Another World Poker Tour event, another final table for Darren Elias. Already with four WPT titles, the New Jersey poker pro is looking to make it five after securing the chip lead at the final table of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown earlier this week.
Elias now heads to Las Vegas on May 25 to play for a title in front of the WPT cameras. A win could move him even further ahead of a group of players with three tour titles.
“It feels amazing to be back at a WPT final table,” Elias told USPoker. “There haven’t been a ton of events since COVID so there are not a lot of opportunities. This event in particular is a good one to make with the size of the field.”
WPT’s heavy hitter
The size of the Seminole field was big indeed, the second largest in WPT history. The event in South Florida produced 2,010 entries for a $6.4 million prize pool.
Beyond his fifth tour win, Elias could also score just north of $1 million for the title. Elias has almost 39 million chips with Mark Davis in second with 27 million. Viet Vo, who has two runner-up finishes and once third-place finish on the tour, sits in third with 12 million.
Beyond his four titles, Elias also leads the pack on the WPT when it comes to a couple other key categories:
- Cashes – 44
- Final table appearances – 12
That record has led to more than $4 million in WPT winnings, placing him 10th in that category as well. A Seminole win could vault him up to fifth on that list, behind Fedor Holz and ahead of Tuan Le.
However, Elias knows securing another massive win won’t come easy and is trying not to get ahead of himself.
“Adding a fifth title would obviously be amazing,” he says. “However, I’m just taking things one hand at a time and trying to make the best decisions I can.”
Surging to the chip lead, looking for No. 5
A strong third day of play helped launch Elias up the standings. Running well against some of the wilder players in the event, he says, paid dividends in the third day of action.
After finishing back among the pack on the first two days, Elias shifted to second in chips with 16 players remaining. Davis also proved a tough customer so far, finishing Day 2 and 3 as chip leader.
Elias has something else in his corner other than a mountain of chips – experience. Along with his four wins, Elias also has four third-place finishes. He’s become accustomed to playing under the lights and in front of the cameras at the HyperX Esports Arena.
His early days also included seeing thousands of hands as an online poker player. That knowledge base surely has helped his game as well. Elias’s WPT wins include:
- 2014 – Borgata Poker Open, $843,744
- 2014 – WPT Caribbean, $127,680
- 2017 – Fallsview Poker Classic, $335,436
- 2018 – Bobby Baldwin Classic, $387,580
Overall, Elias has $9.5 million in live tournament winnings. In the unlikely event he finishes sixth, that total will increase by $215,000. But the four-time champion is hoping for much more.
Recognition from peers
What makes him so tough at the tables? Three-time WPT champion and Season XVIII player of the year Brian Altman offers some insight.
“Darren’s a tremendous competitor,” Altman says. “He’s laser-focused at the table. He’s got great instincts, plays tough pots, and has lots of big-stage experience. It will be a fun final table to watch.”
Altman’s fellow three-time WPT winner Anthony Zinno says Elias’s analysis goes much more beyond just the cards on the table.
“Being a fundamentally good No Limit Hold’em player is one thing, but there are outlier skillsets required in order to consistently navigate through live, big-field tournaments,” he says. “Darren is exceptional at quickly assessing his opponents’ abilities and tendencies, and will instantly adjust for optimal strategy. In the live arena, this takes many years of experience – aka work, to some.”
Poker pro and commentator Maria Ho also notes that Elias has a keen ability to adjust quickly at any table.
“Darren has been a fixture on the live tournament scene for about as long as I can remember,” she says. “He has a strong table presence and seems to have a great instinct for game flow dynamics and an innate understanding of when to shift gears. He’s always a tough opponent whether he’s playing a big stack or not.”
— World Poker Tour (@WPT) April 13, 2022
WPT champion to online poker rep
When it comes to tournament success, Elias has dominated the WPT in a similar way Phil Hellmuth has the World Series of Poker. However, while Hellmuth comes with quite a big persona, Elias takes a much more reserved approach. Compared to Hellmuth, some might describe him as a quiet champion.
That doesn’t mean meek as numerous opponents would quickly attest. His success earned Elias a spot as a BetMGM/partypoker US Network ambassador in September. He’s since become heavily involved with the company. Elias has hosted events and helped craft tournament schedules – even lending his “End Boss” nickname to a series in November.
With the recent expansion of the US interstate online poker compact to include real money online poker in Michigan, Elias is excited to see where the US market is headed. He’s happy to represent the brand as he battles for yet another WPT championship.
“I will be wearing BetMGM gear and continuing to represent them at the final table,” he says. “I’m thrilled to hear about the expanded interstate compact and hoping for more states to follow suit as well.
While the interstate compact addition may be formally approved, Elias offered a bit of insight on what still needs to get done to see expansion.
“There is still a lot of backend technical work to be done before the markets are properly joined, but this is the first step,” he says. “The people at BetMGM are working tirelessly to get everything up and running as soon as possible. We’ve got a team that really cares about growing the game in the US again, and it’s fun to be a part of and contribute what I can.”
No doubt a fifth WPT title would add just a little bit more momentum for the brand. Elias is hoping to do his part to make that happen.