There has been a buzz throughout the room this week at bestbet Jacksonville as the World Poker Tour made its return with a $5,000 buy-in Championship Event. There were 365 entries to the tournament and when a champion is crowned on Tuesday, that player will receive $351,650, a prize that includes a $10,400 seat to December’s $40 million guaranteed WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas.
But they won’t be the only winner this week to punch their ticket to the WPT World Championship. On Sunday, bestbet Jacksonville held a $580 satellite (with $100 rebuys), where the top prize was a $13,000 package to Las Vegas – a $10,400 seat, and $2,600 for travel, hotel, and incidentals.
When registration closed, there was enough in the prize pool for five WPT World Championship packages. It was the second such satellite run by bestbet Jacksonville, and after the first awarded four identical packages, it meant that an extra nine players punched their ticket to the Season 21-ending event.
Sunday’s winners all live in Florida: Qui Truong Nguyen, Robert Powers, Dave Hughes, Mark Marcellus, and Dion Jagroo.
Marcellus, 52, is a local business owner from Jacksonville who continued to practice “honest poker” throughout the final table, showing down strong hands and controlling a comfortable amount of chips throughout the proceedings.
“There were a lot of really good players, and I just had to be careful and pick my spots,” said Marcellus.
Marcellus’ career-best result came in January of this year, at bestbet Jacksonville, as he won a $400 buy-in event for $7,970. Marcellus has also shown an ability to navigate some big fields in Las Vegas, with cashes in the 2023 WSOP Seniors Championship and the 2022 WSOP Colossus.
While he has won satellites into $10,000 events before, Marcellus is especially looking forward to an opportunity to head to Vegas to take part in what’s sure to be a historic event.
“I just think it’s great for poker that [WPT & bestbet Jacksonville] have these satellites that just allow an everyday average Joe to be able to get into tournaments with all the big names that are coming [to this tournament]. How can you go wrong?”
One of the people he’ll be joined by in Las Vegas is Hughes, who hails from Deltona, Florida, which falls in between Jacksonville and Orlando. Hughes recorded a career-best $26,966 cash for winning a $200 buy-in Daytona Beach GAPT Summer Big Stack event back in June of this year.
He’s excited to have his ticket to the WPT World Championship, but with such a large turnout and an expectation of talent-laden competition, Hughes feels ready for what’s to come.
“That’s gonna be a tough field,” said Hughes. “I have really no expectations of even cashing in that tournament. You’ve got to be realistic. There’s going to be a who’s who of players there. But it’s like my granddad used to say – it doesn’t matter how shitty your hole cards are, you’re only a flop away from quads.
“I’ll go out there and have a little fun and see what happens. At the very least they’ve got an awesome seafood buffet that I’m looking forward to visiting.”
For Jagroo, a 39-year-old poker pro from Orlando, this satellite was a second chance at a good trip after the WPT bestbet Scramble didn’t go how he hoped.
“I came here for Day 2 of the Main, and didn’t get anything going,” said Jagroo. “I didn’t even know about this satellite, but when I busted, it had just started, so I hopped in, And now, here we are – it was a pretty smooth ride to the seat.”
Jagroo has the most poker results to his credit of the five players who qualified on Sunday, with just shy of $900,000 in career earnings. Among those results are a pair of six-figure cashes – $251,982 for a win in Round Rock, Texas, and a $102,222 win in the Moneymaker Poker Tour Daytona Beach Main Event back in August.
He already had the WPT World Championship circled on his calendar, but now Jagroo’s locked into playing at a fraction of the cost of the buy-in.
“I was definitely planning on going out, and now I feel like I’m freerolling, at least for the first buy-in,” said Jagroo. “I’m really looking forward to it. I love the WPT as a brand – everything’s really well-run, especially at the Wynn.”
Finally, there’s Powers, a 59-year-old Jacksonville native. After seeing a big stack early on in the WPT bestbet Scramble evaporate, he, too, found himself seeking a second chance in this qualifier tournament.
When the satellite was seven-handed, Powers lost some big pots and found himself on the precipice of falling out just two spots shy of a seat to the WPT World Championship. But then he picked up , moved all in and got four callers, and flopped three hearts to more than quintuple up. From there, it was smooth sailing.
Robert won’t be the only member of the Powers family in the WPT World Championship field come December.
“My brother David Powers will be playing, so I’ll be going up against him and our friend Chino Rheem,” Robert said. “And going against some of the great names in poker too, which will be the thrill of a lifetime. I’m super pumped.”