Darren Elias Becomes First Person to Win Four WPT Titles
Before Wednesday, there was a club that was composed of just five members: Darren Elias, Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Chino Rheem, and Anthony Zinno. Those five men are the only people in history to have won three World Poker Tour open titles. And now, with his victory in the $10,000 WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, Darren Elias has formed a club of one, becoming the first poker player to earn four World Poker Tour titles.
Elias nabbed his first two WPT crowns in late 2014. In September 2014, he won the WPT Borgata Open and then followed that up with a win at WPT Caribbean in November, becoming just the second person to win consecutive WPT titles. Marvin Rettenmaier was the first a couple years earlier, but his accomplishment was slightly different, as he won the WPT World Championship to end one season and then WPT Cyprus to start the other. Elias won his in the same season.
The season he won his back-to-back, Season XIII, Elias cashed in WPT Main Events eight times, a WPT record. The crazy thing was, he didn’t even win the WPT Player of the Year title. That honor went to Anthony Zinno, who also won back-to-back WPT Main Events.
Darren Elias’s third World Poker Tour triumph was just over a year ago, when he won the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic in February 2017.
And so we come to the Bobby Baldwin Classic. Elias was in a dominant position heading into the six-handed final table on Wednesday. His 2.127 million chips amounted to nearly half of the total chips in play. Dietrich Fast, in second place, had just 801,000.
Jonathan Little was short stack going into the final table and as these things go, he was the first to be eliminated. He was in great position to double-up, but got unlucky when his A-J fell to Sam Panzica’s A-4. Little was gunning for a bit of history himself, as had he been able to make a run and win the tournament, he would have joined the three WPT title club.
Elias continued to cruise, increasing his stack to 2.7 million when he eliminated Panzica in fifth place 42 hands into the final table. By the next break, Kitty Kuo – trying to become just the second woman to win an open WPT title – was the only other player to hit the million chip mark. Shortly thereafter, she knocked out Dietrich Fast in fourth place to get within shouting distance of Elias (1.662 million chips to Elias’ 2.422 million).
At hand 70, the tournament reached its heads-up stage as Elias eliminated 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event champ Joe McKeehen. That also ended McKeehen’s shot at being the World Poker Tour Player of the Year, an award that went to Art Papazyan.
Going into heads-up play, Elias had nearly three times the chips of Kuo, 3.562 million to 1.300 million.
Despite that sizable lead, Elias had a trouble shaking his opponent. While she wasn’t able to make much headway most of the time, she also wouldn’t back down.
“She played tough the whole time,” Elias told WPT.com afterward. “She was definitely tricky, a tough player to play against. She was short most of the time. With the strategy she was playing, if I didn’t get good cards it was going to take a while. We were both limping. She was limping a ton. I didn’t really want to press the action if I didn’t have to. The blinds kept going up and she just wouldn’t die. She played tough.”
Kuo did threaten once, more than 80 hands into heads-up, when she doubled-up with Kings versus A-K. That narrowed the gap to fewer than 500,000 chips, but Elias didn’t rattle and within a few hands, had widened his lead once again.
“I tried to bluff him, but it didn’t work because my chips weren’t enough to push him to fold a hand,” Kuo said. “If I have had a bigger chip stack, I’d have had a better chance.”
Elias finally closed it out on the 174th hand of the final table after more than 100 hands of one-on-one competition. Kuo shoved pre-flop for 600,000 chips with A-5 and Elias looked her up with A-T. She picked up a gutshot straight draw on the turn, but was unable to overcome the odds as the river bricked.
For this victory, Darren Elias won almost $400,000, but we’re guessing he is more thrilled about his place in poker history.
“It was cool to do something no one has ever done,” Elias said. “I think I do well against the American pros and American recreational players who play in these more so than the European players. These WPTs are mostly in America with mostly American players, so I think that’s a lot of the reason for my success.”
World Poker Tour Bobby Baldwin Classic – Final Table Results
1. Darren Elias – $387,580
2. Kitty Kuo – $248,380
3. Joe McKeehen – $178,610
4. Dietrich Fast – $130,895
5. Sam Panzica – $97,795
6. Jonathan Little – $74,520