When online poker went live in Michigan in 2021, Andrew Szabelan took advantage of the fresh new market. A union plumber by trade, the recreational player found some success grinding long weekends on BetMGM after working all week.
That hard work paid off, securing enough winnings to take his wife on a long vacation. Szabelan, from Clinton Township, continued excelling at the poker tables, earning two World Series of Poker Circuit rings and a trip to the BetMGM Aria Poker Championship in Las Vegas.
However, Szabelan’s success was interrupted when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur. His condition later required open heart surgery to repair atrial fibrillation.
The health crisis occurred just weeks before the BetMGM Championship. Unable to travel and participate due to his medical condition, BetMGM recently stepped up to reward to make up for his loss. The site credited Szabelan’s account with the $3,500 tournament buy-in for “The Return” poker series this week at the Borgata.
“Andrew is so passionate about poker,” BetMGM poker marketing manager Will O’Connor said. “After getting to know him over the last few months, his story is one to be celebrated. His dedication to improve his game and his desire to compete at a high-stakes level is exactly what makes Michigan such an exciting online poker market.
“While Andrew may not have had an opportunity to compete this summer in Las Vegas, we’re happy to see him qualify for another MGM Championship-level event through BetMGM Poker.”
‘Return’ to the tables
During his recovery, Szabelan continued grinding up his poker bankroll. He snagged two WSOP Online Circuit rings and then won a satellite into the $5,300 Main Event at Borgata.
The achievement makes him the only Michigan player to have qualified for both the Aria BetMGM Championship and Borgata’s “The Return.” Hew now has a chance at some major live poker scores.
“I’ve always been an online grinder with modest success,” Szabelan says. “Now I have a chance and a dream to win big thanks to BetMGM and Borgata.”
What to expect at the Borgata
“The Return: A Borgata Championship Event” runs in Atlantic City from Jan. 4-8. The Main Event features a $1 million guarantee with the entire series promising more than $3 million up for grabs. The remaining events on the schedule include:
- $5,300 NLH Main Event (Event 3, Jan. 4-8) – $1 M guaranteed first place
- $2,100 NLH 1k Bounty (Event 4, Jan. 6-7) – $150,000 guaranteed
- $1,100 NLH Survivor (Event 5, Jan. 7-8) – $100,000 guaranteed