Friday, September 24, 2010

Borgata Poker Open Championship Recap

Dwyte Pilgrim navigated his way through the largest field in World Poker Tour history to win the 2010 WPT Borgata Poker Open Championship. Pilgrim defeated Kia Mohajeri heads up and was the sole survivor of a record 1,042 players.

"It feels surreal right now, a lifetime of hard work was set in stone today," said the 28 year-old Brooklyn, NY native
, who earned $733,802 for the win. "I felt I was in a good spot at all times. Even when I was behind, I felt this guy was going to have to get lucky to beat me."

On the final hand, a coordinated board of K T♠ 9♠ offered a lot of action with 4 million chips going into the pot. The turn was the 7 and Pilgrim led out for 2 million. Mohajeri shoved all-in and Pilgrim snap called.

Mohajeri turned over K♠ 9♣ for two pairs, while Pilgrim had Q J♠ for the nut straight as both players hit the flop hard. When the the 5 hit the river, it was all over and Pilgrim had the title.

“There was nothing I could do,” said Mohajeri, a retired electrical engineer from Florida, “I have two pair and he had a straight, all the chips were going in. I was very tired at the end and I couldn’t concentrate, but I did the best I could.”

Mohajeri, who won $440,945 for second place, finished ahead of Ofir Mor (3rd) Brandon Novena (4th), Daniel Makowsky (5th) and Ben Klier (6th), who all reached the televised final table.

For Pilgrim, this marks his eighth career win, including three WSOP circuit titles, but it didn’t come easy. The five day tournament at the premier East Coast poker destination, located in Atlantic City, NJ, featured many professional players and a lot of compelling subplots.

The event began with a strong field that featured two former WSOP Main Event Champions in Jerry Yang (2007) and Robert Varkonyi (2002), a WSOP Runner-up in Steve Dannenmann (2005) and the third place finisher from 2006 in Michael Binger. Other participants included WSOP Bracelet winners Gavin Smith, Steve Zolotow and Jason Young, and actor James Woods played as well.

But while none of these players staked a claim of the nearly $3.5 million total buy-in, defending champion Olivier Busquet made a second straight improbable run. After beating more than 1,000 players last year, the previous WPT record field, Busquet made his way to the final 3 tables before being eliminated in 25th place.

Another first for the World Poker Tour happened when WPT announcer and Poker Hall of Famer Mike Sexton cashed for the first time. It was only the "fifth or sixth" event Sexton has played in during the shows 9 seasons, but his run came to an end in 20th place.

“It’s nice just to get a cash under your belt one time," says Sexton, who wasn't allowed to play in WPT events until recently. "You wish you had been at the final table, but everybody does. All in all, it was a great week, a lot of fun for me and I enjoyed playing."

As the field thinned, John D’Agostino looked to make another deep run in a Borgata event. The 2006 WPT runner-up and on-line pro, took over the chip lead on Day 2 and was a threat the rest of the way before being knocked out in 14th place.

At the start of the final table, Ofir Mor had the chip lead, but all six players were bunched between 7.3 and 3.3 million chips. The first three eliminations went smoothly as Klier ($148,427), Makowsky ($183,449) and Novena ($223,475) were the first to go, but then things slowed down.

Pilgrim was poised for back-to-back knockouts on consecutive hands, but the deck didn't cooperate. After he eliminated Novena in 4th place, Pilgrim had Mor on the ropes when he flopped two pairs, but Mor went runner-runner for a higher two pairs and stayed alive.

Pilgrim, Mor and Mohajeri traded chips for nearly two and-a-half hours until Mohajeri eliminated Mor in third place, good for $266,835.

When heads up play began Mohajeri had a 3 to 2 chip led by holding 19 of the 31 million chips in play. But after playing 45 hands for more than one hour, Pilgrim nailed the flop and nailed down the WPT Borgata Poker Open Championship.

"I feel like Babe Ruth," said Pilgrim, who fell to the floor in tears after he clinched the title. "He struck out a lot, but he also hit a lot of home runs.

"Up to bat, bottom of the 9th, two outs, two strikes, two balls. This next pitch meant a lot. I kept my eye on the ball and took it out of the park."

As he celebrated with friend and family he added,
"this is the first day of the rest of my life."

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