January may be a cold month, but the 2024 poker year got off to a hot start with the triumphant return of the Borgata Winter Poker Open, held at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. Last held in 2020, 2024’s three-week tournament drew more than 16,000 entries across 22 events and guaranteed a prize pool of $10 million. Ultimately, it turned out to be the biggest tournament series in Borgata’s history. Keep on reading for the highlights.
High Drama Championship
The biggest drawcard on the Borgata Winter Poker Open schedule was undoubtedly the $5,300 Championship Event which had a guaranteed $3 million. It had 689 entries, with some of these players qualifying through BetMGM’s online poker tournaments. (BetMGM Poker was the exclusive online qualifier.) These satellite tournaments rewarded winners with free entry to big-ticket events.
One BetMGM poker tournament qualifier was Casey Hatmaker, who made the final table to compete against established poker pros like Alex Queen, Brian Yoon, and Anthony Zinno. Other big names that made it as far as the final 20 were Paul Volpe, Aaron Massey, Frank Lagodich, Jeff Gross, Matthew Wantman, and Michael Rossitto.
The most pivotal hand of the tournament came when Queen defended his small blind against an open raise (when the first player to make a bet preflop raises) by chip leader John Pannucci. Zinno then bet from the big blind, and Pannucci confidently went all in from the button. If Queen folded, he’d have been out of the tournament. So he staked all his remaining chips and made the call, while Zinno folded.
At the showdown (when players reveal their final cards), Queen was holding aces versus Pannucci’s kings. As a result, Queen scooped the pot and took a massive chip lead.
Eventually, Zinno finished fourth, Yoon came third, Pannucci was runner-up, and Queen went home with the top prize of $613,063. It was his seventh tournament victory and the single biggest jackpot he’d ever won, taking his career earnings past $2.5 million.
Who Took Home The Most Money at the Borgata Winter Poker Open?
Alex Queen may have been the king of the Main Event, but the biggest tournament winner in terms of cold hard cash was Orville Arthurs, courtesy of the Half a Milly $500,000 Mystery Bounty event. In this format, players who knock out other players get to draw a sealed envelope and reveal a bounty that could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Arthurs drew the big one on the second day of play worth $500,000. On top of that, he went on to make the final table for a chance to win the $220,228 first-place prize. At the end of the Mystery Bounty event, Orville Arthurs, Anthony Maio, and Yong Kwon (who goes by the name of “Lucky Spewy” in Texas Hold’em online circles) decided to “chop” the prize and divide the money evenly between them — Kwon took home $144,217, and Arthurs and Maio each got $144,216. They also agreed to flip for first-place bragging rights, which went to New Jersey’s Kwon.
At the end of the day, the real money winner was Arthurs, who went home with a cool $725,000 in prize money and bounties.
Good Feeling, Big Money
Speaking of bounties, Frank Brannan won the second-biggest Mystery Bounty in a very cool and unusual way. His poker buddy Jeremy Dan texted him to say that he “had a good feeling,” so Brannan should go pull a bounty immediately. Dan even told him where to pull the envelope from. Brannan took his advice and, incredibly, pulled the $100,000 prize.
The Borgata Winter Poker Open Had Big Turnouts, Bigger Jackpots
A big part of the event’s success was the abundance of big prize pools (higher than many of the best Las Vegas tournaments) which was driven by player turnout, not only in the Championship Event but in many side events too.
The tournament series started with the $800 Kick Off Deepstack, which drew 3,486 entries – the biggest field in Borgata poker history — for a prize pool of $2,468,437. Poker crusher Frank Funaro’s 21-year-old younger brother Nicholas took the top prize of $420,484.
Nearly 4,000 entries for the $500 Almighty Stack boosted the prize pool to $1,665,374. At the end of the day, it was Patrick Sendrowitz whose $500 buy-in turned into the $283,708 first-place prize.
More big turnouts were witnessed during the Saturday Series, with 1,217 players showing up to compete for the $400 event and 509 turning up for the $800 Super Saturday tournament. Joshua Manuge went home with the $88,833 first-place prize for the $400 event, while Joseph Casseus claimed the $92,210 Super Saturday jackpot.
The only player to win multiple events was Daniel Butler, who scooped the $600 Deepest Stack tournament for $43,916 and the $1,200 Monster Stack Big Chip Bounty for $66,784.
Borgata Ladies Champion Charity
Another hotly contested side event was the $300 Ladies Championship, which saw a field of 282 players boost the $25,000 prize money to a total prize pool of $71,121. First place eventually went to Celeste Cerna, who was playing in a poker tournament for the very first time.
A special feature of the Ladies Championship was an optional $10 add-on donation for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, which benefited to the tune of $2,910.
Prior to the event, Borgata teamed up with Poker Power for a “Brunch and Learn” session covering essential novice topics like “there are no friends in poker” for the benefit of beginner women players. The session ended in a short beginner’s tournament. The winner received a $300 entry into the Ladies Championship that same afternoon.
Play Poker Online at BetMGM Casino
Looking to play online poker for real money? BetMGM poker tournaments are a great way to begin, with different competitive events held every day and a Sunday tournament with a $35,000 prize money guarantee. For high rollers, occasional Six-Figure Sundays offer a shot at a guaranteed $100,000.
If you prefer cash games instead of poker tournaments, there are tables with stakes ranging from micro (1c/2c blinds, $2 max buy-in) all the way to high stakes ($25/$50 blinds, $5,000 max buy-in).