Mermelstein wins BPO, $712K

February 23, 2015, Jo Kim, Dave Lukow, Michael Young  

Thousands of players showed up for the World Poker Tour’s Borgata Winter Open, which featured a $3 million guaranteed Jan. 13-30. The entire series featured 23 events for a combined guaranteed prize pool of $6.7M.
After five days and 37 levels, Aaron Mermelstein of Philadelphia took home the championship trophy and $712,305. Mermelstein has been cashing in tournaments steadily since 2010, but has been running especially well in the past four months with two titles also being the biggest cashes of his career.

PARX: Loni Hardwood and Patrick Chan chopped the Big Stax X $2,500 main event for $81,312 and $71,449, respectively. Both have built impressive resumés. Hardwood, a World Series bracelet-winner, has more than $1.14M in her career earnings. Chan, who is Hardwood’s childhood friend from New York, has only begun his tournament record in the previous year, but has reached near $500K. Aaron Overton took third ($33,974).

“When it got down to three players, they wanted to chop, but I wanted to play it out,” said Overton, eying the trophy. “It’s just how the cards ran out, unfortunately. If I were to do it all over again, I’d still do the same thing.”
The nearly $34K put his career winnings at nearly $600K, mostly accumulated through numerous WPT, WSOP and WSOPC cashes.

Overton started his career after graduating college in 2006, playing low-stakes cash games at Borgata. His tournament journey began in 2010. His biggest cash was for $259,012 at the 2014 Summer Poker Open where he finished fourth.

SANDS: Deep Stack Extravaganza is gaining popularity with each appearance. The $550 main event’s $250K guarantee drew 646 players for a $316,540 prize pool. Though the tournament schedule had to adjust to the snowstorm, it didn’t stop local players from making an appearance.

“This was my first time ever playing this event,” said T.J. Farrell, who finished ninth. “The field and structure was incredible, although the tournament felt longer than usual due to a unique start time for Day 3 when we weren’t even in the money yet because of a looming ice storm. I had a blast playing with some of the areas best pros and enjoyed every second of it. I look forward to doing it all again next year.”

Brian “Zeke” Zekus from Washington, D.C., took down the tournament and his biggest cash ($71,222) when his Q-8 cracked pocket aces.

TAJ CLOSES: Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City closed its poker room on Feb. 15, but casino management intends to reopen it around July 4. The 48-table room, famous for being where Worm and McDermott played poker in the seminal poker movie Rounders, was a casualty of Taj Mahal’s ongoing financial troubles. The casino was slated to close in November before Carl Icahn made a last-ditch effort to save it from bankruptcy. That process is ongoing. The Taj closing leaves Atlantic City with just five poker rooms, and only two (Tropicana and Bally's) on the famed Boardwalk.

MARYLAND LIVE: The $1 million Maryland Live Classic is a series of 15 events that runs March 9-23 with the $2,200 main event on March 21. There will be satellites into many of the events throughout the month. The series will have $1 million in guarantees as each event will have a guarantee tied to it. Highlights from the schedule include a $20K guarantee seniors event to open the series (March 9, $300, 12:15 p.m.) a $20K guarantee pot-limit Omaha event with bounties (March 9, $300, 3:15 p.m.) and a three-day $250K guarantee event March 16-19 ($340).

HORSESHOE BALTIMORE: The WSOPC concludes with the $1,675 main event, which begins March 6. There will be satellites right up until the final event.

The Horseshoe also hosts the Charm City $500K Blowout. This guarantee is a series of twice-a-day $150 buy-in flights from March 24-April 1 with Day 2 beginning April 2, and the final table on April 4.

DOVER DOWNS: The Crown Royal Poker Room at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino will be running a series of guarantees March 20-22. On March 20, there will be a $15K guarantee with a $165 buy-in, followed by March 21 ($30K, $225) and March 22 ($5K, $50). Mark your calenders for the Master Poker Series on April 29-May 3. See ad on the back inside cover of the March issue.

New York

March is coming in with a roar at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel. From March 6-15, the Niagara Falls venue is hosting the Western New York Poker Challenge, which features a $1K main event with a $200K guarantee. The series has eight events, including a $500 tourney March 7.

TURNING STONE: The March Mania Hold’em Series runs March 3-8 at the Verona, N.Y. property.

Northeast

FOXWOODS: Marsel Backa, after chopping with Bradley St. Vincent, won Event 1 of the CPPT, which ran Jan. 31-Feb. 9. For the win, Backa of Waterbury, Conn., earned $31,517.

The cash was the 14th for Backa, 26, who has more than $90K in his career. St. Vincent, from Bristol, R.I., pocketed $31,516. He has 13 cashes and $217K-plus in winnings.

Raj Patel finished third, which was worth $15,788, while Rami Jradeh, fourth, took home $12,545 in the $600 tourney.

Playing out of Los Angeles, Patel has cashed 28 times and earned more than $193K. The pool for Event 1 was $170K.

In the $400 Event 7, Peter Tripp grabbed the top spot for $26,012. It marked the fourth time he’s cashed.
Robert Campion (second) and Joseph Kosko (third) banked $18K apiece. The event had 414 entrants and a prize pool of $140,553. The 21-event Foxwoods Poker Classic, with a $2,700 championship, runs March 14-30.

CASINO RAMA: Casino Rama in Ontario is sending players to Sin City. Winners of Rama’s Monday Texas Hold’em Poker Tournament receive instant entry into the Hollywood Poker Open Championship, scheduled for June 26-29 at the M Resort in Las Vegas. Monday tournaments are March 9, March 23, April 13, April 27, May 11 and May 25. For a $300 buy-in, players get $7,500 in tournament chips. S

Meet Andrew Hanna

Hanna is a poker pro in Atlantic City.

When did you learn to play poker? The first time I learned to play poker was a $5 tourney in a friend’s basement at the ripe age of 15.
What’s the biggest win of your career? I’m not exactly sure what my biggest day is. I’ve had several cash sessions between $5K and $7K. Modest for a pro, but impressive when you consider those days are at $2-$5 NLHE. I guess my most memorable moments were appearing on Poker Night in America twice.

Would you say the rest of your poker career will be focused mainly on tournaments or cash? I’ll definitely be putting a decent amount of effort into improving my tournament game, but ultimately my focus is always on cash. I consider myself one of the best cash game players in A.C. and one of the most lackluster tournament players. I think I just got to put in more volume for tournaments.

Do you have a favorite venue? I pretty much play exclusively at Borgata. Between the dealers, floors, waitresses, promotions and table/stake selection, I couldn’t ask for more in a cardroom. — Jo Kim