When cards went into the air at noon on Sunday for Day 2 of the 2023 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, there was an empty Seat 4 and a full chip bag sitting at Table 51, next to Christian Harder.
Almost nine hours later, the final chips from that bag went into the middle, at a table that included WPT Champions Club member Chance Kornuth. Danny Garcia was officially eliminated from the tournament in 236th place, good for a cash of $5,850, without him having played a single hand on Day 2.
There are only a handful of reasons why a player might not show up to play for a first-place prize in excess of $1.1 million after bagging up chips on Day 1. Most of them aren’t positive, and almost all of them involve an emergency scenario.
Fortunately, Sunday was one of the brightest days of Garcia’s life, as he and his wife welcomed their first child, a baby girl they named Leah Alize Garcia.
It was a whirlwind few days for Danny, which started Friday night when he entered Day 1A of the $3,500 WPT main event in Hollywood, Florida.
“I usually start late,” said Garcia. “I went to dinner with some friends, signed up after dinner break, played for a few hours and ran 50,000 up to 270,000.”
It might stand to reason that someone with a baby on the way in short order might shy away from a commitment that could tie them up for four days. But Garcia had the all-clear to play, because the baby’s due date wasn’t until mid-May. That baby, however, had other plans.
“My wife wasn’t due for three weeks, until May 19,” Garcia said. “But she started getting really strong contractions that night. And then, by the time it was Sunday morning when I was going to leave for the tournament for Day 2, she went from 10 minutes between contractions to three minutes between contractions.”
Any thought of going to Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood that morning was immediately out the door, no matter the stakes.
“I told myself there’s no way I can leave her by herself,” said Garcia. “We started packing bags, and it took us a while to get to the hospital because we wanted to pack up baby things. Two hours later, the baby was born. When the baby wants to come, it’s going to come. She was born great, healthy, 6 pounds, 8 ounces. 20 1/2 inches.”
While there were some rumors floating around the poker room about Garcia’s absence, no one was able to confirm Garcia’s whereabouts deep into the day. The only piece of evidence, until he tweeted the photo of him with his daughter, was a Twitter reply Garcia sent to the official Seminole Hard Rock Twitter account at 10:30 Sunday morning.
Garcia was happily attending to his newborn daughter in the hospital all day Sunday, but that didn’t mean he was fully unplugged from the events going on in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown as the night went on.
“One of my really good buddies, Stephen Sullo – we call him Steve – was like chip leader by the nighttime, so I was able to enjoy it through him.”
Sullo bagged a top-15 stack heading into Day 3, and he was still in the mix with just 80 players left on Day 3.
Garcia’s strongest priorities, of course, remained with his wife and newborn daughter. It was a chaotic weekend that he’ll never forget, with the happiest ending he could’ve imagined.
“It was just an incredible experience. I’m just grateful that she’s fully healthy, even though she was born three weeks early. Perfect weight, perfect height, perfect brain. Just perfect.”