THE BLUEPRINT: How Darren Elias Won the WPT Borgata Poker Open

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Darren Elias was already a very successful, well-respected poker player before he headed to the WPT Borgata Poker Open – where he topped a field of 1,226 players and took home a first place prize of $834,744.

It was Elias’ biggest career cash and his fourth live tournament title. The win brought his career live tournament earnings to over $2.5 million. The Cherry Hill, NJ native sat down with BLUFF to go through his thought process from a few hands at the final table.

Elias Chops With Kalas

On just the third hand of the final table, Elias got involved with overwhelming chip leader Kane Kalas. With blinds of 80,000/160,000 and a 20,000 ante, Action folded to Kalas on the button, who raised to 380,000. Elias defended his big blind and they saw a flop of KT9. Elias checked and Kalas bet 580,000. Elias check-called and the turn was the Q.

Elias checked again and Kalas bet 1.085 million. Elias check-called once more and the river was the 8. Elias check-called for a third time after Kalas fired a third shell of 2.350 million. Kalas tabled KJ, giving him a straight and Elias chopped the pot with his J8.

Darren Elias: “I thought J-8 suited was not quite the bottom of my range. I thought I would defend slightly worse hands like J-7 suited and J-T and J-9 off suit. I guess I’m tightening my range though because of ICM considerations. I don’t want to play a big pot out of position against him with all of the other short stacks at the table, but at the same time I’m not going to let him just run over my blind and fold everything.”

“I like check-calling in those spots because to me it’s the most realistic in his eyes. Most of my value range I’m going to check-call with. There is some merit if I lead and he doesn’t have a piece of it, he’s going to fold that flop, but you bloat the pot and if I miss, I can’t really check-call the turn in that spot and I’m not really interested in check-raising there at all just because of the ICM stuff. I thought check-calling was OK and a good percentage of the time the turn would go check/check and then I could win the pot with a river bet.”

“I think if I were to check-raise that turn, I have the straight almost 100% of the time and I do want to give him some rope if he is bluffing. The one thing that is interesting on the turn is that I did turn a flush draw, so I thought about just shooting it in on the turn and taking the 20% freeroll, but I guess there is that outside chance that he has ace-jack and I’m out in sixth place and miss out on the pay jumps.”

“I would say I think he knows I have a straight a good percentage of the time. When I check-call the turn, I have a minimum of two-pair and I most likely have the straight. I don’t think we were too surprised to chop that pot. When he bet that big on the river, I thought we were chopping the pot as I made the call.”

Serratos Doubles Through Elias

After both Ray Qartomy and Blake Bohn were eliminated by Kalas in sixth and fifth place, respectively, the final table was four-handed with blinds of 100,000/200,000 with a 25,000 ante. Action folded to Elias on the button, who raised to 400,000 before Jose Serratos moved all in from the small blind for 1.425 million. Aaron Overton folded his big blind and Elias called.

Elias tabled A9 and was in bad shape against Serratos’ AT. The board ran out 987JQ and Serratos doubled up with a straight.

Elias: “Ace-nine suited is strong enough to try to induce a shove and I had heard on the live stream that Jose had already put in ace-eight in the same spot, so I think they are going to put in a few worse aces and there’s a few other hands like king-jack or king-ten that I think they would be more likely to re-shove all in that they wouldn’t call off with, so I wanted to give them the opportunity to get it in. Because whatever happens, I’m willing to get it in, so I’d like to get it in against some worse hands too as opposed to shove and just pick up some fold equity.”

“I would just rip hands like ace-deuce off suit and ace-five off suit and a few broadway hands. But I think the ace-nine suited is just much stronger in my eyes. I’d say I have a raise-fold range in that spot. Earlier in that final table I raise-folded 7-2 off in a pretty similar spot. Jose shoved and it was for like eight or nine blinds and I folded. It’s not something I like to do a lot, but I do have a raise-fold range.” 

Darren Elias Defeats Kane Kalas Heads-Up For the Title

Over the next few levels, Overton was eliminated in fourth place and Serratos earned a third place finish to leave Kalas and Elias heads-up for all the marbles with Kalas holding a slight chip lead. With very few showdowns and big pots taking place, Elias was able to win the majority of pots and end up taking a slight chip lead of his own as the blinds increased to 250,000/500,000 with a 75,000 ante.

Kalas raised to 1.125 million on the button and Elias called from the big blind. The flop was T74 and Elias check-called 1.525 million from Kalas. The turn was the K and Kalas fired 3.225 million after Elias checked again. Elias check-raised all in and Kalas snap-called off the rest of his 13.250 million chip stack.

Kalas tabled AK, but needed to improve against Elias’ K4. The river was the 3s and Elias earned the victory.

Elias: “It was a lot of single raised pots [up to this point] and there wasn’t a lot of three-betting light. I’m not sure if he did at all the whole match and I think I did once. So it was a lot of raise and take it or  just fold to c-bets. He was trying to use bigger sizing against me than your average tournament player on the flop and turn.”

“To me, that turn bet made it look like he was really willing to go with his hand and I was really concerned that if I called we might go check-check on the river with a lot of hands that he would call off on the turn with. Against a player that I think would try and bluff me a lot, I would check-call the turn, but I didn’t think he was bluffing and I wanted to avoid the river going check-check.” 

“I think Kane commits himself on the turn when he bets so much, but I was a little surprised to see him snap-call on the turn. I thought he would have thought about it a little longer and most of the time when I’m check-raising that turn, I have better than one pair. The way the match was going, I wasn’t too surprised with it and I wouldn’t say it was a big mistake.” 

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