By Sean Chaffin
It’s never easy to win a WPT title, but as the chip leader of the WPT L.A. Poker Classic, Darren Elias has a shot to grow his already-record number of titles to five. Elias heads into HyperX Esports Arena at Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas wealth of experience, 9.1 million chips, and plenty of confidence to make it happen.
“I always say the farther I get in my career, the more I care about accolades and that kind of thing,” he said after the completion of Day 5 and making the final table. “Titles mean more to me now. It means a lot.”
Just last year, Elias took down his fourth title when he topped a field of 163 in the Bobby Baldwin Classic at Aria for $387,580. He followed that up only a few days later with a third-place finish in the Tournament of Champions for $177,060 at HyperX Esports Arena.
Elias now has a chance to extend his lead in the WPT title race. This marks his 13th WPT final table and 33rd cash on the tour. He enters the final table with $6.6 million in live tournament winnings. On Day 5, Elias built a massive chip stack and was able to press the action throughout the day.
“I was in a fortunate spot at the final table because a lot of guys were short and we were playing for a lot of money,” he said. “I was able to raise a lot of hands and put pressure on people. I ended doubling a lot of them up there at the end there, but I was still okay because I was able to win so many hands.”
Competitive Kid to Card Shark
Always a competitor, Elias excelled in the water growing up. In high school, he was captain of the swimming and water polo teams, becoming a two-sport All-American by his senior year. Card and strategy games were also always a passion and he excelled back then also. By age 14 he was the No. 1-ranked Hearts player in the world on Yahoo and a deep affinity for math certainly helped.
During those teenage years, online poker also became a hobby and continued in college, where he was also swimming and playing water polo at the University of Redlands in California. Elias began taking the game more seriously at Redlands and his first big score came during freshman year – chopping an $11 rebuy tournament online. With only $50 in his account, he scored $10,000 and realized there was serious money to be made at the tables. He continued playing online and then in bigger live tournaments.
Before playing at Commerce last week, Elias discussed getting his start in the game at his alma mater, offering some poker and life tips to students. He discussed his appearance with WPT.com and was pleased to return a favor to a professor who helped him out when he was in a tough spot.
On the WPT, Elias’s three other titles include: Fallsview Poker Classic (Season XV, $335,436); WPT Caribbean in St. Maarten (Season XIII, $127,680); and Borgata Poker Open (Season XIII, $843,744). At WPT Gardens, he put another win under his belt in a $25,000 High Roller side event for $192,500.
With so much tour domination, Elias doesn’t have a certain number of WPT titles he’d like to win during his career, but has no plans of slowing down. There are a few other goals he’d like to check off his list as well.
“I’m just going to keep playing and see what happens until I stop enjoying it,” he said. “I’d like to win a WSOP bracelet at some point and maybe win a title in one of the bigger high roller events.”
Even as a teenager, the idea of playing poker and winning a huge amount was always appealing. That idea has become a career for this New Jersey poker star.
Battling the End Boss
Earlier in his career, Elias was given the nickname “End Boss,” the moniker for that tough dude, creature, or alien at the end of a stage in a video game. Players have to get past or obliterate the end boss to move on – and that nickname certainly applies Elias at the final table in Vegas.
Mario had to battle a giant horned turtle named Bowser to save the princess. The twin martial artists in Double Dragon fight it with a gang of gangsters and thugs in their quest to save a damsel in distress.
“Some guys back from the East Coast called me that,” Elias said. “I think [2012 WSOP Main Event champion] Greg Merson started calling me that 10 years ago, so it kind of stuck.”
And now the other five players in the LAPC final table have quite an end boss to deal with – and one with a huge accomplishment in front of him.
Elias may not have horns, carry brass knuckles, or practice martial arts, but his opponents will have plenty of struggles in defeating this end boss. Doing so will certainly be much more of an accomplishment than saving the princess.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas, and his work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions.
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