For a first-ever competition, it will go down in history. The “The Return” series, which marked the Borgata’s return to the tournament poker scene, has proven to be a spectacularly popular way to start off the 2023 tournament poker season. The guarantee was shattered when the final tally exceeded $5 million, and following Day Two, it seems that Bin Weng will be in the best position to profit from that mountain of cash.
Guarantee Prize Pool and Prize for First Place Exceeded
The final numbers for “The Return” were revealed at the beginning of Day Two after the Borgata’s number crunchers had processed the 1,142 $5000 entries received for “The Return.” The field created a prize pool of $5,538,700, significantly surpassing the tournament’s $3 million guarantee. This stack will be divided among 110 players, with a minimum cash in the event doubling the buy-in and netting the player $10,413 (unless someone shot multiple bullets).
At the final table, things get intriguing. All nine players at the final table will get six-figure payouts and a new entry on their Hendon Mob resumes. The first and second place prizes will surpass $500,000, with the second place reward amounting to $720,031. The ultimate winner was originally scheduled to get a guaranteed payout of $1 million, but this was increased to $1,206,097 once the final numbers were established.
Away to Work…
The 369 players who returned to the field on Friday quickly began choosing who would get funds for their journey to New Jersey. In the early stages of the game, Jacob Ferro doubled up via Michael Wang after Ferro’s pocket pair was cracked by Michael Wang. In response to Wang’s three-bet and all-in, Wang’s pocket sevens were pushed by Queens. The board did not produce the saving seven for Wang, and he swiftly ran out of chips as Ferro’s 213,000 chips propelled him to the top of the scoreboard.
In the early action, new challengers would also emerge from the audience. Mukul Pahuja was one of the new names atop the leaderboard when his stack surpassed $600,000 within a few of hours of the tournament’s start. Although he lost to John Pannucci when he was unable to call on a Q-Q-7-J flop and turn, Pahuja was in good shape with 595K in chips (although Pannucci was right behind him with his 585K stack).
The dinner break arrived, but the money bubble did not burst. After the participants returned after their feast, there were sad withdrawals from the competition. Asher Conniff was among them after a collision with Blake Bohn in a classic race. Conniff’s pocket tens led Bohn’s ace-jack before the flip, but Conniff was eliminated from the tournament when an ace on the turn gave Bohn the winning hand.
In a different race, the bubble would burst. Tomasz Zakrzewski went all-in for his solitary 1,000 chip in this hand, and only Dan Zack remained to see what he had. Zakrzewski’s pocket Jacks came at a great moment against Zack’s A-10, but Zack’s ace in the window ended any drama. A ten on the turn and a blank on the river eliminated Zakrzewski from “The Return,” while Zack amassed nearly 1.43 million chips.
Pay Out the Money and Burst the Bubble
With the bursting of the money bubble, cash began to leave the Borgata. Taylor von Kriegenbergh was the first to accept the minimal compensation, quickly followed by Tony Sinishtaj, Darren Elias, and Joey Weissman. Bin Weng, on the other hand, had his sights set on the high echelons of the scoreboard as just 53 players remained at the conclusion of the evening:
- Bin Weng, 2.395 million
- Lanny Vaysman, 2.05 million
- Christopher Ng, $1,785,000
- Blake Bohn, 1.5 million
- Sam Laskowitz, 1.425 million
- Ryan Dodd, 1.385 million (tie) John Pannucci, 1.385 million
- Sundiata Devore, 1.195 million (tie) Andrew Fegan, 1.195 million
- Quan Quach, 1.15 million
Behind Weng and these players are former World Champion Joseph McKeehen (950,000), Pahuja, who was previously mentioned (760,000), and Anthony Zinno (475,000). Zack had a severe decline after being among the leaders, and he will begin Day Three of the tournament on Saturday with the smallest stack (135,000).
Today at noon, play will resume in “The Return” at the beautiful Borgata poker room. Plans call for the competition to be reduced to nine players, who will then return on Sunday to decide the victor of the season’s first big event.