Big Stax still a Philly-area force at Parx Casino

September 29, 2016, Jo Kim, Michael Young, Dave Lukow  

The 17th Big Stax series at Parx Casino near Philadelphia ran Aug. 1-23, featuring the usual three trophy events for buy-ins of $330, $550, and $1,600.The schedule kicked off by breaking the record for the East Coast with 2,557 entrants over the course of four Day 1s. Big Stax 300 has become a force and now contends with the popularity of Borgata’s series openers. Chris Horter took home the trophy and $90,556 after a chop with five players.

There were 1,192 players who fired $550 into the second trophy event, with the defending champion Daniel Bak at the final table.

“I was excited to get back to the final table,” he said. “Bummed I couldn’t close it out the second time around.”

Michael Dobbs was on top of the leaderboard throughout most of the tournament, but took third in a chop for $50K. Bill Miller, who began the chop discussion with six players left, took second ($64,787). Jose Pereira, who is a regular cash player at Parx, took home the trophy and $65K, his biggest tournament win.

Big Stax $1,600 final table was packed with notables such as Mike Dentale, Jon Borenstein and Kevin Grabel, who consistently has been making final tables and took home two trophies in the last series. The last two standing, however, were Joseph Liberta and Mike Lavenburg, also strong players. Lavenburg, who was second in a past Big Stax trophy event, took runner-up again for $78,912. Lavenburg said he never participates in chop conversations.

“I really enjoy playing heads-up,” he said. “And I don’t like giving up spots where I have an edge.”
In the end, it was Liberta who outlasted 379 players to take home the championship and $124,463.

BORGATA: The property’s online room hosts the fifth installment of the Garden State Super Series on Oct. 9-23 and features more than $1.1M in guarantees.

“Featuring larger guarantees, varied price points and great satellite offerings, the (GSSS) will be one of the most highly anticipated online tournaments of the year,” VP of marketing Steve Nathan said. “We have continued to grow and evolve the event series, with this year’s $175K main event boasting the largest GSSS prize pool to date.”

The series has 75 events across a range of formats such as NLHE, limit, stud, PLO, six-max and bounty tournaments.The series opens Oct. 9 with seven events, including a $75K guarantee, and culminates Oct. 23 with the $175K main event.

“If you’ve never experienced a GSSS series, I highly recommend you give it a shot,” pro Michael “Gags30” Gagliano said. “While there are a wide array of formats and buy-ins, I am particularly excited about playing in the high-stakes tournaments, especially the $535 six-max, and the $1K, which always make for some really exciting final tables.”
For more info, go to BorgataPoker.com.

HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA: The second Diamond Delight series ran Sept. 8-18.The buy-in was $130 with the prize pool guarantee set at $100K.With 17 starting flights, 10 percent of the players from each day made it in the money while coming back for Day 2. The tournament will be recapped in a future issue.

SUGARHOUSE: The $100K guarantee Sugar Rush Challenge III ran Sept. 21-25 and will be recapped in a future issue. In other news, the property has started the SugarHouse Online Casino, which is at PlaySugarHouse.com. Traditional poker is not available on the site at this time, but video poker and other card games such as Three Card Poker are on the site.

Mid-Atlantic

Lawrence Larabee Jr. of North Carolina captured the Delaware Poker Championship over Labor Day weekend at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in Delaware. He has cashed in the event the past three years and a main-event chop was agreed to between the final three players with each player getting $18,022. Larabee had the most chips so he was awarded the title and trophy.
All of the five events in the series exceeded the guarantees.

In other Dover Downs news, another Getaway Weekend runs this month. On Oct. 24 at 7:15 p.m., there’s a $30 satellite for the $30K guarantee on Oct. 29 ($225 buy-in, 11:15 a.m., 20K chips, 30-minute blinds). One in 10 will win a seat. The series runs Oct. 28-30, including a $10K guarantee for $135 on Oct. 28 at 11:15 a.m. The starting stack is 15K with 25-minute blinds. To wrap up the weekend, there’s a $3,500 guarantee for $50 with 20-minute blinds and 10K starting stack on Oct. 30 at 11:15.

Four players won Ante Up Poker Cruise packages in a recent Ante Up Set Sail Series. Timothy Stump, Kay Wilson and Glenn Bagrowski, pictured together, and Michael Atkins were winners of cruise packages for two for the Nov. 14 sailing out of Tampa, Fla.

DELAWARE PARK: The poker room hosts the Mid-Atlantic Poker Championship on Oct. 6-17. There will be 11 events with two championships. The pot-limit Omaha championship is Oct. 12 and the $150K guarantee Mid-Atlantic Poker Championship is Oct. 15. There are many satellites into the various events; see the poker room for details.

MARYLAND LIVE: The World Poker Tour runs until Oct. 5 with more than $2M in guarantees. The main event is Oct. 1 with a $1.5M guarantee. In results news, Stephen Deutsch won the PPC Capitol Poker Classic’s main event in late August. The $400 event drew 475 players for a $171K prize pool as Deutsch earned $29K.

He was followed by Todd Michaelson ($23,289), Mark Edwards ($21,478), Arnold Dinio ($19,510) and Andrew Parker ($18,993).

Connecticut

FOXWOODS RESORT CASINO: Julian Sacks won his first major title after earning the World Series of Poker Circuit Main Event on Aug. 29. Sacks had several final tables to his credit, including a runner-up, but finally earned his WSOPC ring and $148K, his biggest cash of his career.

“Here at Foxwoods, I’ve had the chip lead before and blown it,” he said after the win. “And I was putting a lot of pressure on myself not to blow it this time.”

He said he felt more comfortable as the final day progressed. “Once it got down to four-handed, at times it felt like I was winning every hand. Then I really felt like it was my tournament to lose.”

Johanssy Joseph and Jeremy Meacham made the final table in this event last year and repeated the feat again. Joseph was runner-up in 2015 but finished fourth this time around ($49,680).
Meacham, sixth a year ago, was third ($66,930). Defending champ Samuel Taylor finished 19th as the event attracted 460 players.

Muhammad Rahim started the final table as chipleader but finished fifth ($37,260). Travis Stams, who began as the short stack, was runner-up ($91,770). Sean Carlson was sixth ($28,428) and it was his second final table at this circuit stop.

New York

SENECA NIAGARA CASINO AND HOTEL: Russell Campanella edged Christopher Harker in chip count after a chop to win the $600 Summer Slam’s main event. Both players took home $26,500 from a $252K prize pool.

Raymond Larouech, who was third, and fourth-place finisher Shawn Edinger earned $26K apiece.
From Rochester, N.Y., Campanella has made more than $152K playing live. The payday at Seneca Niagara is the largest of his career. Of his 38 cashes, seven have come in 2016.

Harker, also a New Yorker, has eight cashes, the last four coming in Niagara Falls. His previous cashes were at Turning Stone.

Matt Fergenbaum was fifth ($20K), his first cash. Overall, 475 players entered the main event.
Kurtis Boutelle won Event 1, a $1K deepstack that paid him $23,807. Blake Napierala pocketed $14,731 as runner-up.

Boutelle, who was seventh in the main event, has nine cashes, including four this year. He’s made more than $121K since 2010.

Napierala, out of Amherst, N.Y., left Seneca with 38 career cashes. He was ninth in Event 2, a showing worth $1,940. In August, he was 28th in Event 20 of the 2016 Empire State Hold’em Championships at Turning Stone. $2,619.

Up next is the Fall Classic Warmup on Oct. 7-9. Call the poker room for details.

TURNING STONE: Robert Bianchi topped the field after a chop to take the Empire State Hold’em Championship for the first win of his career and $42,295. Thomas Matacale and Brian Ballentine each earned $42,294 in the chop.

Matacale, from Hornell, N.Y., has nine cashes, including two at Turning Stone. Ballentine has cashed 21 times and has more than $127K in earnings. Gregory Miller was fourth ($30K).

Up next is the October Weekend on Oct. 6-9, including a $100K guarantee main event with a $570 buy-in. Call the poker room for details.

Meet Cate Hall

How did you start in poker and when did you commit full time? I started learning to play poker in late 2013, when Maryland Live opened near where I live in D.C. At the time, I was working as a lawyer and while my career was going well, I was quite unhappy and was anxious to make a transition out of law. As I got better at poker, it occurred to me it might be something I could do for an income for a few years while I moved out of law and decided what I wanted to do next. Finally, in early 2015, I made the decision to leave my job and become a full-time player. I think most people I was working with at that time thought I was a bit crazy or was having some sort of mid-life crisis, but I went through with the decision anyway. I officially transitioned to poker a few months later, after my last case had wrapped up, during the 2015 World Series.

When you’re not chasing tournaments, where do you usually play? Most often I play at Maryland Live, which is about a 45-minute drive from where I live in D.C. A new MGM property is opening near D.C., about 15 minutes from me, toward the end of the year, though, and I imagine once that happens, I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time there. — Jo Kim