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PokerStars North American Poker Tour Returns With Successful Stop At Resorts World Las Vegas

NAPT Back In Action, Paying Out Millions In First Stop In Over A Decade

by Erik Fast |  Published: Dec 13, 2023

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The PokerStars North American Poker Tour made a triumphant return to the live poker scene this November after a 12-year hiatus. The 2023 NAPT Las Vegas ran from Nov. 4-12 at Resorts World Las Vegas. The festival attracted just shy of 3,200 entries across 17 events, with $4,264,665 in total prize money paid out along the way.

There was something for everyone at this stop, with a variety of games and formats to choose from and buy-ins ranging between $250 and $10,300. Below is a look back at the biggest stories that emerged from the first go-round of the reborn NAPT.

French Poker Dealer Sami Bechahed Tops Stacked Final Table In Main Event

The $1,650 buy-in NAPT Las Vegas main event attracted 1,095 total entries across six total starting flights, surpassing the $1.5 million guarantee to create a final prize pool of $1,609,650 that was paid out among the top 159 finishers.

This was the first NAPT main event held since 2011, which was when the tour’s second season was halted in the wake of poker’s Black Friday. The final table featured several top tournament professionals, but in the end, it was French poker dealer Sami Bechahed who emerged victorious with the title and the top prize of $268,945.

“Throughout this tournament I faced some incredible players, and the final table was an example of it. I was the second-least experienced player on this final table. So, I had to manage this carefully, take my time, and it worked out well,” Bechahed told PokerStars reporters.

Several years ago, Bechahed moved from Europe to America to be with his wife, who is currently nine months pregnant. He has dealt cash games on several of the biggest live streams based out of Southern California over the years but recently has begun to have more success on the other side of the table. In 2022 he took down the WSOP Circuit Choctaw main event for a career-best $274,916. With this latest victory in Las Vegas, Bechahed has increased his career earnings to more than $1.1 million.

Plenty of big names ran deep in this event, including Parker Talbot (36th), two-time bracelet winner Scott Ball (28th), two-time bracelet winner David Jackson (22nd), Aditya Prasetyo (14th), Japanese poker vlogger Masato Yokosawa (13th), WPT champion Matthew Wantman (12th), Aaron Massey (10th), and three-time bracelet winner Ryan Leng (9th).

The final day began with Bechahed in the lead and Spanish high-stakes regular Sergio Aido in second chip position. The very first hand of the day saw Sandeep Pallampati run top and bottom pair into the middle set of Aido, who surged into the lead after his hand held up. Pallampati earned $42,060 as the seventh-place finisher.

WPT champion and four-time bracelet winner Nick Schulman was the next to fall. He called all-in from the big blind with pocket fours for just over 10 big blinds facing a small-blind shove from Bechahed, who held K-7. Bechahed flopped a king and held from there to eliminate Schulman in sixth place ($54,680).

The New York native now has more than $17.1 million in career tournament earnings. The 320 Card Player Player of the Year points he secured for his 15th final-table finish of 2023 were enough to move him into 45th place in the POY standings presented by Global Poker.

Five-handed play lasted for several hours. The stalemate was finally broken when Aido ran KClub Suit 3Club Suit into the AClub Suit 10Club Suit of Jonathan Borenstein. Both players paired their largest card by the turn, but Aido’s kings were second-best by the end. He took home $71,080 as the fifth-place finisher, growing his lifetime earnings to just shy of $16 million.

Not long after that, Bechahed flopped top set with pocket nines on a 9Diamond Suit 8Spade Suit 4Diamond Suit board. He check-raised over the continuation bet of Ping Liu, who had three-bet Bechahed’s raise preflop out of the big blind with pocket queens. Liu called off his stack with the overpair. The 3Heart Suit turn and 6Spade Suit river changed nothing and Liu was eliminated in fourth place for $92,410. He now has neatly $2.6 million in lifetime cashes.

David Coleman’s A-9 suited was outrun by the A-8 of Borenstein to leave him short. He soon got his last blinds in with K-7 suited facing the A-Q of Bechahed. Neither player paired up by the river and Coleman was sent packing in third place ($120,130). He now has $3.3 million in career earnings.

With that, Bechahed took a sizable chip lead into heads-up play with Borenstein. It took just four hands for him to convert that advantage into the title.

Borenstein moved all-in for 13 big blinds from the button with 10Club Suit 9Spade Suit. Bechahed called with a dominating AClub Suit 10Heart Suit. The board ran out KSpade Suit 10Diamond Suit 3Heart Suit ASpade Suit 7Club Suit and Bechahed’s aces up earned him the pot and the title.

Borenstein walked away with $168,175 for his efforts. This was his third-largest score ever. He now has more than $2.3 million in cashes to his name.

Jesse Lonis and Sam Laskowitz Shine In High Rollers

Outside of the main event, the next largest prize pools of the festival belonged to a pair of high roller tournaments that bookended the series. The first was the $10,300 buy-in no-limit hold’em event that ran from Nov. 5-7.

With 59 entries, the prize pool grew to $572,300, with the top eight finishers earning a share. The largest slice of the pie was ultimately captured by two-time bracelet winner Jesse Lonis, who is having his best year ever on the live tournament circuit in 2023.

The poker pro from Little Falls, New York secured $174,550 for the win. This was his fourth live tournament title of the year, with 11 final-table finishes and more than $4.1 million in scores across 55 cashes in 2023.

This most recent title run saw Lonis secure his seventh-largest tournament payday ever. Five of his top seven scores have been earned this year, including the $2.3 million he earned as the winner of the WSOP $50,000 pot-limit Omaha event, which also saw him land his second career bracelet.

Earlier in the year, Lonis took down a $10,200 event at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure for $367,400, which is the second-highest figure on his résumé.

“It feels like the Triple Crown,” Lonis said to PokerNews live reporters after coming out on top. “I got the one in the Bahamas, the WSOP, and now this one. I feel like I’m playing [well] and everything’s aligning pretty nice, and [I’m] running good too. It feels good to win this one.”

Lonis had plenty of tough competition to contend with down the stretch, including two-time bracelet winner Shannon Shorr (8th), three-time bracelet winner Jim Collopy (6th), bracelet winner and high-stakes regular Sam Soverel (5th), and Spanish high roller Sergio Aido (3rd), who managed this podium finish before also running deep in the main event. David Stamm took home $114,460 as the runner-up.

The second high roller had a $5,300 buy-in. The tournament drew 150 entries, with Sam Laskowitz coming away with the title and the top prize of $180,850. This was his second largest score yet, trailing only the $256,170 he earned as the runner-up in the 2022 WSOP Colossus event.

Incredibly, that was the New York resident’s very first live tournament score. Since then, he has gone on to accumulate a total of $1.3 million in career earnings across 32 total cashes.

“It makes me feel like I belong and that I can play at this level and succeed,” Laskowitz told PokerNews.

This was Laskowitz’s tenth final-table finish of 2023, with both of his career titles coming so far this year. His first saw him best a field of 1,361 entries in a $2,200 mystery bounty event in The Return Poker Championship at Borgata just a few days into the year. His win at the NAPT was worth 576 POY points, bringing his total to 3,477. As a result, he now sits in 57th place in the 2023 POY standings.

The tournament played out over the course of three days. The top 20 finishers made the money, with a min-cash good for $9,320. By the end of day 2, just six contenders remained, with none other than Jesse Lonis leading the way and Laskowitz hot on his heels.

Lonis knocked out two-time bracelet winner and 2022 Card Player Poker Tour Venetian main event champion John Riordan in fourth place to set up a three-handed showdown with Shannon Shorr and Laskowitz. Lonis eventually fell to the bottom of the counts, though, and ultimately hit the rail in third place.

He took home $80,740 and 384 POY points for his 12th final-table finish of the year. He now sits in 19th place on the POY leaderboard as a result, with four titles won and 4,831 total points earned.

Heads-up play began with Laskowitz holding roughly a 4:1 chip lead over Shorr. It didn’t take long for him to convert that advantage into the trophy. In the final hand, Shorr open-shoved from the button for just over nine big blinds with QDiamond Suit 10Spade Suit and Laskowitz called with KClub Suit 10Club Suit. The board ran out ADiamond Suit 8Club Suit 5Heart Suit 6Spade Suit 8Spade Suit and Shorr was eliminated in second place.

The red-hot Shorr, who recently won his first and second bracelets online, earned $113,030 as the runner-up and increased his career earnings to $12.7 million. With one POY-qualified win and eight such final tables in 2023, Shorr is now the 51st-ranked POY contender.

Other Notable Wins

While the main event and the high rollers rightfully drew most of the headlines, there were plenty of other noteworthy results during the eight days of action at Resorts World Las Vegas.

Kyna England took down the $360 ladies event, topping a field of 94 entries to walk away with the spade trophy and the top prize of $7,520. She also made the money in the main event, finishing 60th for $4,540. These two scores helped propel the Illinois native’s live tournament earnings past the million-dollar mark, with $1,008,566 accrued across 72 total in-the-money finishes.

The fourth-largest prize pool of the festival was the $332,160 paid out in the $550 buy-in NAPT PokerStars Cup. The last player standing out of the 692 entries was Cody Raymond, who pocketed $44,743 as the champion.

A star-studded mixed games field of 32 entries turned out for the $5,300 eight-game event. The final pot was dragged by five-time bracelet winner and Poker Hall of Fame member Eli Elezra, who earned $53,540 for the win.

The last-chance dance of the series was the $1,100 super turbo. PokerStars live commentator and 2016 WSOP main event seventh-place finisher Griffin Benger, who had been in the booth covering the main event, survived the fast-paced affair to earn $17,250 and the trophy.

About Resorts World

Resorts World Las Vegas opened in June of 2014, marking the first new resort on the legendary Las Vegas Strip in over a decade. The property was developed on the site of the old Stardust, which was demolished back in 2007.

The $4.3 billion dollar property features a 117,000 square foot casino, and a 59-story hotel with three distinct Hotels. Las Vegas Hilton, Conrad Las Vegas, and Crockfords Las Vegas combine for more than 3,500 total rooms.

The casino floor features 1,400 slot machines, 117 table games, and of course, the Resorts World Poker Room. The elegant and spacious 30-table room features a VIP area, with tableside food and drink delivery. The room offers no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and mixed games options for cash game players, as well as a dedicated tournament area with daily, weekly, and monthly offerings.

In addition to gaming, the property also offers plenty of other world-class entertainment options, with the 5,000-person Resorts World Theater, the Zouk Nightclub, and the Ayu Beach House. There are also more than 50 dining and drinking establishments on site, including the Famous Foods Street Eats, a unique food hall that includes 16 stalls featuring an Asian food market.

For more information on Resorts World Las Vegas, check out the official website at www.rwlasvegas.com. ♠