Chino Rheem Going for WPT Record No. 4, Darren Elias Falls Short
Winning a World Poker Tour Main Event title is no easy feat. In these prestigious events with notoriously tough fields and deep structures, the grind is real. But five seasoned pros have managed to emerge victorious in three of them.
The list is an elite one that consists of Carlos Mortensen, Gus Hansen, Anthony Zinno, Darren Elias and Chino Rheem.
Hansen was the first to three titles early in WPT history, in 2004. Mortensen tied the record in 2010 with his win in the Hollywood Poker Open and five years later, Zinno joined the group with his 2015 win in the LAPC. In 2016, Rheem won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Finale to become number four, and Elias is the latest member after his win in the WPT Fallsview Poker Classic earlier this year.
Four of these players came out for arguably the toughest — and biggest — WPT field there is: the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. Zinno and Hansen gave this one a shot, but busted on Day 2 and Day 3, respectively.
Rheem and Elias both made it to the money on Day 4. While Rheem is still in the hunt, Elias' dreams of number four will have to stay on hold.
Chino Rheem Going for Four
Chino Rheem has a pretty impeccable WPT record. Of seven total cashes, he somehow has four final tables and three wins. He's continuing his good run in the WPT Five Diamond on Day 4, having become the first player to cross the one million-chip mark after winning a big pot off of Daniel Strelitz.
On Day 3, Rheem said everything was going smoothly.
“It’s almost like I’m feeling nostalgia. Bellagio is my home, I run good here, it’s December, the end of the year, and everything is just going right.”
He said because of the nice long structure, there is plenty of time to sit back. Rheem isn’t messing around in this one.
“If I get a bad hand, I fold. If I get a good hand, I play it, and hope I win. I’m just chillin.”
In the level before dinner break on Day 3, Rheem got one of those good hands, pocket aces, which he indeed played. The small blind woke up with pocket jacks and they ended up getting it all in pre, with Rheem scoring the double up. He ended the day seventh in chips with 592,500.
Looking back at his third-place finish in the $7,500 Bay 101 Shooting Star back in March, Rheem confessed, “Oh yeah, I f***ed that one up.”
Rheem candidly said even though it’s more about the money, getting so close to another title and falling just short did hurt.
“I got ahead of myself. I thought it was in the bag when it wasn’t.”
Though he said he did get a bit unlucky in some hands that he needed to win, he made some mistakes before that which made him not be able to have the stack to sustain those lost hands.
When asked what number four would mean for him, Rheem responded, “For me, it’s about the money,” but he admitted, “Once the smoke cleared though, it would be cool. It would be a great accomplishment to be the guy with four.”
He hasn’t done anything special to prepare for this one, driving in from L.A. the night before the tournament, but he says he is going to bed early and behaving himself, for which I think we can all be very proud. And it seems to be working for him, as he sits cool and collected behind a growing big stack, vying for the chip lead as the field gets deeper in the money on Day 4.
Darren Elias Falls Short on Day 4
Before today, Elias had an impressive 26 WPT cashes dating back to 2011, including nine final tables and over $2.5 million in WPT earnings. He’s played a lot of WPTs and knows the Five Diamond is no cake-walk.
“It’s probably one of the tougher ones, and in these big buy-in unlimited reentries, the best players make it to the end more often, so as we get to this stage of the tournament, there’s still a lot of really good players in.
“You can’t get away with as much against these type of players and you have to play more fundamentally sound. It’s definitely a different game.”
Elias got close to a fourth title back in October when he final tabled the Bestbet Bounty Scramble in Jacksonville. He came in with the chip lead, but things didn’t go his way and he had to settle for third place and $135,548.
“That was tough, but I try not to dwell on it. I did my best, I didn’t make too many mistakes at the final table so I don’t let that bother me. And I managed to get redemption at Borgata the next month so it was good to win a tournament right after that. Any time you’re making final tables, making deep runs, it’s good to have momentum and it’s fun to play, so I’m having fun right now.”
What would it mean to become the only player with four?
“It would be cool. As I get older in my career, things like that mean more to me, do something no one else has done. Accolades like that mean more. But here, it’s such a big tournament and so much money, to win $2 million dollars is something special too.”
Elias always seemed to be excited for every tournament he plays, even as a seasoned pro. So we asked, how do you stay motivated?
“I try to play lower volume than a lot of these people. I don’t play that many tournaments a year. I probably play about 40 or 50, and that way when I go home, I’m with my family, I’m not playing poker. And when I get to come to these, I’m really excited to play, I’m hungry, I’m never sitting there like, ‘oh I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to play.’ I’m always very happy to have the chance to play.”
With a new baby in the mix, Elias has some new challenges in life, but he is still able to travel to play the game he loves.
“It’s been tough. Hats off to my wife right now. She’s at home with our nine month old baby, taking care of the baby and the dog while I’m gone, but she understands this is my passion and this is what I love to do and let’s me travel around to play these tournaments all over the world.”
For Elias, having a baby hasn’t changed anything in terms of his approach to poker.
“I thought in my head like, ‘Am I going to bluff less now because I have a baby?’ But no, it hasn’t really changed anything.”
Elias entered Day 4 in the middle of the pack with 249,500 for 50 big blinds and got a double up near the bubble when he flopped a set of tens against Matt Giannetti that got him up over 500,000.
Unfortunately, Elias couldn't keep the momentum going and was eliminated in 62nd place on Day 4.
Check back often as PokerNews continues to bring updates and recaps of the WPT Five Diamond action. You can also follow the WPT live updates here.
Photos courtesy of WPT/Joe Giron
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