Editor’s note: USPoker contributing writer Anthony Cicali competed in the $2,200 Mystery Bounty event this week at the Borgata in Atlantic City. On Tuesday, he won a $100,000 bounty. He ultimately finished 22nd for another $7,200 and shares his poker story here.
For a long time the six-figure score in poker was something I always dreamed of accomplishing. Finally this week at the BetMGM “Return” series I was able to accomplish that goal by plucking the $100,000 Mystery Bounty ticket.
Between juggling a full time job, kids, family, writing, and slot streaming, poker has always been a love and focus in my life. I still study every single day, even if it’s just for five minutes.
So at the beginning of this year I made a game plan on which tournaments I wanted to attack. The Mystery Bounty was one that I set my sights on. I have cashed in a few other mystery bounty events in the past, one down in Florida and one at Rivers in Philadelphia. Obviously, this one at the Borgata turned out to be special.
I enjoy the mystery element of the game. When big bounties are still out there, it makes for an interesting dynamic on strategy and play. Brian Keane and I host the Nerdthusiast Poker podcast and actually focused on the subject a while back.
Going into the Day 1 of the $2,200 Mystery Bounty at Borgata, I assumed there was going to be some regulars blasting off pretty wide so I held strong and picked optimal spots to attack.
I played pretty solid and got into a big hand deep where I was all in preflop with pocket Aces versus pocket Jacks and 9♠10♠. The flop came Jack-King-Queen with a brick on the turn and the river was a miracle 10 for Broadway and big pot. I bagged a solid day 1 stack, and had about 188,000 going into Day 2.
— Anthony F Cicali III / EataHoagie (@EataHoagie) January 3, 2023
Moving on to Day 2
I was focused on Day 2 and drew a tough table with New Jersey online grinder Ryan Dodd and New York’s Ricky Guan to my left. Guan made an early exit but Dodd remained.
Coincidentally Brian and I had just done a podcast a few months back where we interviewed Dodd on his recent success.
“I misclicked a hand and played it poorly against Dodd, which left me down a decent amount and short stacked again. We then got down to the final 300 players when the mystery bounties came into play.”
Prizes ranged from $500 to $250,000. Unfortunately, in mystery bounty events players start calling low-stacked players’ all-ins pretty wide – trying to scoop a big bounty.
Because of that I had to play tight. I got down really short and shoved with Ace-King. Dodd over-shoved all in with Ace-10 and a third player went all over Dodd with 8♠9♠.
Amazingly my hand held and I tripled up. Dodd was the big winner and almost doubled his stack against the 8♠9♠ over-shover.
Cashing in for six figures
There was a lot of conversation at the table. “Do you hold on to your bounty and wait or do you go with it.” In the tournament you can wait to cash in your tickets until later in the day or redeem right away. My philosophy is that the ticket is worth a lot more when the big prizes are still alive, so I told the table that I was going for it.
To quote Bill Murray, aka Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, my favorite movie: “Call it fate, call it karma, I believe everything happens for a reason.” I envisioned earlier in the day that I would pluck a monster ticket.
When I went to the envelope barrel, I told the staff I’d been saving my “one time” for this moment and was cashing it in. I dug deep and pulled the envelope, peeling it open slowly for a sweat and saw three zeros!
I knew I had scored at least $5,000. Then another zero appeared and knew this was it – $100,000! It was an amazing feeling. I walked out into the hallway to make some calls and gather myself. I couldn’t even call my girlfriend because she was in the middle of a massage appointment.
The word quickly got out and my phone blew up with congratulations. With a tournament still to play, I got back in the game, trying to relax my nerves and stay calm.
I ran deep and got placed on two tables with Anthony “ Flawlessbink” Maio to my left. I knew I had to do some work, but Maio played excellently and gave me some trouble in some tight spots. Later, I ended up cashing in 22nd place for another $7,200.
Maio and Dodd both went to the final table with Dodd pulling the top bounty of $250,000. Maio came in second overall. Next up, the Borgata BetMGM Main Event!
Thank you to everyone for the support. 2023 will be an exciting year and I’m just warming up.
* Lead image courtesy Rachel Kay Miller