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Darren Elias On Borgata Poker Tournament Scandal: 'Takes The Cake' For Craziest Thing I've Ever Seen

Poker Pro Says Cheating In Poker Probably Happens More Than We Think


Poker pro Darren Elias is having a very solid 2014 World Series of Poker, cashing a total of four times through the middle of June. The performance has been good news for the L.A. native, as he was shortchanged a bit after a poker tournament at Borgata this winter was canceled due to massive amounts of phony chips in play.

Elias was one of the 27 people left in the event when play was suspended. Tournament officials eventually canceled the tournament, and months later New Jersey gaming regulators decided that Borgata should pay out $19,323 to each of the final 27.

The top prize was $372,123.

Fortunately for Elias, he was in 20th chip position when the event was shut down. Card Player had the chance to speak with the poker pro during a break in play during a $1,500 event this past week at the Rio in Las Vegas, to find out how he feels about the Borgata event.

Brian Pempus: How have you been feeling so far this Series?

Darren Elias: Good. I’ve had a couple of close calls, some ninth places. I’d like to close one out. It would mean a ton to win a bracelet. The [$1,500 no-limit hold’em events] are tough. It’s like a minefield to make it through this many players.

BP: Do you feel like you are due after all of these close calls lately?

DE: I’m not going to say I am due. All I can do is play my best and put myself in spots to win.

BP: Do you feel like you fly under the radar at all in these tournaments?

DE: Yeah, I think a random amateur probably wouldn’t notice me. That can work in my favor sometimes. I think for most of the professionals, I am on their radar.

BP: Can you talk about that canceled event at Borgata?

DE: As I am sure you know, it was a $500 buy-in, with re-entry. A guy introduced counterfeit chips and I was middle of the pack on day three. We stopped play with 27 left, and I think there were about four months before the [New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement] came out with a decision on what to do. They ended up chopping, and we each got around $19,000. It is unfortunate what happened. I would have loved to play that tournament out.

BP: Some players filed suit against the Borgata. Did you ever consider anything like that?

DE: Yeah, they reached out to me. I’ve had offers. I talked to lawyer, and just thought it wasn’t really worth it. The amount that they are suing for—I think another $30,000—is not worth it. I play at the Borgata a lot, and I don’t want to be in an ongoing lawsuit against my home casino…they are suing for $30,000 each. Lawyers are going to take close to half of that.

BP: Some players were talking about boycotting the casino. Do you agree with those calls?

DE: No, I think that’s a little extreme. It could have happened at a lot of places. I mean, it’s so tough to run a tournament with that many people. There were more than 4,000 entrants. You are going to have logistical issues, dealers who don’t know what they are doing; it’s tough.

Christian LusardiBP: Do you think the guy would have gotten away with it if he didn’t flush the phony chips down a toilet?

DE: (Laughs). Yeah, when I read the story, I thought, ‘if he throws them in a dumpster he probably never gets caught.’ He probably saw that they noticed the chips and panicked and flushed them down a toilet in a hotel room under his name. It seems like a poor decision.

BP: Is this the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in a tournament that you were in?

DE: Yeah, I think so (laughs). I think it takes the cake.

BP: Going back to the payout—given your chip position, was that an OK solution for you?

DE: No, I think I got shorted a bit. Everybody did. I think my chip-chop equity was around $30,000-$35,000, and that’s without factoring in any skill advantage. I probably got the shaft for around $20,000. I think the chip leaders got it a lot worse. I would have been really upset had I been in first [chip position].

BP: If you had been at the top of the chip counts, would you have sued?

DE: Yeah, it would have been a different situation. I heard rumors that Borgata made some sort of agreement with the chip leaders, but I can’t confirm that.

BP: How big of an issue is cheating in tournaments? Is it pretty much unheard of? Do you ever worry about things happening like that in other tournaments?

DE: It’s not something I think about, but it probably happens more than I think it does. Realistically, it wouldn’t be that difficult to sneak chips into a tournament like this. I feel like the [security] camera coverage…anytime I’ve ever had to go to the cameras, they can’t see that table or can’t see that spot. So, it certainly could happen, but I like to think it doesn’t happen that much. It is out there.

Tags: Darren Elias,   Borgata