The PokerNews Top 10 Stories of 2014 is presented by Big Slick Poker Academy.
Another exciting year of poker is in the books, and the staff here at PokerNews have gone over the most compelling stories of the year in the world of poker to determine what we feel are the top 10 of the year. Our list was created based upon a vote from each member of our staff, and over the next 10 days, we'll count down what we believe are the biggest and most interesting stories from 2014.
Coming in at No. 10 is a feel-good story about a long-time tournament grinder that pulled off a remarkable feat.
Elias Accomplishes WPT First
Prior to 2014, Darren Elias was best known for his online poker accomplishments. One of the top-ranked players in the online world, Elias had accumulated over $3 million in lifetime winnings on the virtual felt including a win in the 2012 PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker $10,300 High Roller for $574,695.
After his win, Elias joined the PokerNews Podcast to discuss the victory.
The 28-year-old New Jersey resident, who spends time in Canada to play online, also had success at live events with close to $1.5 million in winnings heading into 2014. Unknown to many outside of those in the know in the poker world, Elias would change all of that by winning back-to-back World Poker Tour (WPT) events — a feat that had never been accomplished in the same WPT season.
Elias's ride to glory would get started at the WPT Borgata Poker Open in September when he would best Kane Kalas heads-up to win $843,744 — his biggest score ever. Elias entered his third televised WPT final table second in chips, behind Kalas, and it would be against Kalas early on that Elias would win a big pot to take the chip lead.
With the blinds at 100,000/200,000 and a 25,000 ante, Kalas opened for a raise to 625,000 from the small blind, and Elias made the call from the big blind. The flop came , and Elias would call the bet of 1 million from Kalas. The turn was the and Kalas would bet again, this time for 1.8 million, and would be quickly called by Elias. The river was the and after a few moments of deliberation Kalas moved all in. Elias wasted no time in making the call, and it was a winning call as he had the which was just good enough to edge out Kalas and the to give him the full double up.
Kalas would proceed to regain the chip lead as he knocked out the first four players at the final table and the two entered heads-up play with Kalas holding a 2-1 chip lead. Elias started slowly chipping away at Kalas and would take the chip lead almost 30 hands in without winning any huge pots. Altogether, the duel would take a little more than 40 hands to reach the final outcome.
The final hand saw Kalas open to 1.125 million with the blinds at 250,000/500,000 with a 75,000 ante. Elias made the call, and the flop came . Elias check-called a bet of 1.525 million from his opponent, and the turn was the . Elias checked again. Kalas put out a bet of 3.225 million, and after tanking for close to a minute, Elias would check-raise all in. Kalas quickly called and was at risk with the , but he would need help as Elias had turned two pair with the . The river was the to give Elias the pot and his first WPT title.
Flash forward to November and the beautiful island of St. Maarten where Elias was at it again at the WPT Caribbean. This time Elias would face a much tougher task as the final table started with the chip leader, Christophe Rosso, holding more than half the chips in play. Elias once again entered the final table second in chips and he would patiently sit back and watch as players fell until he was heads-up with Rosso facing a tough, but not insurmountable, nearly 5-1 chip deficit.
Like he did at Borgata, Elias chipped away slowly at the chip lead by winning countless small pots before evening things up when he won a race with the against Rosso's . A while later, the biggest hand of the tournament would take place when the two would see a flop of in an unraised pot. Rosso check-raised Elias's 30,000-chip bet to 60,000 and Elias called. The turn was the , and Rosso led out for 200,000, only to be called by Elias. The river was another ten, the , and Rosso checked to Elias. He bet 480,000. Rosso check-raised all in, which caused Elias to pause for thought. He ultimately decided to make the call with the for a jack-high straight, which was enough to topple Rosso and the .
That hand crippled Rosso down to 350,000 in chips, but he would double up twice to get things much closer. Rosso, however, would make a move with the at the wrong time, limp-shoving preflop and running into Elias and his . Miraculously though, Rosso would turn two pair and it looked as if he was going to be the one with the huge chip lead and the momentum. The river was a second five, however, to pair the board and give Elias a better hand and the knockout.
With that, Elias won $127,680 and became the first player in WPT history to win back-to-back titles in the same WPT season.
He joined Marvin Rettenmaier as the only other player to win back-to-back WPT titles, but Rettenmaier's two events took place in two different seasons. Elias told PokerNews' Caitlyn Howe later that he just "got luckier than he had in the past" when explaining his recent hot run.
The recently married Elias will enter 2015 holding the lead in the WPT Season XIII Player of the Year race and will be looking to add more to what was our No. 10 story of 2014.