Players file in to get ready to play in the WPT Borgata Poker Open.
The Event Center at Borgata was filled with players as the number of entries on Day 1B (727) more than doubled those on Day 1A (315). The 1,042 players in this event set a record for the largest field in WPT history.
The Royal Flush Girls carried round cards through the field to announce the start of each level. Royal Flush Girl Michelle Banzer walks the aisles at the beginning of Level 1.
The WPT Borgata Poker Open began with 311 players in the Day 1A field. Last year's winner Olivier Busquet (foreground, right) returned to defend his title, though at the start of play, cameras were focused on Amazing Race contestant Tiffany Michelle (background, center).
Jeremy Brown (left) and Steve Dannenmann were seated side-by-side at the start of play on Day 1B. Both players gained fame through notable runner-up finishes -- Dannenmann finished second to Joe Hachem in the 2005 WSOP Main Event, while Brown finished second to Olivier Busquet in last year's WPT Borgata Poker Open.
New Jersey local Mike Sica, known by everyone as "Little Man," had a strong showing on Day 1B, finishing among the chipleaders with 112,175.
During one of the breaks, WPT Anchor Kimberly Lansing interviewed actor James Woods, who discussed his upcoming directorial debut and the new changes for this season of the World Poker Tour. James Woods appeared to have fun in the tournament, but unfortunately wasn't able to survive Day 1. You can watch the entire video by clicking here.
The luck of the random table draws had brothers Justin and Adam Levy seated side by side. But family loyalties get tested when you wake up with pocket kings or pocket aces -- Adam got the kings, and Justin got the aces. Justin had the better of it, until the K hit the river to give the Elder Roothlus a set to win the pot and cripple his brother. Justin was eliminated about 90 minutes later, while Adam survived the day with 9,625.
One of the more interesting lineups in the field was (from left to right) "Hollywood" Dave Stann, Nancy Todd Tyner, and Steve Buckner. Three very different players, with very different personalities. During one hand between Stann and Buckner, Buckner moved all in and was trying to give the impression he was weak. Stann folded, and Buckner said, "I was stronger than garlic in a milkshake."
Speaking of Steve Buckner, he caused quite a commotion on Day 2 when his post hand celebration led to a confrontation between Jeremy Schwartz and a railbird. Schwartz took exception to a comment made by the woman on the rail and he lept out of his seat in anger. The argument was quickly put to rest by the Borgata tournament staff and Schwartz later apologized to the woman. You can read the original write-up of the situation here.
If you weren't seated at the same table, you might not have noticed the animosity between Matt Stout (left) and Allen Bari. But if you followed them on Twitter, it was a little more obvious. Stout started the day by tweeting, "Left my headphones in the car and Al Bari is sitting on my right. Related story: finally told him what I (and most players) think of him =)" The tension between the players escalated late in the day when Stout was all in with K-Q against Bari's A-K -- and Stout caught a queen to double up. More words were exchanged, resulting in a penalty for Stout and this summary from Bari on Twitter: "Stout makes a piss awful shove, I call, he 3 outs for 55k, I comment, he insults, he is penalized …" Stout eventually busted late in the day, while Bari survived to Day 3 with a nearly average stack of 170,600 (42 bb).
Royal Flush Girl Melanie Iglesias checks in on the progress of her friend Irv Gotti shortly before the field reached the money. Gotti has played in about a dozen major tournaments in recent years, but this marked his first successful cash. While the $9,339 he earned for 56th place doesn't mean much to the successful music producer, Gotti was extremely proud to get his first in-the-money finish.
Even when he's out of focus, Mike Sexton is still recognizable as the Poker Hall of Famer that he is. When Sexton originally signed on to be a commentator for WPT final tables, his contract stipulated that he couldn't play in any events (except for the WPT Celebrity Invitational). In the last few years, that restriction has been removed, and Sexton plays a few events each year. This marks his first cash in a WPT event, and it came on the day before his birthday.
While the rest of the field goes on their break, Jeff Papola awaits the decision of his opponent.
Royal Flush Girls Katrina, Michelle, and Melanie sang "Happy Birthday" to Mike Sexton before giving him a card on his birthday. It was an important day for Sexton, who was trying to reach his first televised WPT final table after eight-plus years behind the commentator's desk.
The biggest hand in the early part of the day was between defending champion Olivier Busquet (right) and John D'Agostino, who has made two WPT Borgata final tables himself. D'Agostino had check-raised all in with the board showing K927, and Busquet tanks for several minutes, even apologizing to the table and saying, "This is not a Hollywood." Olivier Busquet eventually folded AK (top pair, top kicker). A few players asked D'Agostino to show one card, but he smiles and says he can't. Busquet asked D'Agostino, "Why are you so good?"
Mike Sexton (right) was eliminated by John D'Agostino in 20th place. Sexton was all in preflop from the big blind with A5 against D'Agostino's J10, and the board came Q83J6 to give D'Agostino a pair of jacks.
Mike Sexton received a phone call from his WPT co-host Vince Van Patten during his post-game interview. Van Patten was hoping that he'd have to work this episode alone, but congratulated Sexton on his deep finish. They'll both have to watch this final table from their usual spot at the commentator's desk.
In the final hand of the day (Hand #89), Jeff Papola (foreground, left) moved all in with A8 and was up against the 77 of Ofir Mor (standing, right). The board came KQ9K2, and the pocket sevens held up. Jeff Papola was eliminated on the TV bubble in seventh place as Mor claimed the chip lead heading into the televised WPT final table.
Dwyte Pilgrim, who has been called the "Minor League Player of the Year" for his success in less prestigious events, explodes with emotion after reaching his first high-profile final table. Pilgrim repeatedly yelled, "We're gonna shock the world! We're gonna shock the world!"
The Royal Flush Girls (from left to right Katrina, Melanie, Michelle, Melyssa) present the money while waiting for the final table to begin.
Ben Kleir (right) entered his first WPT final table second in chips but a flush-over-flush situation had him on the shortstack and he was soon eliminated in 6th place, earning $148,427.
Daniel Makowsky was the shortstack heading into the final table and while he doubled up a couple of times he couldn't get any momemtum going and he was eventually eliminated in 5th place, earning $183,449.
Brandon Novena (right) went to battle with Dwyte Pilgrim (left) on several occasions during the final table. In one notable hand, Pilgrim turned two-pair to beat Novena out of a 4 million chip pot. Novena couldn't escape the ire of Pilgrim and he eventually lost the battle as he was eliminated by his nemisis in 4th place, earning $223,475.
Dwyte Pilgrim celebrates during a hand that Mike Sexton called "his favorite moment in WPT history". Pilgrim had flopped top two-pair with J10 against Ofir Mor's K8, and before the dealer could put the turn and river out, Pilgrim ran to his rail and the celebration began. Once things calmed down, Pilgrim headed back to the table only to see the turn and river come runner-runner, 8 then K, to give Mor the pot.
Ofir Mor eventually finished in 3rd place, earning $266,835.
Dwyte Pilgrim had his eye on the prize heading into heads-up play against Kia Mohajeri.
Kia Mohajeri put up a good fight against Dwyte Pilgrim but this was Pilgrim's night and he would not be denied. Mohajeri finished in an impressive 2nd place, besting all but 1 in a field of 1,044 players. He earned $440,945 for his efforts.
Overcome with emotion, Dwyte Pilgrim falls to floor after being declared the winner of the WPT Borgata Poker Open.
Tears of joy fill Dwyte Pilgrim's eyes as all of his hard work over the years finally leads to his first major title.
Dwyte Pilgrim shocks the world.
Mike Sexton, Vince Van Patten, and the Royal Flush Girls, toast Dwyte Pilgrim on his WPT Borgata Poker Open win.
When Jeff Papola busted out in 7th place, setting the televised final table, no one was more excited than Dwyte Pilgrim. He cheered, he hugged, he fist-pumped, and he yelled out what has come to be his unofficial motto of this tournament:
“We’re gonna shock the world.”
Pilgrim came. Pilgrim saw. Pilgrim conquered something many critics suggested was impossible for a player of his caliber—a major event. The unofficial spokesman of “minor league” grinders, Pilgrim had several small titles and five-figure cashes, but he was still missing that big score that established him as a big name pro.
Now Pilgrim has that big score in the largest field in WPT history. Pilgrim was the premiere feature at one of the most entertaining and captivating WPT final tables in recent memory thanks to his table talk, memorable one-liners, and unconventional poker style.
When the final table began, the final six were closely packed together and it took only two hands for Pilgrim to begin to pull away from the pack. While Pilgrim was chipping up, the rest of the field could merely tread water. Ben Klier came into the day second in chips, but was the first player to exit after first running into a flush over flush situation to double up Kia Mohajeri, then getting it all-in holding pocket jacks to Mohajeri’s AQ. A dramatic ace on the river busted Klier in sixth place and helped propel Mohajeri through the final table.
Daniel Makowsky could never quite overcome his short stack at the final and, while he was able to double up through Pilgrim once, he couldn’t find another double up and exited in 5th place. Brandon Novena followed suit in 4th place a short while later. Novena seemed to be tilted by some of Pilgrim’s theatrics, which seemed to be squarely aimed at Novena. After losing a chunk of his stack over the course of several altercations without a showdown, Novena got the last of his stack in holding pocket sixes to Pilgrim’s KQ, Pilgrim made two pair and Novena hit the rail.
Play continued three-handed for a while as Ofir Mor rallied from short stack to chip leader. Along the way, the action produced what WPT host Mike Sexton called, “his favorite moment in WPT history.” After calling Mor’s all-in shove, Pilgrim flopped two pair and ran to his screaming, wild rail to celebrate. His premature celebration was seemingly punished by the fates when Mor went runner-runner to make a better two pair and double up. Even Pilgrim was willing to admit he, “deserved that one a little bit.”
From there, Mor went from short stack to chip leader, but the rising blinds meant every pot was crucial, so after dropping some hands to Pilgrim, Mor found himself all-in again, this time against Mohajeri. Mor busted in third place after Mohajeri’s 78 improved to two pair and it was on to heads-up play.
The final two began in a dead heat for the chip lead, but Pilgrim pulled away from his opponent early and put the whole tournament away thanks to a cooler of a situation in which Pilgrim and Mohajeri got it all-in on a board of KT97 with Pilgrim holding QJ for a flopped straight while Mohajeri was trailing with K9 for two pair.
With the 5 on the river, Pilgrim was guaranteed the pot and the victory and validation he so desperately longed for. He walked to the edge of the stage, collapsed to his knees, and then fell face down on the floor, openly sobbing with joy.
The final table was an example of Pilgrim’s self-proclaimed “Brazilian Gracie Jiu Jitsu” poker on display. Like a prize fighter, Pilgrim bobbed, weaved, and fought his way to victory, shocking the world in the process.
Mohajeri raises to 1,200,000, and Pilgrim calls. The flop comes K109, Pilgrim checks, Mohajeri bets 2,000,000, and Pilgrim calls. The turn card is the 7, Pilgrim bets 2,000,000, Mohajeri moves all in, and Pilgrim instantly calls.
Mohajeri shows K9 for two pair, kings and nines. But Pilgrim shows QJ for a king-high straight. Mohajeri needs to catch a full house in order to survive.
Pilgrim shouts, "Eight percent away from a title!" And then a few moments later, "Can I use my one time? Can I use my one time?"
The turn card is the 7, and Pilgrim says, "I don't care what happens. I showed these guys how to play from beginning to end."
The river card is -- the 5!
Pilgrim runs off the stage, drops to his knees near Mike Sexton and Vince Van Patten, and then falls to the floor face down -- we think he is crying with joy.
After about two minutes, Pilgrim slowly stands up and wipes tears from his eyes as the audience gives him a standing ovation. Kia Mohajeri is smiling and clapping near the final table as Pilgrim is speechless with tears of joy covering his face.
The runner-up is Kia Mohajeri, who earns $440,945 for second place.
Dwyte Pilgrim wins the WPT Borgata Poker Open, earning $733,802, a WPT bracelet, and his prize includes entry into the season-ending WPT World Championship at Bellagio in May, 2011. Congratulations, Dwyte!
1st: Dwyte Pilgrim - $733,802
2nd: Kia Mohajeri - $440,945
3rd: Ofir Mor - $266,835
4th: Brandon Novena - $223,475
5th: Daniel Makowsky - $183,449
6th: Ben Klier - $148,427
There is a steady rumbling of chatter coming out of Dwyte Pilgrim's cheering section as they discuss their friend's chances. One railbird muses, "I think [the other guy] could get aces and Dwyte would still win."
Hand #171: Dwyte Pilgrim Uses Gracie Jujitsu To Take the Chip Lead
Level 39: 200,000-400,000, 50,000 ante
Mohajeri limps for 400,000, and Pilgrim checks. Both players check to the turn on a board of Q658, Pilgrim bets 400,000, Mohajeri quickly raises to 1,400,000, and Pilgrim calls.
The river card is the K, Pilgrim bets 400,000, Mohajeri quickly raises to 2,900,000, and Pilgrim thinks for a moment before he says, "I'll pay you off," and he calls.
Mohajeri shows A7 for ace high, and Pilgrim shows K7 to win the pot with a pair of kings. Pilgrim says, "Gracie Jujitsu!" Then he asks Mohajeri, "Think I don't know where I'm at? Think I don't understand every facet of this game?"
Kia Mohajeri - 11,375,000
Dwyte Pilgrim - 19,975,000
After Ofir Mor's elimination in third place, Dwyte Pilgrim continued to spit out verbal gems.
The official WPT photographer takes a few photos of Pilgrim, and asks him to look strong in the photo. Pilgrim says, "Save some for after I win!"
Pilgrim celebrates a bit more with his friends on the rail, and then he says, "Somebody tell Brikis -- this is the real heads-up championship here at hte Borgata! Brikis!"
No, Pilgrim isn't referring to the heads-up event currently taking place at the WSOP Europe in London (the final match is tied 1-1 and will resume tomorrow.) Pilgrim is referring to the heads-up championship held a week ago here at the Borgata. Pilgrim also gives a shoutout to his friend Josh Brikis, who won a $1,500 preliminary event here at Borgata last week. Pilgrim has already guaranteed himself a higher payday than Brikis won a week ago.
Hand #148: Ofir Mor Eliminated in 3rd Place ($266,835)
Level 39: 200,000-400,000, 50,000 ante
Kia Mohajeri raises from the small blind to 2,000,000, Mor moves all in, and Mohajeri quickly calls with 87. Mor shows A4, and he needs it to hold in order to stay alive.
Dwyte Pilgrim stands up and says, "A quarter-million-dollar eight, or a two-hundred-thousand-dollar seven." Mor asks Pilgrim who he's rooting for to win the hand. Pilgrim says, "Two hundred thousand. I don't know who that is, I just want two hundred thousand dollars."
The board comes K7385, and Kia Mohajeri pairs his seven on the flop and his eight on the turn to win the pot with two pair. Ofir Mor is eliminated in third place, earning $266,835.
The audience cheers louder than it has all night. However, most of the cheers aren't for Kia Mohajeri winning the hand or Ofir Mor's third-place finish -- they are cheering the fact that their friend Dwyte Pilgrim just moved up in the money.
Seat 1. Kia Mohajeri - 18,875,000
Seat 3. Ofir Mor - Out in 3rd Place ($266,835)
Seat 5. Dwyte Pilgrim - 12,550,000