Maybe Tim Byrne should have slipped on his glasses sooner. As one of the online qualifiers for the BetMGM Poker Championship at Aria in Las Vegas, the 43-year-old player from Mountainside, New Jersey, landed a seat in a $25,000 freeroll held on June 22 at the PokerGO Studio.
Early in the event, Byrne (pictured in lead image) looked down at his hand and just knew he was beaten. All in against another player, things looked rough when his opponent landed an Ace-high flush on the turn. Thinking he was beaten, Byrne initially turned his hand over.
However, a floor person said he had to table his hand. It turned out that he’d actually landed a straight flush.
“Thank God because I thought I was dead,” he says. “I’m really more of a clicker. I’ve really won one live event, a $100 rebuy Knights of Columbus tournament or something for like $3,000. And that must have been 10 or 12 years ago. I play home game tournaments with six people or so, but other than that, this is the only tournament I’ve played in a long time.”
Seeing that straight flush turned out to be quite a fortuitous turn of events and the online poker player went on to win. He took home $4,400 and had quite an experience on his trip to Sin City.
Hitting the poker jackpot with BetMGM
For as long as he can remember, playing cards has been a huge part of Byrne’s life. Whether at the poker table or another casino game, he just enjoys the action and fun of having a few bucks on the line.
“I’ve been playing cards forever,” says Byrne, who worked for years at a credit union and now runs an Internet-based sales business. “In fifth grade, we’d be in the back of the class playing blackjack. I’ve always been playing poker and blackjack. I just love it. It’s been a big part of my life.”
In the Garden State, Byrne is an online poker regular and estimates he’s played at least 200 major tournaments. Being a BetMGM/Borgata Poker rounder paid some big dividends this month. He’d accumulated enough reward points for a free $100 in tournament play.
That came in handy to enter a qualifier for the BetMGM Championship. After advancing in the first tournament step, he busted the $500 second step.
However, another $100 promotion was soon sent his way again. That did the trick. Byrne says he dominated the first step and then also found success at the $500 level.
“I was in first pretty much until the final table,” he says. “And then I lost a good chunk of my chips. I was an eight out of 10 or something. Then I just battled back and was able to get in the top five.”
Having been a lifelong gambler who’d never been to Las Vegas, Byrne was thrilled and soon let friends know about his good fortune.
“I told all my fellow gambling friends,” he says. “They all found out fast, and all the kids I grew up playing poker with.”
Tim Byrne won the $25K Freeroll and took home $5000.
The NJ native ended up playing heads up with another qualifier who happened to live one town away from his hometown. pic.twitter.com/OcGPO8BI3Q
— BetMGM Poker (@BetMGMPoker) June 25, 2022
An online poker approach in the freeroll
With his five-day Las Vegas tournament package secure, Byrne was treated to another nice addition for the 68 online qualifiers. BetMGM hosted the exclusive $25,000 freeroll in the PokerGO Studio only for the site’s players.
Site ambassador and four-time World Poker Tour champion Darren Elias also attended and met with players. When the action got underway, Byrne felt confident, despite his early misstep of almost folding a straight flush.
With a faster pace, the tournament seemed a bit more like the online events he was accustomed to playing back in New Jersey.
“I knew that tournament was going to play more like an online game than the $3,500 championship,” he says. “I went into that tournament thinking if I made any hand like trips or a set, I was going to push it pretty hard early on.”
Taking down the tournament proved to be a nice kickstart to the trip. Coincidentally, he actually ended up being acquainted with the player who finished runner-up. They run in the same circles and have some of the same friends.
“The guy was from the next town and I did know mutual people, which was amazing, just figuring that out at the poker table, like how close the six degrees of separation or whatever there was with the guy that I played for heads up for the championship of the freeroll,” Byrne says.
Taking a seat in the championship
When it came to the $1 million championship, Byrne says he came in a little weary but still did well early. A table change seemed to bring some tough luck however. He ran pocket Queens into pocket Aces. He then caught three of a kind, but another player had three Aces.
“I could have been a little tighter, a little smarter, and took my time a little bit more,” he says. “So I don’t think I was ready for it honestly. I wanted to make the second day, that was my goal, but it just didn’t work out.”
Despite not find a cash in that event, the BetMGM experience turned out well for Byrne. He locked up a nice $4,400 score and enjoyed the five-night stay at Aria. It was quite an experience for a player who won his entire trip, including the $3,500 buy-in, with a free promotional credit – a freeroll from a freeroll.
“I had a great time,” he says. “It was amazing.”