Darren Elias’ quest for a fifth World Poker Tour title came up just short this week when two final tables played out in Las Vegas, filmed for television at HyperX Esports Arena.
The action saw two new players ascend to the top of the WPT with Mark Davis, of Birmingham, Alabama, denying Elias a chance to add to his tour record of four wins on Wednesday.
“This is huge,” Davis told WPT.com after the win. “This is about as big as you can get outside of a couple other tournaments [in the world].”
In other action, Chance Kornuth added the first WPT title of his career. The longtime pro and poker coach took down the WPT Choctaw, earning $486,600.
Davis conquers WPT leader Elias
Elias held the chip lead when action resumed in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown. The event offered a $1 million payday for the winner after attracting 2,010 entries for a $6.4 million prize pool in April.
Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Davis (pictured in lead image) entered second in chips and came into the tournament with some momentum. In February he took down a World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event in North Carolina for $334,678.
At one point at the final table, Elias held 54% of the chips in place, but Davis kept grabbing pots. Elias, a BetMGM Poker ambassador, entered heads-up play with almost a 3-2 chip advantage.
At one point, Elias extended that after raking a huge pot with pocket Queens. However, Davis fought back and continued finding nice hands and key calls late as the two traded leads.
The final hand saw Elias facing a large chip deficit and get all his chips in on the turn with an open-end straight draw. Davis made the call with two pair and the title was his.
“I feel like my style is very conducive to tournament poker,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m a very tough out, and everything’s just clicked this year.”
The runner-up scored $660,000, and Davis was complimentary of his opponent.
“I need to explain to you what a class act Darren is,” Davis said. “He is a phenomenal player – the best player I’ve ever played against. It took me running really good to be able to beat him, because everything his accolades say about him is what he is.”
Here’s a look at the payouts for the final table.
WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown
- Mark Davis – $1,000,300
- Darren Elias – $660,000
- Marcos Exterkotter – $490,000
- Viet Vo – $370,000
- Andrew Barfield – $280,000
- Mike Laufer – $215,000
Kornuth adds to legacy with WPT title
In the final table of the Choctaw, tour regular Ray Qartomy returned to the action as chip leader, just ahead of Kornuth. But the Chip Leader Coaching founder dominated much of the action including a key call early on a bluff by Qartomy.
Kornuth built an early lead and continued stacking chips, including knocking out Kristen Foxen in fifth. At four-handed, he held a sizable lead over his three opponents.
Soon, Kornuth sent Qartomy with his pocket Jacks versus pocket fives. Steve Buckner began fifth in chips, but worked his way up to a heads-up battle for the championship. He faced an uphill climb against a top-notch opponent who held 28.5 million chips to his 11 million.
However Buckner battled and took the chip lead at one point. Kornuth kept chipping away and regained the lead in an extended heads-up session.
Late in the session, Buckner scored a massive double when both players flopped a pair of Queens. Buckner’s better kicker brought an 18-1 chip lead and he appeared on the brink of adding his name to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup.
Utilizing his short stack skills, Kornuth fought back and eventually retook the lead. There were plenty of twists and turns and Kornuth won a key hand late when he rivered a flush.
The final hand saw Buckner move all in with A♦5♥ versus Kornuth’s 7♠7♣. Buckner got no help on the board and the title went to Kornuth. The victory proved quite an undertaking for Kornuth, who is now not only a WPT champion but had also been coaching Davis for his own final table appearance.
Been working with Mark for the last 4.5 weeks to prepare for the biggest spot of his career. Couldn’t be more proud!!! pic.twitter.com/XeDYQvG3al
— Chance Kornuth (@ChancesCards) May 26, 2022
Kornuth now has almost $10 million in live tournament winnings including three WSOP bracelets. Here’s a look at the Choctaw final table payouts.
- Chance Kornuth – $486,600
- Steve Buckner – $320,000
- Ray Qartomy – $235,000
- James Hundt – $175,000
- Kristen Foxen – $135,000
- James Mackey – $101,000
Tour adds Andrew Neeme as ambassador; Vegas stop next
In other news, the WPT recently added poker pro and YouTuber Andrew Neeme as an ambassador. He will attend WPT events, work with online partners in promotional efforts, and create exclusive content for the company.
“Joining the team of ambassadors at WPT will be a massive enhancement to my work as a player-turned-creator,” Neeme said in a news release “I’ve always used my vlog to not only highlight the game itself, but also the experiences that surround a poker-focused life. Partnering with the WPT will unlock new opportunities and experiences for the vlog, as well as provide new ways for fans of this content to interact in person and online.
“The WPT has provided a window into the excitement of poker since day one, and was a major influence on getting countless people into the game, myself included. Now we’re aligned with the goal of trying to make that window as big as possible.”
Neeme began playing poker in 2004 and started recording his experiences at the table in 2016. He will attend his debut event as WPT ambassador later this year.
The tour next heads to Las Vegas for the $5,000 WPT Venetian, running Jul 12-17 with $4 million guaranteed.