. His charity initiative, Double Up Drive, has raised over $24.7 million for highly effective charities since 2014. Sitting Down with Smith “If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” We began our conversation with him by asking about how a poker player who has achieved in the game goes about investing their money outside poker. “I don’t think that it works in such a way where once you get to ‘x’ amount of dollars, you can start investing,” he says. “I think you want as much of your capital working all the time as you can. Money that’s just sitting there in a checking account or in a box is going down in valuation. As time goes on, I would put more and more money aside. I try not to cash it out unless I have a very good reason to.” Smith is mindful of the fact that losing years in gambling don’t carry over and you can’t write off expenses, so ‘ensuring that you unlikely have a losing year is your first concern’. That automatically affects what each player can gamble and then, as a consequence, invest. “Specific financial situations dictate how you manage your bankroll quite a bit,” says the man currently in 7th place on The Hendon Mob’s All Time Money List. “If you were still at $5/$10, the way you should manage your bankroll is very different to being pretty wealthy and trying to grow your wealth further. I have mostly tried to have as much of my money working as possible in liquid [investments]. If I ever needed it, I’d be able to have it within a couple weeks.” As Smith says, no player ever wants to be in a situation where they’re short of money. It can take a psychological toll. “It depends on the games you play, but if you’re a $10/$20 regular, you don’t ever want to think about having enough to be playing if you have a losing day. Generally, if the game in your casino is $10/$20 then gets kicked up to 25/50 on any given day it may well be because the game has got better than usual. Gambling on yourself in a good cash game is likely going to outperform any investments you can make.” [caption id="attachment_638167" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Smith is a former WPT champion and sits in the top 10 of the all-time money list for tournament winnings.[/caption] A Fantasy Made Real “At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable.” Smith doesn’t see his charity endeavours and the growth of wealth as conflicting things. He apportions so of his money to charitable donations just as does in investments and spending money. The first time he ever made a large charitable donation, it was down to a very different kind of gamble. “I was playing high stakes Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and in this week I was wagering $120k,” he describes. “The big question that week was whether or not to play Jack Doyle, the back-up Tight End of the Colts. The starting Tight End was ruled out, so he was going to get a lot of looks for bargain pricing. I just decided I didn’t see much of a reason to hedge [with another player] and played him in the whole $120,000. I reflected that I could lose the whole $120k which would and objectively nothing would change. That inspired my $175,000 charity donation. If I donated that, I got some degree of tax break, so it got me to that $120k number.” As Smith says, everyone’s situation is going to be quite different and others will have a myriad of alternate paths to both wealth and investment, as well as donating to charity. Smith admits that he bases some of his calculations on tax adjustments, something which is going to be different for poker players around the world given gambling’s nature in some countries as a method of earnings and others, where it is viewed as gambled money which cannot be taxed. “Having an idea of where you are changes based on a lot of factors,” he admits. “For me, one of the bigger things was how big I perceive my edge to be in poker games and how optimistic I was about it going forward. At this moment in time, I don’t think the state of the poker game is stable, reliable income so I’d, in theory, adjust my investments accordingly.” Finance and Variance "It’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money." Smith adds that anyone thinking of investing or donating to charity should be ‘mindful of the distribution of resolutions’ and while some investments will reliably tick over at 8% for example, others with multiply your money wildly or go bust. Variance in investments is not dissimilar to that experienced at the poker table, and that synergy between accruing chips through risk and looking at how to maximise your money has obvious similarities for many. “I think it’s easy to make a number of dollars in a month or year and extrapolate that you will continue to make that sort of money. That’s very dangerous; games are constantly changing and variance is a bitch!” Dan Smith looks at investment as an area of skill and says while some will succeed playing it safe, others are naturally better at taking big risks. “Some people will just do their best mostly just buying index funds and not doing anything clever,” he says. “Some people are very skilled gamblers and investors. They should manage their money very differently.” When a poker player decides to invest their money, it is often because they believe themselves to be ready to take that next step in acquiring wealth upon that which they have won in the game. In finance as well as in poker, however, nothing is ever guaranteed.
  4. Alexander Yen is the newest member of the World Poker Tour Champions Club after he bested the 1,928-entry field of the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida for $975,240 and a spot on the WPT Mike Sexton Champions Cup. Like it was in 2021, the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open proved to be another strong start to the WPT season. This year 839 entries showed up for Day 1A and they were joined by another 1,089 on Day 1B for a total field of 1,928 entries and a prize pool of $6,342,400, smashing the advertised $2 million guarantee. Yen held control for the chip counts for the majority of the final table, starting the day with a healthy chip lead and maintaining it throughout the bulk of play. He lost it for just a few hands in heads-up play against former online top 5 ranked Anton Wigg but quickly retook the lead, made a great read, and flopped a monster hand in the end to win it all. At the start of the day, Omar Lakhdari was sitting fifth in chips, but the gap between him and short-stack Nicholas Vergeramo was a scant two big blinds. With 24 big blinds, Lakhdari had some room to maneuver but also needed to find a way to chip up. He battled for the better part of an hour before he made what would be his final stand. With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 (200,000 ante), Daniel Lazrus put in a raise to 450,000 holding the [poker card="9d"][poker card="9c"] from under the gun. When the action reached Lakhdari in the cutoff he moved all-in for just over 3.6 million with the [poker card="ks"][poker card="qs"]. The flop came [poker card="9s"][poker card="5d"][poker card="2s"] giving Lazrus top set but also bringing flush outs for Lakhdari. The turn was the [poker card="td"] bringing no help but keeping Lakhdari’s flush dreams alive. However, the river was the [poker card="kd"], pairing his king but ultimately losing the hand. Lakhdari finished in sixth place which was good for $208,025. Josh Kay arrived at the final table second in chips and held that spot when the blinds increased to 125,000/250,000 (250,000 ante). But everything quickly went sideways on Kay as he doubled the short-stacked Verderamo and shortly after played a huge pot against Anton Wigg where Kay’s pocket queens lost a critical flip against Wigg’s ace-king. Not long after, Kay and Wigg battled again. Kay opened from the hijack to 500,000 with his [poker card="ac"][poker card="jc"] after which Anton Wigg three-bet shipped over the top with [poker card="kd"][poker card="qh"]. The action folded back to Kay and he put in the rest of his stack, looking to double back up through Wigg. The flop came [poker card="qc"][poker card="qd"][poker card="9d"], giving Wigg trips and leaving Kay looking for help. Some arrived on the [poker card="7c"] turn, giving Kay backdoor flush possibilities headed to the river. But it was the [poker card="8s"] that completed the board, sending Kay home early in fifth place for $272,830. Four hands later, Verderamo found himself all-in and at risk. Yen opened from the button to 500,000 from the button with the [poker card="qd"][poker card="qs"]. Verderamo, took a moment and moved his short stack all-in from the big blind with the [poker card="ad"][poker card="8s"]. Yen snapped him off and the board ran out[poker card="js"][poker card="6c"][poker card="5c"][poker card="3d"][poker card="7s"], never giving Yen’s pocket queens a sweat. Verderamo laddered into fourth place and picked up a career-high $361,130 score. Three-handed play lasted nearly two hours and the blinds climbed to 200,000/400,000 (400,000 ante). Daniel Lazrus was sitting at the bottom of the chip counts and looking for the opportunity to rise back into contention with Yen and Wigg. With roughly 15 big blinds, Lazrus open-shipped his stack from the small blind holding the [poker card="6c"][poker card="6s"] into Yen in the big blind with [poker card="kd"][poker card="jc"]. Yen made the call, putting Lazrus at risk. The flop came [poker card="jd"][poker card="7h"][poker card="5h"], immediately putting Yen in control of the hand but leaving Lazrus with backdoor outs. The [poker card="5s"] turn didn’t improve Lazrus’ odds and when the [poker card="9c"] hit the river, Lazrus was eliminated in third place for $482,380. Yen started heads-up play with a better than 2:1 chip lead, but it didn’t take long for Wigg to double through Yen when Wigg’s [poker card="ad"][poker card="tc"] survived an all-in to Yen’s [kc[poker card="qh"] on a board of [poker card="ts"][poker card="8h"][poker card="6d"][poker card="jh"][poker card="5s"]. Soon thereafter, Wigg grabbed the chip lead and that marked the first time at the final table that Yen lost the chip lead. However, Yen didn’t lose the chip lead for long. He took it back and then extended the lead after picking off a big bluff by Wigg which resulted in 70% of the chips in play sitting in front of Yen. One hand after winning that pot, all the chips got in the middle. The blinds were at 300,000/500,000 (500,000 ante) and Yen limped the blind holding [poker card="9c"][poker card="7c"], Wigg made it 2 million to go with his [poker card="qd"][poker card="qc"] and Yen made the call. The flop came [poker card="td"][poker card="8c"][poker card="6c"], giving Yen a flopped straight with a redraw to the straight flush. With his over pair Wigg continued to fire, putting out a 4.5 million bet. Yen smooth called and the [poker card="6d"] hit the turn. Wigg used one of his time banks and moved all-in for his final 18 million chips. Yen quickly called and Wigg needed a queen or a six to improve to a full house and survive. The river came [poker card="4d"] shipping the pot and WPT LHPO title to Yen. Wigg settled for runner-up and $650,180. WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open Final Table Results Alexander Yen - $975,240 Anton Wigg - $650,180 Daniel Lazrus - $482,380 Nicholas Verderamo - $361,130 Josh Kay - $272,830 Omar Lakhdari - $208,025
  5. 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 /]
  6. 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.
  7. 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 /]
  8. 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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