Leong beats tough field in Borgata Poker Open in A.C.

February 22, 2016, Jo Kim, Dave Lukow, Michael Young  

The World Poker Tour Borgata Winter Poker Open Main Event ran Jan. 31-Feb. 5, attracting 1,171 of the best poker players to Atlantic City for the $3,500 buy-in in hopes of taking home the trophy and a piece of the $3.7M prize pool.

The Day 3 roster was dominated by the best players representing the East Coast, including Joe McKeehen, Aaron Overton, Kane Kalas, Yevgeniy Timoshenko, Mukul Pahuja, Rex Clinkscales, Aaron Mermelstein and Asher Conniff.

But it was on Day 4 when Chris Leong realized the title could be within his grasp, and he wasn’t wrong. Though his hand went into the muck on the flop, Leong took an unorthodox approach to the game by merely calling with A-K in the small blind to an open by Timoshenko followed by a call. All three players were deepstacked when the flop of Q-4-2 came and Leong check-folded. He was up against a set of queens and a set of fours.

“Ironically, it was that moment when I thought it might just be my fate to win this tourney,” Leong said.

Leong won the title and took home $816,246, increasing his live tournament winnings to nearly $1.2M.He plans on visiting his family in Hong Kong before returning to work at the PokerStars Macau Poker Cup as his next destination.

He made it to the final table as the shortest stack and would have to face three of the toughest opponents in the tournament, WSOP champ McKeehen, Matthew “Bucky” Wantman and Timoshenko, the 2009 WPT champ. Leong found it easier to adjust against the elite players in comparison to the amateurs.Rafael Yaralieyev, who started his tournament career in mid 2015, came in second for $487,288.

“Rafa was definitely my toughest opponent because, for one, he had all the chips, and he also didn’t really seem to know what he was doing most of the time,” Leong said. “I play pretty well vs. amateurs generally, but he was very unpredictable and was willing to put more chips in the pot preflop than anyone else at the table. I had to adjust my strategy and ended up employing the limp strategy heads-up, something I had never done in my life.”

SUGARHOUSE CASINO: After nearly 1.5 years of construction, the property is opening its new poker room with Matt Glantz as ambassador in conjunction with Rush Street Poker.

Glantz, who accepted his new position as the ambassador for Philadelphia SugarHouse and Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, will be overseeing operations for Rush Street Poker’s Poker Night in America and designing a PokerNight Classic tournament series at SugarHouse scheduled for March.PNIA will return to SugarHouse on April 8-11 with the toughest lineup of poker pros.

“Obviously, we’re going bigger than ever before at both properties and bringing tournaments to SugarHouse with entirely new structures similar to my previous designs,” Glantz said.

New York

SENECA NIAGARA RESORT AND CASINO: The Western New York Poker Challenge, which has a $1K buy-in, begins April 22.

TURNING STONE CASINO RESORT: The Verona property is running a $130 satellite on March 5 to the March Mania Main Event, giving one in every five players a $570 seat. The main event is March 11-13 and has a $100K guarantee. See the Turning Stone ad on Page 28 of the March issue for more on this event.

Also, the College Poker Challenge runs Thursdays at 8 p.m. The tournaments, with $15 buy-ins, have prize pools of $1K. Players must have a valid college ID to gain entry. Prizes are based on the number of entrants.


HORSESHOE BALTIMORE: The World Series of Poker Circuit runs March 24-April 4 with 13 ring events at the Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore. The first event is March 24 ($365 NLHE) with a $1M guarantee. The main event begins April 1 with a $1,675 buy-in and $1.5M guarantee.

MARYLAND LIVE: Poker Night in America’s $1,650 main event is March 10. There are many satellites leading up to the main event so be sure to call the poker room for a schedule.

DOVER DOWNS: The Crown Royal Poker Room hosts a Getaway Weekend with a series of events March 11-13. March 11 is a $15K guarantee with a $165 buy-in. The next day is the $35K guarantee ($225) and the weekend wraps with a $5K guarantee ($65) on March 13.

There are many cash-game promotions this month, too. After 25 hours of play, players will receive $2-per-hour in comp dollars. There will be other comp promotions throughout the month, see the poker room for details.


FOXWOODS RESORT CASINO: The MegaStack Challenge ran Feb. 5-15. While the series hadn’t concluded before Ante Up went to press, some events were cancelled because of inclement weather. Here are some of the early results.

Cheng Dong of Cambridge, Mass., won Event 2, a $300 no-limit hold’em event, for $17,684. He was followed by Martin Salowitz ($15K) and Anthony Magistrale ($8,375).

The event drew 369 players for a $93K prize pool.

John Fontana, after a chop, won Event 4, pocketing $5,322 and the trophy. Soukha Kacchitavong, who chopped with Fontana, earned $8,188. Alfred Borges was third ($3,527). The cash was the second for Fontana, a resident of London. The event was a $250 turbo that drew 151 entries.

Kacchitavong, from nearby Rhode Island, has 61 cashes, including five in 2016. He’s earned more than $394K playing live in his career.

The finish gave Borges 23 cashes and increased his career winnings to more than $101K. He took Event 1 of the 2011 World Poker Finals, pocketing $37,543 for the showing. He’s cashed twice this year.

Before the Mega, there were some New Year’s Day Holiday tournaments. John Cautela of Marlborough, Mass., captured the top spot in the $400 no-limit hold’em event, good for $19K. The event had 282 entries for nearly $95K in prize money.

Scott Sullivan of Portsmouth, R.I., chopped the $300 Big Stack with Harold Cusson of Douglas, Mass., for $10,745 each. There were 280 players in the field.

Chris Ham of Boston and Nicholas Ham of West Bridgewater, Mass., chopped the $230 event for $5K each, beating nearly 140 players.

Meet Marcia Kuntz

Marcia Kuntz is from Tacoma Park, Md., and plays regularly at All-In Enterprise charity events around Washington, D.C. She played in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event and finished 91st out of more than 6,600 entries. She started playing in 2007 after watching poker on television and reading a David Sklansky poker book.

With the choice of poker rooms in the area, why do you continue to play at the All-In Enterprises events? The events are well-organized, have a diverse group of players, including many women, and are very friendly. I’m very familiar with the group. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t competitive; the group is very competitive.

What made you decide to enter the WSOP? I won my seat at the All-In Enterprises Challenge points competition over the course of the year. Since I won, I had to go. In addition to main event, the night before the main event I took fourth place in the nightly event for more than $11K.

Do you look for ways to improve your play? I am constantly trying to improve my game using any means available. I read books, follow Internet forums and read magazines such as Ante Up to help improve my game. I have also taught my nieces and nephews how to play to the chagrin of my sister. — Michael Young