The Borgata and World Poker Tour have been attached at the hip since the WPT’s inception and in 2017, a new high was set for the Winter Poker Open. A total of 1,312 entrants populated the Season XV field and Weinman beat them all to win a reported $892,433.
The stakes are higher in 2018 with fewer events on the WPT calendar, making the $3 million guaranteed Winter Poker Open paramount for players to capitalize on. This year’s WPO follows up on the World Poker Tour’s trip to Berlin and Florida.
Four-figure field expected
The Lucky Hearts Poker Open precedes Borgata on the “East Coast Swing” and there should be a healthy amount of players traveling up the coast. Less than 10 days separate the two events and the balance of participants from both fields should be high. The WPO starts on Sunday, January 28 and wraps up with a live-streamed final table on February 2.
Weinman earned his formal breakout on the national stage last January to follow in the footsteps of the two winners prior to him. Aaron Mermelstein won in Season XIII and announced himself in a field of 989. The win would be the first for Mermelstein on the World Poker Tour as he won his second title in Season XIV at WPT Maryland.
Chris Leong followed up that feat the next year by overcoming 1,171 players to win $816,246. Leong’s final table included two formidable opponents in 2015 WSOP Main Event winner Joe McKeehen and former WPT World Champion Yevgeniy Timoshenko.
The two trends are on the line starting on January 23. Should the field size hit 1,314 entries, it will break the record set in 2011 for largest WPT at Borgata. In Season X, Bobby Oboodi won his only WPT title, against a field of 1,313.
The odds of the number being broken are favorable. Unlimited re-entry, two starting flights, and registration available until midway through Day 2 all add up to another large field expected. Maneuvering in and out of Atlantic City, New Jersey is far from easy and should the right type of winter storm hit, the only option available might be to fire again the multi-million dollar prize pool.
Will an unknown emerge once again?
There are five WPT events to be played between now and the end of February. The Winter Poker Open falls dead in the middle of that timeline. The main storylines so far in Season XVI have centered around current Player of the Year leader Art Papazyan and the fellow herd of relative unknowns who have won WPT titles this season.
When the WPT visited Borgata in September, Guo Liang Chen and his $40,000 in career earnings won the Borgata Poker Open title in a field of 1,132.
Outside of WPT Five Diamond champion Ryan Tosoc, no domestic WPT winner from Season XVI had over $60,000 in live earnings when the season started. Papazyan is the highest among that crew with $53,337 before he won his first title.
The top pros have had their chances but all have come up short at the final table. Darren Elias and Sam Panzica were both denied at bestbet Jacksonville by amateur Paul Petraglia. Phil Hellmuth fell in heads-up play to Papazyan at Legends of Poker. Cliff Josephy placed fifth in the Borgata Poker Open. David Peters missed at WPT Montreal.
If this trend were to continue in 2018, Borgata is the place for it. Mermelstein and Leong had six-figures in winnings at the time of their respective wins but were far from household names.
A tough field is expected at Borgata and based on previous years, the combination of players at the final table is anyone’s guess.