Big victories at Borgata in Atlantic City

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One of the features of hosting a World Poker Tour event these days is your main-event final table is delayed months and moved to Las Vegas. So, while we’d love to report who won the Borgata Winter Open $3M guarantee main event in Atlantic City, we can’t. But what we can do is recap some of the more remarkable victories from the series.

Zarko Mandic captured the $600 opener, which had a $2M guarantee and 4,375 entries, for $342,967. Mandic started playing poker a year ago and had just $15K-plus in tourney before earning the BPO trophy.

“I started playing about a year ago, but back in college I played a different type of poker (five-card draw), which was basically bluffing; you could play it without looking at the cards,” he said. The Manhattan resident started the final table with barely more than 2M chips, but dropped to a six-figure stack quickly before revisiting his aggressive style from college. “I was going up and down on the final table then bluffed their brains out. I bluffed the chipleader and then (Constantinos Psallidas) so I went from 6M to 14M,” he said with a laugh. “I just played aggressively, played all-in.”

Event 13, the $400 Almighty Stack, ended after a six-way deal, giving Kareem Marshall the title and $124,487. It marked his second-best cash, winning $180K in Las Vegas in 2014. This win propelled Marshall past the $500K mark.

The $5,100 high roller went to Jonathan Dokler, beating a 77-entry field to take down his first Borgata trophy and $100,892.

It was Dokler’s biggest cash of his career by far, but the Westlake, Ohio, native used great composure to best a star-studded field that included Faraz Jaka, Will Givens, Upeshka De Silva, Byron Kaverman and Paul Volpe. 

Qi Hu almost took home his second Borgata trophy of the series but came up just short as he finished second for $70,956. The Canadian coasted through from the final six until heads-up, watching Dokler send player after player home. Once the two remained, Hu, who earlier in the series won the heads-up tournament, came back from a 7-to-1 chip disadvantage to take the lead for a bit. But Dokler quickly took back the lead with a pair of queens and then captured the crown.

The main event will conclude April 1 in Las Vegas at the HyperX Esports Arena. 

HARRAH’S A.C.: The WSOPC visits March 5-16.

Massachusetts

ENCORE BOSTON HARBOR: The room has $1-$3 NLHE games but spread as large as $10-$20. There are popular pot-limit Omaha games, too. Tournaments run daily, highlighted by the Saturday $360 event with a $30K guarantee. The tourney starts at 11:15, giving players 30K chips and 30-minute levels.

MGM SPRINGFIELD: Michael Bickel took first place and $11K in January’s $50K guarantee. The event saw 332 runners generate a $66K-plus prize pool. Rounding out the top three were Edward Novak ($10K) and Sean Kenney ($5K).

Connecticut

With $1.2M-plus in guarantees, the Foxwoods Poker Classic at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., is a favorite among tournament players. The yearly series has 23 events March 3-23. Three weekend events stand out on this schedule. Event 1 is the popular $600 buy-in, $500K guarantee.  There are four starting flights (March 3-4 at

11 a.m., March 5 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.). With payouts starting at

12 percent of the field, each flight will play to about 10 percent. All players who bag chips will combine and play to a winner March 6.  

The $400 Highflyer stack runs the following weekend. With a 100K stack, Day 1 flights run March 13, 14 and 16. Players come back in the money for Day 2 on March 16 to fight for their share of the $200K guarantee. The $2K championship event starts March 21. This three-day event features 60-minute blinds and a 40K stack.

MOHEGAN SUN: Tournaments run daily at this Uncasville property, highlighted by the $120 Tuesday event at 6 p.m. with a $10K guarantee. High hands run daily. If you enjoy mixed games, Wednesday hosts an $8-$16 OE game and Thursdays feature an action-packed $8-$16 HORSE game.

Maryland

LIVE CASINO AND HOTEL: The WPT DeepStacks Maryland Festival runs March 13-23 at the Hanover property. The main event begins March 20. See the ad on Page 29 for more info.

New York

RIVERS SCHENECTADY: March is packed with tournament action, including the Rivers Bounty Series, which runs four consecutive Saturdays starting March 7 with the $125 green-chip bounty at 10 a.m. March 14 is the $200 double-green-chip bounty and March 21 is the $300 black-chip bounty.

The month concludes with the $400 double-black-chip bounty March 28 at 10 a.m. 

There’s a special senior tournament March 8 at 10 a.m. and a women’s event March 29. 

For cash-game players, there will be $120K given away in high hands and hot-seat giveaways throughout the month. Call for details.

SENECA NIAGARA: The Western New York Poker Challenge runs March 20-30. Event 1, the $300 buy-in $100K guarantee, is a two-day event with four starting flights March 20-21. The $1K championship event sports a $200K guarantee with starting flights March 27-28 at 11 a.m. Players come back for Day 2 on March 29 and the final six players will vie for the title March 30.

TURNING STONE RESORT CASINO: Joseph Rusinko and Chris Meyers chopped for $11K each in Event 1 of the Winter Poker Meltdown.

This event had a $250 buy-in and saw 309 entries. Raice Austin and David Jackson each won $7K and $6,300 for third and fourth, respectively.

Meet Brian Hastings

Brian Hastings, 31, is a poker pro from Pennsylvania who has four World Series of Poker bracelets.

You once declared retirement from poker. What made you leave and come back? A mixture of hypomania, disenchantment with the poker community, plus games available to play and a desire to take on a new challenge were some of the reasons why I left poker. I briefly looked into opening a tea shop, then didn’t, and I have been playing poker full time again for the past 2.5 years or so. Since then, I’ve won a WSOP bracelet and final-tabled a WPT main tour event in 2018. I split time between live and online and various forms of poker.

You’re a known beast in tournaments and cash, live and online. Many players find a tough balance between all four. How do you manage it? I started playing cash and tournaments very early in my poker career and I’ve always dedicated playing time and studying time to both formats. I think this approach makes it possible to be successful at both, though I think top specialists at either format have an edge over those who try to balance both.

Online and live are easier to mix and balance; the game doesn’t change, just the opponents and the added physical component of live poker.

Any big changes in your life recently? Can we expect you at the WSOP for the full schedule this year and will you be selling action? My wife, Sonya, and I just had our first child, a baby girl named Audrey.

I am hoping to attend some WSOP this year, but probably won’t play a full schedule. I’m planning on something like three weeks total, and yes, I’ll be selling some action privately to regular buyers. — Jo-Kim