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Photo Recap: Aaron Mermelstein Wins the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Champion Aaron Mermelstein
On Thursday, Aaron Mermelstein won an impressive last-longer contest, outlasting 118 other entrants in the Skrill Last-Longer to win back the value of his buy-in — $3,500.

On Friday, Mermelstein won a much bigger last-longer, outlasting a field of 989 players in the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open to win $712,305, and have his name literally engraved into history on the WPT Champions Cup.

At a final table with notable East Coast pros, a past WPT champion, and two players making their third WPT Final Table appearances, it was the relatively unknown 27-year-old from Philadelphia who triumphed.

It took more than nine hours, 181 hands, 17 lead changes, and four different chipleaders, but the only one who survived it all was Aaron Mermelstein.

Here’s a look back at how it happened:


Final Table Players
At the start of the day, all six finalists had at least 20 big blinds and a legitimate shot at winning the title.

Seat 1.  Esther Taylor-Brady  -  4,020,000  (40 bb)
Seat 2.  Aaron Mermelstein  -  7,140,000  (72 bb)
Seat 3.  Randy Pfeifer  -  1,985,000  (20 bb)
Seat 4.  Shawn Cunix  -  8,880,000  (89 bb)
Seat 5.  Eugene Todd  -  5,150,000  (52 bb)
Seat 6.  Justin Liberto  -  2,500,000  (25 bb)


WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin
As always, the show begins with WPT Anchor Lynn Gilmartin, who overlooks the final table from her anchor desk.


TV Production
All eyes were on Shawn Cunix, the big story coming into this televised final table as he was trying to become the 21st player in history to win multiple WPT titles. Cunix seemed to have all the momentum on his side, never giving up the chip lead on Day 4, and nearly half the time he had twice as many chips as any other player.


Esther Taylor-Brady
Cunix wasn’t the only story at the table, of course. East Coast favorite Esther Taylor-Brady (a.k.a. “E-Tay”) was trying to win the first WPT title in her familly — her husband Matt Brady has seven WPT cashes, but never finished higher than seventh place. Taylor-Brady had already guaranteed herself sixth or higher, but she was hoping to become the first woman to win an open WPT title.


Justin Liberto_WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open_S13_Day 5_Giron_8JG2006
Justin Liberto began the final table second-to-last in chips, and he couldn’t get much going. In Hand #14, he four-bet all in with KclubQclub, but ran into the AheartKspade of Aaron Mermelstein. Liberto didn’t improve, busting in sixth place to earn $140,878.


Randy Pfeifer
In Hand #16, Randy Pfeifer (pictured) open-shoved his short-stack with AdiamondKheart, and Eugene Todd called from the big blind with Kspade8club. The best hand held up, and Pfeifer doubled up to a more comfortable 17 big blinds.


Eugene Todd
The next hand (Hand #17), Randy Pfeifer raised, Eugene Todd (pictured) reraised, and Pfeifer moved all in again. Todd snap-called with JheartJdiamond, and he had to think they’d be best hand, making him a favorite to get his chips back.

But Pfeifer turned over KspadeKdiamond.

The best hand held up again, and Pfeifer doubled up while Todd fell to the bottom of the leaderboard.


Shawn Cunix
In Hand #25, Shawn Cunix check-raised two players after a flop of 10heart8diamond5club to pick up a pot worth 1.6 million. That moved him up over 12 million in chips, and Cunix seemed like he had the same unstoppable momentum as he did the day before.


Aaron Mermelstein_WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open_S13_Day 5_Giron_8JG1973
In Hand #35, Aaron Mermelstein wins a big pot when Shawn Cunix turns a queen-high straight — Mermelstein rivers a full house. It wasn’t an all-in situation, but the 5.2 million in the pot was more than any of the other three players had in their stacks — enough to give Mermelstein the chip lead.


Esther Taylor-Brady
Esther Taylor-Brady’s day would end in Hand #37, when she shoved the big blind with 9diamond8diamond into the KdiamondQdiamond of Shawn Cunix Cunix. Taylor-Brady paired her eight on the flop, but Cunix paired his king on the turn to win the pot.

Taylor-Brady was eliminated in fifth place, earning $174,118, while Cunix bounced back into the chip lead.


WPT TV Final Table Set
Four-handed play seemed to last forever, with multiple lead changes. It would take more than four hours, 83 hands, and six all-in situations before there was another elimination.


Aaron Mermelstein_Randy Pfeifer
In Hand #68, it was Randy Pfeifer’s turn to take the chip lead in a pot against Shawn Cunix (not pictured). They played a pot worth 5.9 million on a board of 9heart6diamond5heart7diamondQdiamond — Cunix held 6-5 for two pair, but Pfeifer turned over 8-8 to wint he pot with a straight.

Pfeifer had started the day in last place, and now he was chipleader at a televised WPT Final Table with four players remaining.


Royal Flush Girl Ivey
Obviously, the best seat in the WPT Arena is at the final table. But the second-best seat might be at the Monster Bar, where fans can sit right next to the stage with the Royal Flush Girls (that’s Ivy Teves in the photo) and even try out some Monster Headphones which are patched into the audio from the players’ microphones.


Shawn Cunix
Shawn Cunix’s momentum couldn’t last forever, and it came to a screeching halt in Hand #92.

With the board showing JheartJclub10clubAdiamond on the turn, Cunix three-bet all in, and Eugene Todd called. Cunix showed QheartJspade for trip jacks with a gutshot straight draw — but it wasn’t the best hand.

Cunix was shocked to see Todd turn over KdiamondQclub for an ace-high straight.

The river card was the 9diamond, and Cunix lost the pot to drop all the way down to just 750,000 in chips — fewer than four big blinds.


Eugene Todd
When one player drops down, another player rises up. Doubling thru Shawn Cunix gave Eugene Todd the biggest pot of the tournament to that point — 12.8 million.

Each of the remaining players had been final table chipleader at least once. Could Todd hold on to the top spot?



Mike Sexton & Vince Van Patten
This is the 13th straight year that Mike Sexton (left) and Vince Van Patten have been calling the action at televised WPT Final Tables, and they saw a lot of it on this day.

Just when Shawn Cunix looked like he was down for the count after losing that huge pot to Eugene Todd, he tripled up two hands later, and then doubled up three hands after that. That took Cunix up to about 20 big blinds, and gave him some breathing room as he attempted a dramatic comeback.


Shawn Cunix_Eugene Todd
In Hand #120, Shawn Cunix and Eugene Todd were all in again, and this time Cunix had the best of it with AclubQdiamond vs. AdiamondJspade. But both players had already been at the top *and* the bottom of the leaderboard, and their friendly fist-bump before the flop seemed to indicate that they were ready to accept whatever happened.


Shawn Cunix
Unfortunately for Shawn Cunix, he watched the board come Jdiamond7diamond6diamond9diamond2spade — Eugene Todd paired his jack on the flop and turned an ace-high flush to win the pot.

It was a painful beat, but Cunix walked away with a smile, knowing he still had plenty of things to be thankful for.


Aaron Mermelstein
No lead seemed safe on this night, and with three players remaining, Aaron Mermelstein went on a hot streak over the span of 14 hands to go from the short stack (5.3 million) to the massive chipleader (21.7 million).


Randy Pfeifer
The last hand of that hot streak was Hand #153, when Randy Pfeifer three-bet all in for 17 big blinds with Qclub10spade — right into Aaron Mermelstein’s KspadeKheart.

The best hand held up, and Pfeifer was eliminated in third place to earn $253,263. Not a bad payday for the player that started the day last in chips.


Heads Up_Aaron Mermelstein_ Eugene Todd
With two players remaining, it was time for the Royal Flush Girls to put the cash and prizes on the table in the Money Presentation. With the cash in place, Aaron Mermelstein (left) and Eugene Todd (right) watch as Ivy Teves delivers the gold Monster 24K Headphones that will be awarded to the winner, along with a Hublot King Power Unico Titanium watch.

That cash on the table represents the first prize of $712,305.


Heads Up_Aaron Mermelstein_ Eugene Todd
Aaron Mermelstein began heads-up play with a nearly 3-to-1 chip lead, but it was far from over.


Heads Up_Aaron Mermelstein_ Eugene Todd
Eugene Todd studied his opponents carefully all night, and now all of his attention was on Aaron Mermelstein.

Todd battled his way back, narrowing the difference in their stacks over the course of the first 26 hands of heads-up play until they were nearly even in chips — about two big blinds apart.

Two hands later, the tournament all over.


Champion Aaron Mermelstein
In Hand #181, they saw a flop of QclubJspade7club. Aaron Mermelstein bet, Eugene Todd moved all in, and Mermelstein snap-called. Todd showed Qheart8heart for a pair of queens, but Mermelstein turned over AspadeQspade for a pair of queens with a higher kicker.

The turn was the 3diamond, the river was the Aheart, and Mermelstein won the pot — and the WPT title — with two pair, aces and queens.


Champion Aaron Mermelstein
Mermelstein could hardly believe that he had just won a World Poker Tour title as he was interviewed by Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton in front of the TV cameras. It’s the dream of young poker players everywhere.


Champion Aaron Mermelstein
For his victory, Aaron Mermelstein won $712,305, which includes his $15,400 entry into the season-ending WPT World Championship, held here at the Borgata Casino in April. Mermelstein also receives a WPT Champions Trophy, a pair of gold Monster 24K Headphones, and a Hublot King Power Unico Titanium watch.

To top it off, Mermelstein’s name will be engraved alongside all past WPT winners on the one-and-only WPT Champions Cup.

Congratulations to Aaron Mermelstein!

1st: Aaron Mermelstein - $712,305*
2nd: Eugene Todd - $419,467
3rd: Randy Pfeifer - $253,263
4th: Shawn Cunix - $212,108
5th: Esther Taylor-Brady - $174,118
6th: Justin Liberto - $140,878

* Includes $15,400 seat into WPT World Championship.


Photography by Joe Giron.

Sorted In: Featured Blog, Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
07:46 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #181: Aaron Mermelstein Wins the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Aaron Mermelstein_Randy Pfeifer

Eugene Todd limps for 500,000, Aaron Mermelstein (pictured) raises to 1,600,000, and Todd calls.

The flop comes QclubJspade7club, Mermelstein bets 2,700,000, Todd moves all in for 12,050,000, and Mermelstein snap-calls with AspadeQspade for a pair of queens. Todd turns over Qheart8heart for a pair of queens with a lower kicker.

Todd needs to improve to stay alive, but the two players are relatively close in chips, so even if Mermelstein loses, he’ll be in a big hole. This pot is for 92.5% of all the chips in play.

The turn is the 3diamond, the river is the Aheart, and Mermelstein wins the pot — and the WPT title — with two pair, aces and queens.

Eugene Todd finishes as the runner-up, earning $419,467.

Aaron Mermelstein wins the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open, earning $712,305, which includes his $15,400 entry into the season-ending WPT World Championship, held here at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. Mermelstein will also receive a WPT Champions Trophy, a pair of gold Monster 24K Headphones, and a Hublot King Power Unico Titanium watch. Mermelstein’s name will also be engraved alongside all past WPT winners on the one-and-only WPT Champions Cup.

Congratulations, Aaron Mermelstein!

1st:  Aaron Mermelstein  -  $712,305
2nd:  Eugene Todd  -  $419,467
3rd:  Randy Pfeifer  -  $253,263
4th:  Shawn Cunix  -  $212,108
5th:  Esther Taylor-Brady  -  $174,118
6th:  Justin Liberto  -  $140,878

Sorted In: Featured Blog, Aaron Mermelstein, Eugene Todd, Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:39 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #180: Aaron Mermelstein

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Aaron Mermelstein limps for 500,000, and Eugene Todd checks his option.

Both players check to the turn on a board of AspadeAdiamond6club2club, Todd checks, Mermelstein bets 500,000, and Todd folds. Mermelstein takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  15,950,000
Eugene Todd  -  13,725,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:30 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #179: Eugene Todd

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Eugene Todd limps for 500,000, and Aaron Mermelstein checks his option.

Both players check to the turn on a board of Jspade5club4heart2spade, Mermelstein checks, Todd bets 500,000, and Mermelstein folds. Todd takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  15,375,000
Eugene Todd  -  14,300,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:29 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #178: Aaron Mermelstein

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Aaron Mermelstein raises to 1,200,000, and Eugene Todd folds.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  15,950,000
Eugene Todd  -  13,725,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:27 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #177: Eugene Todd

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Eugene Todd limps for 500,000, and Aaron Mermelstein checks his option.

Both players check to the turn on a board of 9heart7heart6spade3diamond, Mermelstein bets 750,000, and Todd calls.

The river card is the 5spade, Mermelstein checks, Todd bets 900,000, and Mermelstein tanks for more than a minute before he folds. Todd takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  15,375,000
Eugene Todd  -  14,300,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:26 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #176: Aaron Mermelstein

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Aaron Mermelstein raises to 1,200,000, and Eugene Todd folds.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  16,700,000
Eugene Todd  -  12,975,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:22 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #175: Eugene Todd

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Eugene Todd limps for 500,000, and Aaron Mermelstein checks his option.

Both players check to the turn on a board of QheartJspade6clubKheart, Mermelstein checks, Todd bets 500,000, and Mermelstein folds. Todd takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  16,125,000
Eugene Todd  -  13,550,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:20 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #174: Eugene Todd

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Aaron Mermelstein limps for 500,000, and Eugene Todd checks his option.

Both players check to the turn on a board of KspadeQspade8heart2spade, Todd bets 550,000, and Mermelstein folds. Todd takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  16,700,000
Eugene Todd  -  12,975,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:18 AM, 01/31/15

Hand #173: Eugene Todd

Level 37: 250,000-500,000, 75,000 ante

Eugene Todd limps for 500,000, and Aaron Mermelstein checks his option.

The flop comes Jdiamond4heart3spade, Mermelstein checks, Todd bets 500,000, and Mermelstein folds. Todd takes the pot.

Aaron Mermelstein  -  17,275,000
Eugene Todd  -  12,400,000

Sorted In: Borgata, Borgata Poker Open, Season XIII
12:16 AM, 01/31/15
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