Nguyen wins WPT Poker Challenge at Derby

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The onslaught of World Poker Tour Regional events and other large tournaments in Tampa Bay have cemented the area as a consistent spot to earn major titles and a heap of cash. Players are recognizing the value in playing tournaments in Central Florida and are flocking from all over the United States to get a piece of the action.

Take, for example, the recent WPT Poker Challenge Regional series at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. Derby Lane has hosted the WPT before and has become a prime spot for Central Florida players to enjoy large buy-in tournament action. From March 16-25, nine events fetched a combined prize pool of more than $600K. Tournaments ranged from $175 to $900, capped off by the $1,800 main event.

The main event had two starting days and a prize pool worth more than a quarter million dollars. There were 173 entrants vying for the title, but only one winner emerged as Derby Lane veteran Tom Nguyen took the top prize. Nguyen has had other large cashes in the WPT arena, including 68th in the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond Poker Classic in 2007 ($29K) and a 10th-place finish at the 2008 WPT World Poker Finals in Foxwoods ($36K). On a side note, Ante Up senior strategy columnist Jonathan Little was the winner of that WPT Foxwoods event.

Another notable player at the final table was none other than 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up and hometown favorite John Racener, who lost a brutal pot to be eliminated from the tournament. Racener posted to his Twitter account: “Got a guy to put all his chips in with two outs like usual with one card to come and bink he rivers the two-outer.” Racener went out fourth.

Undercard event winners from Derby Lane’s WPT Poker Challenge include Alija Suljic, Ricardo Ortega, Conor O’Neil, Filipp Khavlin, Randolph Spain, Anh Hoang Lu, Chris Conrad, Paul Disciullo and Ryan Carter.

— Garrett Roth is the Ante Up Ambassador for Central Florida and the Where to Play editor. Email him at roth@anteupmagazine.com and follow him on Twitter @GarrettRoth.