It was a stellar year for A.C./Philly poker scene

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As 2013 comes to an end, some of the region’s highlights compared to last year show a definite raising of the bar in profits and expectations. In the past few years, poker has brought a continuing trend of increased tournament entrants and lucky new faces in the local field. It’s no surprise most of 2013’s momentous events in the area are likely to bring more popularity to the game in the future.

This past year, Parx Casino launched four Matt Glantz-designed Big Stax Series. Also, World Poker Tour announced Borgata as its new championship locale, and the return of online gaming proceeded in New Jersey in late November.

The Borgata wrapped up the year with its Fall Open, which ran Nov. 12-27. The event began with four opening days for its most popular $560 tournament for a guarantee of $1 million. Among the 44 scheduled events, the $2,700 championship had a $1 million guarantee. The Winter Open will return in 2014 with the WPT for another televised championship event in mid January. The event will feature two Day 1s and a prize pool of at least $3 million.

Big Stax IV returned with a slightly different schedule, featuring two main events with buy-ins of $300 and $1K. The $300 event had 1,079 entries, doubling the guarantee to $307,515. Ray Ross (Philadelphia), Alfredo Sosa (Paraguay) and Steven Sarmiento (Queens, N.Y.), chopped the remaining pot as the last three players standing.

The $1K championship drew 527 players for a prize pool of $511,190. At the final table was Mohammad Farah, a local player from Philadelphia who has cashed at numerous tournament series in the prominent events around the region.

“Local tournament events such as Chester’s PPO or Parx BigStax have become more popular with great designed structures,” Farah said. “They’ve started to attract more poker players from all over the country.”

Parx’s hailing ambassador Glantz, who designed the tournament series, finished 17th. Two notable players from Brooklyn battled heads-up in Day 2 for the title. Mike Dentale, who won the Big Stax II Championship, lost his chance at his third trophy event final table with pocket kings against Vimy Ha’s set of jacks. Ha went on to win the event, claiming the trophy and $100K.

Harrah’s Philadelphia held another Philadelphia Poker Open (Oct. 25-Nov. 4), made up of 17 tournaments, two of which featured a $100K guarantees. The $500 main event had 229 entrants to just hit the guarantee. Jeff Wicker, a frequent final-table player at Harrah’s, finished ninth. William Parker (East Windsor, N.J.) took home the trophy and $25K.

WSOPC: The circuit runs until Dec. 9 at Harrah’s.

— Email Jo Kim at anteupjokim@gmail.com.