By Sean Chaffin
It looked like nothing could slow down the Darren Elias show during the WPT’s season-ending festival. Elias brought a nice chip lead into the WPT Tournament of Champions final table after notching his fourth WPT title in the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic on Wednesday, and all of the momentum was certainly with him. Adding a WPT Tournament of Champions title seemed very possible for Elias, but then Matthew Waxman went on a run. Waxman found some spots to accumulate pots and then never let up en route to winning the Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions.
For the win, the Season X WPT Grand Prix de Paris champions earned $463,375, a luxurious Hublot Big Bang Unico Titanium Ceramic watch, a $50,000 membership to JetSmarter, a custom poker table from BBO Poker Tables, a Baccarat Crystal Bubble Box, and a gold WPT Tournament of Champions trophy. Included in Waxman’s first-place prize was a $15,000 seat to next season’s WPT Tournament of Champions.
“It was great,” Waxman, a native of Parkland, Florida, said with a smile from ear to ear. “I had a lot of fun playing with these guys and I was thinking about not playing because it’s a big buy-in and I wasn’t too confident in my game, but I jumped in there after feeling pretty good lately.”
Waxman said he really enjoyed being part of the WPT Tournament of Champions and the exclusivity and prestige that comes with the event.
“It’s just a great tournament, playing with a lot of these big players that you’re used to seeing on TV, and you’re just playing these big pots,” Waxman said. “Even though there were only 80 players, the atmosphere, you can just feel the tension so it’s a real treat to play; to be able to win this thing is amazing.”
WPT Tournament of Champions Final Table Results
1st: Matthew Waxman – $463,375*
2nd: Matas Cimbolas – $265,590
3rd: Darren Elias – $177,060
4th: David Benyamine – $123,045
5th: Nick Schulman – $89,290
*First-place prize includes a $15,000 seat to the Season XVII WPT Tournament of Champions.
A key hand came in Level 21 with blinds at 10,000-20,000. Elias raised to 70,000 from the small blind and Waxman three-bet from the big blind to 185,000. Elias used a time extension chip for an additional 30 seconds under the rules of the Action Clock and then moved all in for 2.3 million chips. Waxman quickly called for a little more than 1 million, but he saw the bad news that his was behind the of Elias. The flop brought the [9h10h8c], however, and gave Waxman some additional hope with a straight draw. When the turn was the [7d], Waxman hit a jack-high straight and vaulted to the lead. The [2c] on the river brought no help for Elias and Waxman had taken a nice chip lead.
“The good news was if I lost the hand, I didn’t have to play with him anymore,” Waxman laughed. “But it was nice. It was just a spot where the money’s going in and I’m glad that it worked out for me.”
For more on how the final table of the Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions played out, check out the event recap.
Ultimately, Elias would finish in third and Waxman would raise the trophy after topping Matas Cimbolas in heads-up play. As runner-up, Cimbolas took home $177,060.
“I realized that he wasn’t willing to be too aggressive, so I just decided to kind of turn it up on him and really put him to the test,” Waxman said of Cimbolas. “He wasn’t really playing back, so I just took what I could.”
Lately, Waxman had been traveling a lot, visiting Australia, New Zealand, and spending seven weeks in Thailand working to complete a yoga certification. After his travels, he felt refreshed to get back to poker after taking some time off.
“I was a little bit worried because lately I felt like I wasn’t keeping up with poker and people were studying a lot and getting a lot better,” Waxman said. “But I was watching some PokerGO coverage and just watching tables on TV and, although everybody is playing great, I was just like, ‘Hey, these guys aren’t doing anything crazy that I don’t understand. It’s the same old stuff.’ I definitely feel like throughout my travels I learned a lot of things that helped keep me balanced and composed throughout the tournament, and I’m very thankful to have acquired that.”
A big fan of video games, Waxman dreamt of playing in the new Esports Arena and visited the new facility two weeks ago after arriving in Las Vegas. He even tweeted about it earlier in the week, and how his vision had now become a reality.
“It was really cool man, or really, really cold, should I say?” Waxman laughed afterward about the icy temperature in the arena. “But yeah, this arena is awesome. The lights and I’m just huge on video games, so being into such a center that has big video competitions and I get to play poker here? That was awesome.”
In Season X in September 2011, Waxman took down the WPT Grand Prix De Paris for €500,000 ($729,886), which allowed him into the prestigious WPT Champions Club. As a member of the club, he became eligible for the WPT Tournament of Champions. In addition to that victory in France, Waxman has seven more cashes on the WPT Main Tour.
With his win in the Season XVI WPT Tournament of Champions, Waxman moved to more than $4 million in live tournament earnings, according to HendonMob.com. His last six-figure score came in 2014 when he finished 45th in the World Series of Poker Main Event for $186,388. In a tournament career dating back to 2008, Waxman has several big scores and final tables on his poker résumé, including a WSOP bracelet in 2013 and a WSOP Circuit ring in 2010.
Photography by Joe Giron / PokerPhotoArchive.com
If you’re interested in becoming a WPT champion, you can play for your chance on ClubWPT.com. ClubWPT is where eligible VIP members can play for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes each month, including seats to WPT events. No purchase is necessary for the ClubWPT sweepstakes and the service is void in states where prohibited. See terms and conditions at ClubWPT.com.