It was a long time coming, but a live poker major series returned to the Borgata last week in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Players came out in droves all week long for “The Return” at the popular East Coast casino poker room.
In the end, Pennsylvania’s Bin Weng (pictured in lead image courtesy BetMGM/Borgata) stood victorious in the championship event for a $1 million addition to his bankroll.
“It means a lot,” Weng said on the BetMGM stream after the win. “I’m very happy to come back to the Borgata, one of my favorite spots. I love the Borgata and used to play here a lot before the pandemic. I’m just so excited right now, almost speechless. I’m just so excited to take it down.”
Weng’s thoughts on the tournament were echoed by many. The return of high stakes poker tournaments to the property pleased many players. BetMGM worked with the partner casino to offer online players an opportunity to qualify as well.
“Poker players have been eagerly waiting for Borgata’s big return to the live tournament circuit,” director of BetMGM Poker Luke Staudenmaier said.
Inside the Borgata/BetMGM championship event
The championship tournament greatly exceeded the $3 million guarantee. The final prize pool checked in at $5.5 million and featured 1,142 entries.
Weng now has almost $3 million in live tournament winnings and also grabbed an official Borgata trophy. The win was five times Weng’s previous highest tournament score. Some of his previous best finishes include:
- $10,200 PGT Wynn High Roller (March 2022) – first for $189,800
- $2,200 WPT Seminole NLHE (January 2022) – second for $117,425
- $5,000 WSOP NL Six-Max (October 2021) – fifth for $113,775
- $50,000 WSOP High Roller (October 2021) – sixth for $202,236
- $3,500 WPT Borgata Open (January 2020) – fifth for $187,900
Facing a tough final table
Weng didn’t have an easy road to victory. He faced some tough competition in his path at the final table. That included 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event champion Joe McKeehen.
As the final day began, much of the attention was on McKeehen, who held a commanding chip lead. Initially, it seemed he might dominate the final table and secure the win.
“I tried to avoid getting involved with Joe McKeehen and tried not to make mistakes,” Weng told USPoker. “I was super lucky on the final table and won my coin flips.”
That seemed to be a savvy strategy. When play reached three-handed, McKeehen lost a crucial hand to Weng when his Jacks were outdrawn by Weng’s Ace-King. McKeehen’s tough run continued. He fell victim to back-to-back unlikely river cards and ultimately finished in third place.
Other notable players Weng had to go through included Sam Laskowitz, Christopher Ng, Lanny Vaysman, Justin Saliba, and Jonathan Borenstein.
BetMGM and Borgata streamed the event with Jamie Kerstetter and Jeff Platt calling the action. For the rest of the year, Weng plans to play more live tournaments and continue his run of success.
“I am going to stick to my original plan for the year and might play a few more high rollers in the $10,000 to $25,000 range,” he said.
Here’s a look at the final table payouts:
2023 Borgata/BetMGM The Return Championship
- Bin Weng (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – $1 million
- Sundiata Devore (Brooklyn, New York) – $926,128
- Joe McKeehen (North Wales, Pennsylvania) – $440,327
- Jonathan Borenstein (Teaneck, New Jersey) – $368,324
- Justin Saliba (Las Vegas) – $304,629
- Lanny Vaysman (Rego Park, New York) – $246,472
- Christopher Ng (Monticello, New York) – $193,855
- Sam Laskowitz (Bayport, New York) – $144,006
Other highlights from the series
The Return concluded the week with all four of the series’ event guarantees smashed. Events received positive reviews with the Mystery Bounty series a big hit among players
These events are a newer phenomenon in the poker world. When players eliminate another player they receive an envelope with an unknown prize. Winners don’t know the prize until opening the envelope.
New Jersey grinder Ryan Dodd scored the top bounty of $250,000. Sam Laskowitz won the event overall for $146,609. (Editor’s note: To read the author’s own story of winning a $100,000 bounty, click here.)
Here’s a look at all the side event winners.
- $2,200 Mystery Bounty ($1 million guaranteed) – Sam Laskowitz, $146,609
- $2,100 NLHE $1,000 Bounty ($150,000 guaranteed) – Soukha Kachittavong, $70,194
- $1,100 Survivor ($100,000 guaranteed) – numerous players earned $10,000 each
With the success of the series, players are now asking “what’s next?” Borgata or BetMGM haven’t announced the next live tournament series. But more looks to be on the horizon soon, according to MGM Resorts director of poker strategy Sean McCormack.
— Sean McCormack (@ThePokerBoss) January 9, 2023
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