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[caption width="640"] Jesse Sylvia finally got the monkey off his back Friday night, winning his first ever live title (WPT Photo)[/caption] When the final table of the World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open began Friday afternoon, former World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up Jesse Sylvia was the shortest stack at the table and seemed to have little hope of winning the title. But over the course of nearly seven hours of play Friday night in Atlantic City, Sylvia went from short stack to chip leader to champion as he captured the Borgata Poker Open for the first live win of his career and second biggest score. Sylvia tripled up on the seventh hand of the final table when his [poker card="4c"][poker card="4s"] held against Farid Jattin’s [poker card="as"][poker card="kd"] and Simon Lam’s [poker card="ah"][poker card="kh"] in an all in preflop confrontation. That took Sylvia from the short stack to second in chips and set up another confrontation with Jattin. Chris Limo raised to 275,000 from middle position before Jattin re-raised from the small blind to 880,000. Sylvia then made it 2,375,000, forcing Limo to fold and sending Jattin into the tank before announcing all in. Sylvia called and tabled [poker card="ac"][poker card="ks"] while Jattin showed [poker card="4c"][poker card="5s"]. The [poker card="ah"][poker card="ts"][poker card="2d"] flop gave Sylvia top pair and a gutshot draw to Jattin. The [poker card="qs"] turn and [poker card="js"] river were no help for Jattin and Sylvia vaulted into the chip lead with Jattin dropping to just 11 big blinds. Jattin, who started the final day with a stack three times the size of his closest competitor, was out in sixth place just 15 minutes later when he ran his [poker card="8c"][poker card="8h"] into the [poker card="ad"][poker card="ah"] of Zach Gruneberg. While Sylvia wasn’t directly responsible for eliminating Jattin, he did take care of the next one. Sylvia raised to 280,000 from the cutoff only to have Limo three-bet to 655,000 from the small blind. Sylvia called and the flop came [poker card="9c"][poker card="7h"][poker card="4s"]. Limo fired 680,000 and Sylvia tank-called to see the [poker card="3h"] turn. Limo announced he was all in for 2,075,000 and Sylvia called. Limo showed [poker card="ac"][poker card="5d"] for a gutshot straight draw and Sylvia was way ahead with [poker card="7d"][poker card="7s"] for a flopped set. The [poker card="9d"] river changed nothing and Sylvia increased his chip lead. Just three hands later Lam, who started with the second shortest stack behind only Sylvia, saw his run end. Lam moved all in from UTG for 870,000 and Gruneberg called from the big blind. Lam had [poker card="jc"][poker card="6c"] and was dominated by Gruneberg’s [poker card="kc"][poker card="jd"]. The board ran out [poker card="ts"][poker card="7h"][poker card="3s"][poker card="3c"][poker card="ks"] giving Gruneberg an unnecessary rivered pair to send Lam home in fourth place. It only took another 30 minutes for the next elimination and Gruneberg was involved again. Gruneberg moved all in from the small blind and Taha Maruf called from the big blind for 2,695,000 with his tournament life on the line. Gruneberg showed [poker card="ad"][poker card="8h"] while Maruf happily turned over [poker card="qh"][poker card="qs"]. The [poker card="ac"][poker card="tc"][poker card="3d"] flop put Gruneberg ahead and the [poker card="th"] turn and [poker card="kc"] river kept him there, eliminating Maruf in third place. Sylvia and Gruneberg began heads-up play nearly dead even in chips with Sylvia holding just one more big blind than his opponent. Over the course of the first two hours of heads-up action, Sylvia increased his lead to 3-2 over Gruneberg. Sylvia briefly relinquished the chip lead only to get it back for the final time just 30 minutes later. Sylvia eventually built up his lead to 5-1 over Gruneberg. On the final hand of the tournament, Sylvia moved all in and Gruneberg called off the last of his 5,800,000 chips. Sylvia had [poker card="jh"][poker card="4h"] and Grunberg tabled [poker card="as"][poker card="2c"]. The [poker card="jc"][poker card="9c"][poker card="8c"] flop gave Sylvia top pair and a flush draw to Gruneberg. The [poker card="qs"] turn and [poker card="kd"] river were good enough to give Sylvia the title and the $821,811 first place prize money. Final Table Payouts Jesse Sylvia - $821,811 Zach Gruneberg - $490,617 Taha Maruf - $300,031 Simon Lam - $250,970 Chris Limo - $207,569 Farid Jattin - $167,942
Over the next few months, as online poker in Pennsylvania goes from a pipe dream to reality, at least a few of the newest operators in the state will be looking for players to bring on board as Team Pros or Ambassadors. The criteria they'll apply in their search includes looking for players who have had some success in the live or online poker arenas, have the respect of their peers, have a social media following or create content of their own, and most importantly, they have to want to be an ambassador. Two of the most likely choices are off the board. Jennifer Shahade is already a member of Team PokerStars and Esther Taylor has been a PARX Ambassador for four years now. With those two already taken, here's a look at five more players that could find themselves joining a new team once sites go live this fall. Zach Gruneberg Career Live Earnings: $1,846,547 Twitter: @HustlerGrune Instagram: @hustler_grune Once ranked as high as #4 in the PocketFives Rankings, Zach Gruneberg has spent the past few years returning to glory after overcoming an addiction to opiates. Now five years clean, Gruneberg has put up impressive results in the live arena including a runner-up finish in the World Poker Tour's Borgata Poker Open in 2016. This past summer he recorded nine cashes at the 2019 World Series of Poker and worked alongside T.J. Jurkiewicz to create a series of vlogs called Behind the Grind. Just 28 years old, Gruneberg has shown his talent on both virtual and live felts and a willingness to market himself to the poker community. Two things that make for a fantastic combination with any potential ambassador. Paul Volpe Career Live Earnings: $8,266,591 Twitter: @paulgees81 With all the respect due to Matt Glantz, Jake Schindler, and John Hennigan, Paul Volpe is clearly on a path to becoming the greatest poker player that Pennsylvania has ever produced. That is of course if it's not already there. The West Chester, PA native, who owns three WSOP bracelets, has been one of the most consistent players in $10,000 or bigger buy-in events over the last five years. Of his 55 WSOP cashes, 24 of them are in $10,000 "Championship" events and he's also found the money in the WSOP Main Event five times. He's also a former #1-ranked player on PocketFives. Volpe has also done some streaming, mainly video games such as Fortnite though. Anthony Maio Career Live Earnings: $957,459 Twitter: @Flawlessbinkage Maybe the least known name on this list, Anthony Maio calls New Jersey home now after growing up in New Hope, PA. The 31-year-old moved to the Garden State to take advantage of the legal online poker and Atlantic City card rooms. Now with the online poker coming to Pennsylvania and the growing live scene, Maio could be enticed to return home and rock a patch. Maio, who reached #51 in the PocketFives Rankings in 2018, has a live resume that includes a third place finish in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open (2014), a sixth place finish in the WPT Borgata Poker Open (2018), and a runner-up finish in the $1,000 Online Championship event at the 2018 WSOP. He also won the Chris Moneymaker Tour Online event last September which earned him one of the highly coveted Platinum Pass which awarded him a seat into the $25,000 PokerStars Players Championship event where he finished 130th for $35,000. Mark Herm Career Live Earnings: $1,770,652 Twitter: @dipthrong Instagram: @dipthrong In the months before Black Friday, Mark Herm was a regular in the top 10 of the PocketFives Rankings. Reaching as high as #5, Herm picked up wins in the PokerStars Sunday Million (2010) and the Full Tilt Poker (2008). His biggest live cash came in 2016 when he won a $1,600 Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza event for $310,114. He hasn't recorded an online result since 2016 and his last live cash came in 2018, but Herm has developed a loyal following and through training site, Tournament Poker Edge began producing The Chirp Herm Show, a podcast the featured interviews with the likes of Nick Petrangelo, Darren Elias, and Volpe. His experience online combined with his ability to produce content could make him an interesting choice for any site. Kane Kalas Career Live Earnings: $1,580,797 Twitter: @KaneKalas Instagram: @kanekalas In at least one of the major cities in Pennsylvania, the name Kalas might as well be royalty. The son of legendary Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster, Harry Kalas, Kane Kalas has made a name for himself in the poker world for his work both on the felt and in the broadcast booth. Kalas, who now lives in Puerto Rico and is heavily involved in cryptocurrency markets, finished runner-up in the 2014 WPT Borgata Poker Open event for a career-high $500,364. In 2018, he worked with Randy Lew to broadcast the Triton Super High Roller Series in Montenegro before jumping into one of the largest live-streamed cash games ever where he beat Jason Koon in a $1.8 million pot.
The World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open was recently at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It's always a very popular, well-attended series that draws in poker players from all over. Zach Gruneberg, one of the top players on the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list, was one of them. Not only did Gruneberg show up, he won, taking home two Borgata Poker Open titles from the series. With the victories coming at a time when Pennsylvania online poker is working to launch any day now, it felt as good a time as ever to check in with Gruneberg. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zone="888poker"][ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] "Honestly, it's pretty surreal," Gruneberg said of how he felt getting the two recent wins at Borgata. "Getting a first place ever, especially outright with no chop, is an extremely rare thing in tournaments. To get two within pretty much the same week doesn't seem real. I always say there's nothing like outright winning a poker tournament, well, I’ve got to find something new to say about winning two almost back-to-back (laughs)." The two events Gruneberg won were both bounty tournaments. He first won the $500 Black Chip Bounty Deepstack for $56,073. In that event, Gruneberg topped a field of 688 entries to take home the trophy. The second event he won was the $1,060 Purple Chip County tournament. In that one, Gruneberg bested a field of 232 entries to win $31,502. "The first win was a Black Chip Bounty event," Gruneberg said. "Meaning you get $100 for every person you knock out and the buy-in I believe was like $500 total. In this one, I really didn't make any adjustments. The bounties are pretty much worthless compared to the actual prize pool you are playing for. I ended up getting seven bounties, including my own for winning. However, in the $1,090 Purple Chip Bounty, each knockout is worth $500. This changes things slightly. This exact instance I really didn't change too much because I didn't have the spots to, but you definitely want to be calling some shoves a little lighter and going for those $500 bounties. I ended up getting 10, including my own, so $5,000 in bounties when first place was $31,000 is definitely a decent ratio." Knowing Gruneberg scored $700 in bounties in the first event and $5,000 in the second puts his total haul from these two tournaments at $93,275. That's quite impressive for about one week's work, but it wasn't the first time Gruneberg had scored big from a WPT series at Borgata. In 2016, Gruneberg maneuvered his way to the final table of the WPT Borgata Poker Open $3,500 Main Event. The field had 1,179 entries and Gruneberg ended up finishing in second place to Jesse Sylvia. Although he didn’t get the WPT title, Gruneberg scored $490,617 in prize money. To date, it was his largest live tournament score. In 2018, Gruneberg found his way back to a WPT final table at Borgata, only this time it was in the 1,244-entry WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open $3,500 Championship. Another top-three finish would be had for Gruneberg, as he took third place for $321,533. "Borgata is my main girl," Gruneberg said of his success at Borgata. "She never does me dirty and always does me right. I've considered it my home casino as long as I've played, so to have the level of success I've had there which includes chopping the WPT with Jesse, a third place in another WPT, and now three outright wins, it's wild. At this point now, I just feel completely relaxed and in my element there and I also am able to drive there from my home. Something about just being a car ride away instead of across the entire country or globe makes me feel at ease. It helps that I run like a Greek god at the Borgata, too. I love her!" The other title from Borgata that Gruneberg is referring to is a Saturday Series event during the 2017 Borgata Spring Poker Open. He won that $400 buy-in event for $35,996, topping a field of 415 entries to get the win. Gruneberg mentioned being just a car ride away from Borgata. He's originally from Pennsylvania, which isn't too far of a drive from Atlantic City. Soon though, Gruneberg could be trading in the drive to the casino for a walk to his computer in the comfort of his own home. Pennsylvania has legalized online poker and now it’s just a matter of time before regulated online poker sites launch in the Keystone State. Gruneberg is no stranger to the online poker world, having amassed more than $2.8 million under the alias 'HustlerGrune' on PokerStars and Full Tilt back in the day, and he’s pretty excited for the change to get legal PA online poker in his home state. "I'm super hyped for online poker to come back," Gruneberg said. "Should be any day now, but I am not really sweating it. When it comes back, it comes back, and I am excited to be able to play on partypoker and PokerStars (even though they seem like a shell of the company they once were now)." Whether it’s the live grind or competing on the virtual felt, Gruneberg said he’ll take it slow when it comes to planning out his poker schedule and just see where things take him. "Next for me in terms of poker will be WPT Maryland," Gruneberg said. "Technically, in terms of distance, that's actually the closest WPT to me and I have some good friends that live in the area, so I am excited for that. Mainly, I want to continue to focus on fitness and my health and just freestyle my poker plans. I am definitely trying to put more volume in, which means more WPTs and more WSOP Circuit stops - Vegas in December seems like a must. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and enjoy these wins."