WPT Tournament of Champions: Darren Elias knocking on the door of history again

Will a new record be made once again? With Darren Elias in the driver’s seat of the WPT Tournament of Champions, it may very well be so. Two days ago, Elias was all over the headlines for becoming the first quadruple WPT title-holder. He won the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, the last open event of Season XVI, earning himself numerous awards including a seat to the tournament of Champions.

Darren Elias
Darren Elias

Riding the momentum of his recent victory, Elias closed out Day 2 of the exclusive WPT Tournament of Champions with a crushing double knockout. This gave him a commanding stack of 1,400,000 which he will bring into tomorrow’s final day where he will race against four equally fierce contenders for the ultimate supreme leader title. If he overcomes the competition, he will be the first player to win two major WPT back-to-back events.

Elias’s first back-to-back win was on September 2014 and November 2014. He won the WPT Borgata Open then won the WPT Caribbean. There was no WPT event in October of that year.

The third edition of the WPT Tournament of Champions drew in 80 players, and with the added value prizes, the total pot amounted to US$1,365,000. The champion of champions will pocket the kingly cut of US$463,375 which includes a seat to next year’s WPT TOC event.

Darren Elias’s Day 2 ascent

Day 2 proved to be a tough day for the 29 champs back at the felt, especially for some of the big stacks such as Elias. The four-time champion entered with a healthy stack but was later hostaged to a short stack as the money neared. He eventually found the way upwards by doubling up through Erik Seidel then eliminating him in 13th place shortly after.

With 11 players remaining, it was bubble time. The unfortunate victim was the day’s entering chip leader, Dennis Blieden. Blieden was unable to match his Day 1 performance and left the game empty-handed. To form the unofficial final table of 9 players, Elias proceeded to boot out Justin Young in 10th place.

Taking up new seats at the final elliptic, Elias wasted no time accumulating more chips. He ousted short-stacked Nam Le in 9th place to slide into third position in the chip rank. It would take some time before the next player fell with Sam Panzica losing all his chips to Matas Ciimbolas. This drove Cimbolas’s stack to over a million and for a very brief moment, he was the chip leader.

On the next hand, Elias delivered that game-changing double elimination, sending Ryan Riess (7th) and JC Tran (6th) out of the running. Riess was all in with A-J, Tran three-bet shoved with A-K, and on the big blind, Elias called with K-K. The board bricked and it was sayonara for the two. Day 2 came to a close.

Elias’s competition on the final day

With Elias entering the final day with the largest stack, and the final table moved to a new venue, it was deja vu once again. The race to the WPT Tournament of Champions title takes place at the Esports Arena in the Luxor. Action begins at 1pm. For those in the area, come on over and be mesmerized by the new state of the art facility. Everyone is welcome to witness the final showdown of the five remaining WPT champions.

E Sports Arena
WPT Trophy at the E-Sports Arena

Here are the other four contenders gunning for the title:

Matas Cimbolas: Second-in-command is Matas Cimbolas with 1,159,000 in chips. He is the only other player with a stack of seven digits. Cimbolas may have the lightest WPT stats out of the crew but still very impressive. With his career just getting started five years ago, he already has one WPT title, and over US$1.5M in total live career earnings. To surpass his all time high score, Cimbolas will have to win this event.

Matthew Waxman: Right smack in the middle rank is Matthew Waxman with 554,000 in chips. Waxman’s largest career win was at the WPT Grand Prix de Paris in 2011. He won E500,000 (~US$721,178). He is also a WSOP bracelet winner, winning Event #7: No Limit Hold’em in 2013.

Nick Schulman: Nick Schulman is a rockstar at the felt. He comes in with 447,000 and over US$10M worth of live tournament earnings. Schulman’s largest takedown also happened to be his only WPT title, the 2005 World Poker Finals in Mashantucket. He won US$2,167,500. Schulman is also a double bracelet WSOP carrier having won the No Limit 2-7 Draw in 2009 and the No Limit 2-7 Draw Lowball in 2012.

David Benyamine : Completing the final five is David Benyamine with 440,000. Ranked 4th in France, Benyamine earned his invitation to the WPT Tournament of Champions for his victory at the WPT Grand Prix de Paris in 2003. This was the first major victory of his live career and his since won many titles including one WSOP bracelet in 2008 at the US$10K World Championship Omaha Hi/Lo Split. His biggest win though was at the 2011 Aussie Millions, earning A$1,100,000 for his 3rd place finish at the Super High Roller event.

Pete Chen unable to take it far

With the day seeing 29 players and only 5 at the close, not among them was Asia’s hope, Pete Yen Han Chen. Chen held a short stack all day and wasn’t able to bring it into fighting form. He fell in 22nd place, well outside of the money.

Article by Tricia David


Louis Hartwell

Graduated in Media Communication at the University of Lausanne, Louis Hartman is a co-founder of somuchpoker.com. He began his career in Cambodia as freelance journalist. In same time he was making his living by playing poker every night at that time. Intense learner, he read dozens of poker strategy books to improve his skills during many years. With a strong interest about poker "behind the scene" in Asia and his communication skills, Louis launched Somuchpoker in 2014.

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