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Four-Time World Poker Tour Champion Darren Elias "Against Delayed Final Tables'

WPT Record Holder Discusses Variance and WPT Decision To Move Televised Final Tables To Las Vegas

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Darren EliasDarren Elias made history on the World Poker Tour in late May, winning his fourth title and breaking a five-way tie with Gus Hansen, Carlos Mortensen, Anthony Zinno, and Chino Rheem in the WPT record books. Incredibly, he nearly followed up that performance by winning the no. 5 in the very next event, eventually settling for third in the WPT Tournament of Champions.

The 31-year-old poker pro isn’t just no. 1 on the tour in titles, he also sits atop the record book for cashes and final-table appearances as well. He currently has 30 cashes on his WPT resume, three more than second-place resident Mohsin Charania. The list of people chasing his 11 final tables is even more impressive, including Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Erik Seidel, J.C. Tran, and Antonio Esfandiari.

In total, the New Jersey resident has racked up nearly $6.2 million in live tournament earnings. Card Player caught up with Elias to discuss his new record and what he thinks about the WPT’s recent decision to delay and move televised final tables to the Esports Arena at the Luxor in Las Vegas.

Julio Rodriguez: You’ve had about a week since you won your fourth WPT title and made back-to-back final tables. How much do you care about things like the record books, the trophies, and the media attention, or is it still all about the payout at the end of the day?

Darren Elias: It’s surreal, it’s been a crazy run. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I definitely care a little more about the titles and it’s not just all about the money anymore. Ten, even five years ago, I would have said none of that stuff matters. But now that I’ve been in poker for awhile and have had some success, I want more of it. It’s nice to have your name on a trophy. It’s nice to have records. And it’s also nice to get some attention and respect from your peers and the media as well.

JR: Although most of your tournament results come from the bigger field events on the WPT and at the World Series of Poker, you have cashed in quite a few high roller events over the last year as well. Is becoming a regular on high roller circuit a goal of yours?

DE: I don’t love the Aria turbo $25,000 events. Those are usually tough fields, and the structures aren’t the best. But if I see a high roller with a good structure that fits my schedule, then I might play it. The $100,000 buy-in event here at the WSOP, for instance. So although I will play in some high roller events, it’s not really my goal to end up as a regular in those tournaments exclusively. Those guys do a lot of international travel, and that doesn’t really work for me with a family at home. I basically stick to the U.S., Canada, and some events in the Caribbean.

JR: How do you feel about life as a poker player with your family at home? Is it tough to find a balance?

DE: I have a pretty good split, home about half the time. Hats off to my wife, who is home taking care of our one-year-old daughter right now. Without her, there’s no way I could do what I do for a living. It’s definitely hard being on the road sometimes, but that’s the job. When I’m home, it’s dad time. Husband time. When I’m on the road, I focus on the poker. It’s important to at least try and find that balance.

JR: You started playing live poker back in 2008 and had a little success, but it wasn’t until 2011 and then again in 2014 that the big results started to come with consistency. Was there something that changed in your game around that time or was it just a matter of variance?

DE: I think when I first transitioned from online poker to live poker, I had some issues I needed to work out. It was just so different for me. I was an online player, used to playing eight to ten tables at once. To sit in a live game with a slow pace, it took some time before I was able to adjust.

JR: At the WPT Bobby Baldwin Classic, you got lucky during three-handed play against Joe McKeehen to bust him and go on to win the tournament. Then in the WPT Tournament of Champions, you got unlucky during three-handed play against Matt Waxman, eventually busting in third place. How do you deal with the big swings that variance can sometimes produce?

DE: I honestly can’t think about that stuff. Poker is so crazy, you get into these spots that are so important to the outcome of your tournament, and you’re completely at the mercy of the cards. You can do everything perfectly, and it still might not go your way. You get someone all in as an 80/20 favorite with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, and it doesn’t work out. That’s just how it goes.

So last week, when I got lucky against Joe and unlucky against Matt, I guess you can say it kind of evened out. Money wise, it was probably pretty close. But you’ll drive yourself crazy if you try and keep track of that stuff. Yes, I got unlucky against Matt, but I also remember how lucky I got to even make the money in that tournament, considering I was the short stack on the bubble. Are you running bad? Are you running good? It doesn’t matter as long as you are playing your best and making the best decisions you can. If you do that, the results come.

JR: As someone who has experienced it for himself, what do you think of the WPT’s recent decision to move televised final tables to the $25 million Esports Arena at the Luxor?

DE: The new arena is cool, although I think they still have some kinks to work out before the WPT goes back. For example, it was very cold in there, and we were seated close together considering the size of the set. But at the end of the day, if it draws in some Esports players to poker who might not otherwise have been exposed to the game, then it will be worth it. Right now, we don’t have a lot of younger players, especially in America, picking up poker like they did a decade ago, and maybe this is the way to get those players. If down the line, we get some big final tables going in the arena with some big crowds to watch, then that would be amazing.

That being said, I’m against delayed final tables. In any poker event, I think who you are at the start of the tournament should be the same as who you are to finish the tournament. But when you delay the final tables, players can get training and hire coaches to improve a lot during the time off. And I think you should have to play it out as is.

Elias Wins His Fourth WPT TitleThe other issue is how it affects traveling players and their schedules. I know there are players out there who won’t bother playing if they know they have to come back in couple months. It’s going to be a problem for some of the international and east coast players for sure.

What if you make a final table in Atlantic City or Florida as the short stack? Do you really want to wait a couple months, fly to Las Vegas and possibly bust in few hands? It may not stop someone from playing, but they aren’t going to be happy about that, especially if it prevents them from playing other tournaments somewhere else. I know it’s not convenient for me personally, in New Jersey, but I think I’m going to still continue to play my same schedule for now. If I make another WPT final table, then I’ll deal with that when it happens. I can just see it being annoying depending on your stack or the tournament buy-in. But I also see why the WPT did this. I see how it could be a good thing in the long run. It’s an experiment, and we just have to wait and see how it turns out.