By Sean Chaffin
The cards in the air for Day 1a of the WPT Borgata Poker Open and a familiar face is in the field with a home-state advantage. Four-time WPT champion Darren Elias (pictured) won the first of his tour titles here in Season XIII for $843,744. Certainly, the Borgata holds a special place in his heart. Most might think the property’s main significance in his life is that he won the first of a record four WPT titles here.
Certainly that’s a major bullet point on his poker resumé, but something even more important came about at the property.
“I actually met my wife at Borgata when I was 22 years old,” Elias says. “I was here for a tournament, met her at a bar, and the rest is history.”
The Eliases have now been married six years and have a 2-year-old daughter, so there’s been plenty success on and off the felt for the 32-year-old originally from Erie, PA.
It’s been five years since that first title and a second WPT BPO championship would be a nice addition. Along with his title here, he finished fifth in the same event in Season X for $230,610. In Season XIV he also finished 17th for $18,081 and cashed again last season.
“Winning my first major title at Borgata, my home casino, was amazing,” Elias says. “I made the final table a few years prior in the same event, and to be able to close it out in front of my friends and family felt really good.”
“The moment that really stood out to me in that tournament happened with around 20 players left. Jean ‘Prince’ Gaspard and I were both among the chip leaders and we played a huge pot where we were all in preflop. I had King-King, he had Ace-Ace. I flopped a king, took the chip lead in the tournament, and was in a good position to win it from there.”
As WPT fans know, plenty of success followed. Just a bit over a month later, Elias notched his second straight tour title at the WPT Caribbean in St. Maarten for $127,680. Third and fourth titles came at WPT Fallsview in Season XV for $335,436 and then at ARIA in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic in Season XVI for $387,580.
This year has also brought some nice finishes. In January, Elias won a $25,500 high roller event at the WPT Gardens for $192,500. He finished third in March at the WPT L.A. Poker Classic for $473,280 and took third this summer in the $10,000 No Limit 2-7 Championship at the World Series of Poker for $109,738.
Elias and his wife now live in south Jersey, making for a short trip to the Borgata. Another deep run is never out of the cards for Elias, and he’s glad to once again be playing close to home.
“Borgata has been good for poker for a long time on the East Coast,” he says. “They get a good draw from the Northeast area because it’s a Vegas-style hotel with all the amenities, luxury rooms, and solid restaurant options. I played a lot of cash games at Borgata in my early 20s and they’ve always had good action on the weekends.
“Beyond poker, players can expect quality accommodations and good food options. If I’m staying at the hotel, I typically don’t leave the building when I’m at Borgata for a tournament series. Compared to the rest of Atlantic City, Borgata is by far the best thing around. I recommend the Bobby Flay Steakhouse for dinner.”
If Elias can win his second BPO title here, a trip to the steakhouse may be back on the menu.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.