Borgata’s Poker ‘Return’ A Huge Success With Over $8.5 Million In Prize Pools

Written By Hill Kerby on January 11, 2023
Image via Shutterstock

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was the focus of the poker world for the past week, marking its re-emergence into the spotlight for the first time in nearly three years.

The series boasted four events, headlined by The Return – A Borgata Championship Event, a $5,300 buy-in Main Event that got 1,142 entries to shatter its $3 million guarantee, generating a total prize pool of greater than $5.5 million.

Philadelphia resident and Borgata regular Bin Weng took home the lion’s share of the prize pool, earning $1 million after agreeing to a heads-up deal with Sundiata Devore ($926,128).

Before the Main Event, Borgata ran its first-ever ($2,200) Mystery Bounty, which guaranteed $1 million in bounties and racked up a total prize pool of over $2.6 million

A second bounty tournament came after the Main Event, featuring a $2,100 buy-in (including $1,000 bounties) and a $150K guarantee. That event more than tripled its guarantee, with an $1,100 Survivor event concluding the week’s festivities alongside the Main Event’s final table. 

Pennsylvania’s Bin Weng earns $1 million in ‘The Return’ Main Event

Weng has had success on major tours and in big events across the country, but this was the first seven-figure score of his career, which now surpasses $2.9 million in live earnings dating back to 2015. His previous best score was $202,000, which came from a sixth-place finish in the 2019 WSOP $50K High Roller event. 

Weng finished day one with three starting stacks, putting him at an average stack entering day two with 369 players returning. He ascended to become one of the top stacks in the room by the dinner break, staying there through the bubble bursting at 110 players remaining.

By the end of the day, 53 players were left, and Weng was the chip leader going into day three. 

When the three-table redraw occurred at 27, Weng had dipped to seventh in chips. He rallied to finish day three fifth in chips among the live-streamed final table of eight, which featured a stacked group led by 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen.

At the final table, McKeehen finished in third due to a couple of unfortunate runouts that included his pocket kings losing to pocket jacks. Devore and Weng battled through the remainder of the level before agreeing to adjust the payout scale, and Weng ultimately came out on top when his ace-king held all-in preflop versus Devore’s ace-queen.

$5,300 ‘The Return’ final table results

1Bin WengPhiladelphia, PA$1,000,000*
2Sundiata DevoreBrooklyn, NY$926,128*
3Joe McKeehenNorth Wales, PA$440,327
4Jonathan BorensteinTeaneck, NJ$368,324
5Justin SalibaLas Vegas, NV$304,629
6Lanny VaysmanRego Park, NY$246,472
7Christopher NgMonticello, NY$193,855
8Sam LaskowitzBayport, NY$144,006

*denotes heads-up chop

Poker notables and qualifiers alike shine bright at Borgata

Beyond those at the final table lineup, players such as BetMGM Poker Ambassador Darren Elias, 2022 BetMGM Poker Championship winner Joey Weissman and 2022 WSOP Player of the Year Dan Zack also finished in the money.

BetMGM Poker qualifiers Edward Leonard and Jen Noone made it into the money, too. Noone finished day one with over 100K (from a 35K starting stack) and chipped up to nearly 400K when the bubble burst on day two. She eclipsed 500K just before the final break of the night, but a late-night cooler sent her out in 64th place.

New Jersey’s Frank Funaro, Stanton Tentnowski, Ryan Dodd, Frank Pasquale and John Pannucci also made deep runs inside the top 50Jon Borenstein was the lone New Jerseyan at the final table.

Sam Laskowitz wins Mystery Bounty, Ryan Dodd draws $250K

Even before Sam Laskowitz and Ryan Dodd made their Main Event runs, the two celebrated six-figure scores from the $2,200 Mystery Bounty event.

Mystery bounties have become a popular draw, and Borgata joined the hype in a big way. It guaranteed $1,000 of each player’s buy-in would go to the Mystery Bounty prize pool until that reached $1 million. 

Two starting flights combined for 1,361 entries, filling up the $1 million bounty pool for the top-300 finishers and adding another $1.67 million to the prize pool, set to pay out the top 130.

A 17-hour final day of the tournament brought about the final table of nine. Then, something fun happened:

  • Players agreed to a nine-way ICM chop, with Laskowitz claiming the trophy and top prize, as he was the chip leader.
  • All nine players receive one of the remaining Mystery Bounty prizes.
  • The players drew high cards to determine the lineup order for choosing their bounty.
  • Ryan Dodd, the shortest stack at the final table, drew the tournament’s lone $250,000 bounty.

$2,200 Mystery Bounty event final table results

PlacePlayerHometownPrizeFinal Bounty
1Sam LaskowitzBayport, NY$146,609*$25,000
2Anthony MaioJamison, PA$142,054*$500
3Ryan EriquezzoNew Haven, CT$132,093*$500
4Baruch ForstToms River, PA$123,817*$500
5Maxim UrvantsevBrooklyn, NY$122,844*$500
6Benedetto BiancoFranklin, NY$116,700*$500
7Constantine BogiatzisN/A$116,249*$500
8Francis AndersonPoughkeepsie, NY$104,084*$25,000
9Ryan DoddRunnemede, NJ92,098*$250,000

*denotes nine-handed ICM chop. Bounty value does not reflect the total bounties earned in the tournament.

What’s next for Borgata poker?

Borgata’s successful series should pave the way for events in the future, both at the Atlantic City casino and MGM properties nationwide. 

Noone told PlayNJ after her tournament run:

“New Jersey is my home state and The Return made me very hopeful for the future of poker in the Northeast! It was well run, the tournament structures were excellent, and the guarantees and field sizes were exciting! We are all ready for a permanent return of tournament series at the Borgata!”

If any suspicion of this existed, Sean McCormack, MGM Resorts’ Director of Poker Strategy, confirmed as much on Twitter on Tuesday:

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