Breaking Down the Action:
  • Bounty Events to Grow and Grow?
  • Romero Rules on Day 1a to Take Tournament Lead
  • Day 1b sees Smaller Field Dominated by Big Names

4 Minute Read

The Borgata in Atlantic City is one of the world's best loved venues for live poker. How has the Mystery Bounty event at The Return begun?

The first live poker event of 2023 has begun and the Borgata Championship, also known obsequiously as ‘The Return’ is back in action. Taking place across the first week in January, it kicks off with a Mystery Bounty event. After Day 1a and Day 1b, a total of over 1,400 entries so far have been whittled down to over 400 survivors.

Bounty Events to Grow and Grow?

In recent years, the Mystery Bounty structure has become one of the most popular poker tournament formats for players to enjoy and tournament organizers frequently kick off the events with such a tournament. After 2022 brought us many exciting moments in Mystery Bounty events, we also looked back at some of poker’s most-loved players that we lost in the past 12 months. With 2022 ending on a high note for Jacob Perry after his win in the MSPT Venetian Main Event, the first major live event of 2023 looks set to be a stunner.

The $2,200-entry Mystery Bounty event has a whopping $1 million guarantee and that seven-figure prizepool brought out plenty of poker’s biggest names as Atlantic City played host to the poker with its cardroom packed with marble pillars and the dreams of players of varying standards.

Just a short walk from the East Coast, the Borgata is one of the country’s most popular American casinos and was packed out for the first two flights of action. On Day 1a, there were 807 entries, with 292 players progressing to Day 2. On Day 1b, over 170 made the cut from 554 entries, meaning Day 2 will start with a minimum of 412 players from the total field of 1,411.

Romero Rules on Day 1a to Take Tournament Lead

On the opening flight, it was James Romero who ended the day top of the overall leaderboard as he built an impressive stack of 377,300 chips. Despite Romero’s domination of the day – no other player bagged more than 55% of his stack – there were bags for plenty of other big names in the top 10.

These included stars such as Ryan Depaulo, who accumulated a top three stack of 189,300 and the 2013 WSOP Main Event winner Ryan Riess, whose 175,000 chips saw him end the day in fourth place. Behind them, Paul Volpe (132,000), Greg Himmelbrand (130,000) and Hitesh Patel (120,000) all made the top 10 with superb stacks on the day.

While so many big names made the cut, others fell out of contention part-way through Day 1a, with more than half the field busting. Stars who did make the cut included Adam Hendrix (99,900), Kristen Foxen (42,900) and Frank Funaro (35,000), all of whom will be hoping to make their considerable experience count on Day 2.

Borgata $2,200 Mystery Bounty Event Day 1a Top 10 Chipcounts:

Position Player Country Chips
1st James Romero U.S.A. 377,300
2nd David Mount U.S.A. 190,000
3rd Ryan Depaulo U.S.A. 189,300
4th Ryan Riess U.S.A. 175,000
5th Akash Seth U.S.A. 175,000
6th Brandon Mueller U.S.A. 150,000
7th Paul Volpe U.S.A. 132,000
8th Greg Himmelbrand U.S.A. 130,000
9th Noemi Saleh U.S.A. 126,400
10th Hitesh Patel U.S.A. 120,000

Day 1b sees Smaller Field Dominated by Big Names

On Day 1b, there were plenty of poker superstars in action, with several of them jostling for position in the top ten on the leaderboard by the time play ended for the day. Of the bigger stacks, it was Soukha Kachittavong who dominated the all-American top 10, bagging up 364,900 to go into Day 2 only marginally behind the Day 1a chip leader James Romero.

Elsewhere in the Day 1b top ten, there were stacks for Jason Deutsch (280,100), Anthony Spinella (273,800) and Anthony Zinno (261,900) to pile up in the top five, while Matt Stout (178,800), Michael Liang (175,000) and Nick Pupillo (148,100) all roared into Day 2 in top 10 positions.

While those names all bagged a pile of chips at the end of the night, others weren’t so fortunate, with four-time WPT Main Event winner Darren Elias unable to survive. He was joined on the rail before the day closed for action by players such as Steve Dannenmann and Nir Cohen as a tough field was whittled down to roughly 170 survivors.

Borgata $2,200 Mystery Bounty Event Day 1b Top 10 Chipcounts:

Position Player Country Chips
1st Soukha Kachittavong U.S.A. 364,900
2nd Yaser Al-Keliddar U.S.A. 285,900
3rd Jason Deutsch U.S.A. 280,100
4th Anthony Spinella U.S.A. 273,800
5th Anthony Zinno U.S.A. 261,900
6th Dave Stefanski U.S.A. 213,000
7th Matt Stout U.S.A. 178,800
8th Michael Liang U.S.A. 175,000
9th Nick Pupillo U.S.A. 148,100
10th Ryan Wolfson U.S.A. 148,000


Arthur Crowson

Arthur Crowson writes for about the gambling industry. His experience ranges from crypto and technology to sports, casinos, and poker. He went to Douglas College and started his journalism career at the Merritt Herald as a general beat reporter covering news, sports and community. Arthur lives in Hawaii and is passionate about writing, editing, and photography.

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