'Dead Broke to Not Broke': 2017 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Champ Reflects on Victory

Tony Sinishtaj

Friday marked the start of the $3,500 buy-in WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown where PokerNews spotted and chatted with a past champion — Tony Sinishtaj — before the Day 1a session began. He reflected on the glorious victory five years ago, and he now attempts to become just the second player ever to win the same World Poker Tour event twice.

For all you trivia buffs, the only player to accomplish that feat is Brian Altman, who took down the Lucky Hearts Poker Open in 2015 and 2020, at the very same casino as the current WPT event is taking place — Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

Hundreds of players gathered into the gold-record-plated tournament area at the Hard Rock on a warm Florida afternoon for Day 1a action, the first of two starting flights. Over 830 players had already entered the tournament by the end of Level 6, including many of the biggest names in poker: Erik Seidel, Chance Kornuth, Alex Foxen, Kristen Bicknell, Faraz Jaka, Adam Hendrix, Joe McKeehen, Jesse Lonis, Landon Tice and Lexy Gavin, to name a few.

Also sitting among the stacked competition was Sinishtaj, a New Yorker who five years ago took down the 2017 WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Main Event for $661,283, by far his biggest live cash at the time and life-changing money.

Last month, Sinishtaj nearly tripled his best live score by taking down the prestigious $10,000 buy-in Wynn Millions Main Event for $1,655,952.

Before taking his seat Friday in South Florida, the new millionaire took a moment to chat with PokerNews about the victory that put him on the poker map five years ago and set him up for financial freedom.

"Nice to Finally Win Something"

Back in 2017, Sinishtaj escaped a large field of 1,207 players in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Main Event and eventually defeated Darryll Fish heads-up. Others at the final table included established poker stars Robert Mizrachi and Dan Colman.

Though he had $540,689 in tournament cashes at the time, Sinishtaj said the WPT win was a catalyst in his poker career.

"I went from dead broke to not broke, so that's awesome," he said. "Going from no money to a little bit of money was nice. It wasn't all mine, it was staked, a good portion of it, but I still pocketed a decent chunk. It was awesome. It was like a 'monkey off your back' type of thing."

Tony Sinishtaj
Tony Sinishtaj after winning the 2017 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Main Event

After nearly a decade of competing in the game, the six-figure score gave Sinishtaj a solid foundation to build on.

"I had been playing for almost 10 years and not really much happening," the past World Poker Tour champ explained. "So it was nice to finally get it off my back and win something."

2017 Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown Final Results

1Tony Sinishtaj$661,283*
2Darryll Fish$453,185
3Robert Mizrachi$293,864
4Dan Colman$217,686
5Eric Beller$164,438
6Simeon Naydenov$132,889

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Continued Success

Sinishtaj achieved another huge poker feat last month when he conquered a field of 1,075 runners in the Wynn Millions Main Event in Las Vegas.

Battling his way through a sizable field just to reach the final table was quite an accomplishment. But dominating a powerhouse final table that included Vanessa Kade, Alex Livingston, Isaac Kempton and Sean Perry was even more impressive.

Tony Sinishtaj
Tony Sinishtaj after winning the 2022 Wynn Millions Main event

In the weeks after locking up the seven-figure score, Sinishtaj said he "didn't play any poker" and took the time to be with his wife, two sons and young daughter.

"You know, (after Wynn Millions I) just spent some time with them," the father of three said. "I was away at the Wynn for like two weeks, so I just spent some time with the family and then I came here (to Seminole Hard Rock). But I didn't play any poker."

Sinishtaj returned to the felt from his brief hiatus earlier this week and wasted no time getting his usual dominantresults. On Thursday, he got heads-up in Event #34 $2,200 Deep Stack NLH and chopped with Andres Jeckeln to take home $118,909, while Jeckeln took home a sliver more with $126,541.

The poker champion now has over $3.4 million in live tournament cashes, according to Hendon Mob. A deep run this weekend would add a large chunk onto those results.

Event #34 $2,200 Deep Stack NLH Final Results

 1Andres Jeckeln$126,541*
 2Tony Sinishtaj$118,909*
 3Ryan D'Angelo$66,005
 4Justin Zaki$43,750
 5Farid Jattin$32,950
 6Scott Eskenazi$27,255
 7Andrew Heckman$22,875
 8Tai Cao$18,735
 9Rodney Turvin$14,650

*Denotes two-way deal.

"Be There and Survive"

Heading into Day 1a of the multi-day tournament, the 2017 champion said his strategy would be to "just survive, just make it (through the day) and hopefully build some chips."

"But I'm not too worried about that, just have to make Day 2 with a decent stack," he said. "The tournament, in my mind, doesn't really start until you approach the money or whatever. So you've just kind of got to be there and survive."

Follow the action in the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown by checking out WPT's live updates.
Photos courtesy of Joe Giron and WPT

  • 2017 WPT Seminole Hard Rock champion Tony Sinishtaj talked with PokerNews about the victory that took him "from dead broke to not broke."

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