Elias gets dream win at WPT Borgata

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Borgata hosted its World Poker Tour event during the Summer Poker Open. Despite Atlantic City’s decline of poker rooms, Borgata has maintained its reputation by bringing 4,158 entrants for Event 1 and 1,226 for the main.

Event 1 kicked off standing true to its popularity. Among them was a new face, Jonathan “Nolte” Evans, who was dragged down by his friends and never dreamed of cashing his first live tournament. His heads-up opponent was Aaron Massey, who has won nearly $800K this year in tournaments and is leading the Heartland Poker Tour Player of the Year scoreboard by more than second and third combined.

The final table for Event 1drew a huge crowd on the rail, being that many of them were familiar local players. Patti Haggerty, a Borgata regular tournament player, was knocked out in fourth after eliminating four players at the final table.

“I have to say having my first big score at my home casino where the players and staff are like family, made the experience even sweeter,” she said.

Yet another familiar face, Kevin Grabel, a member of Philadelphia’s “team kitten,” made his second final table this year for Event 1 of the BPO. Grabel placed seventh after knocking out Kane Kalas, son of former Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, in eighth. Kalas also made the final table of the main event.

The $3 million guarantee BPO televised its six-handed final table. Kalas went into the final table as chipleader for most of the session until finding himself heads-up with Darren Elias of Cherry Hill, N.J. Elias, who had $1.8M live earnings and nearly $3.5M online winnings under his belt, was playing for the biggest win of his life. It took Elias four levels against Kalas’ 2-1 chip lead until he gained the lead and finally a hand to win the championship.

“At the time it all felt so surreal because we all dream of winning major titles like that on the big stage,” Elias said. “When I woke up the next day I had to ask my wife if that actually happened.”

Though Elias was ahead of the average stack throughout the tournament, he never thought of winning the trophy until he was four-handed at the final table. However, his most memorable hand was against Jean Gaspard with three tables left in the field where he flopped a set of kings against Gaspard’s A-A.

“That was by far the biggest hand of the tournament,” he said. “It was the only time I was all-in and at risk throughout the whole tournament.” Borgata Poker Open returns Nov. 4-21.

SUGARHOUSE: The SugarHouse Casino poker room in Philadelphia is open. See the ad on the facing page for details.

— Email Jo Kim at anteupjokim@gmail.com.