Breaking Down the Action:
  • Former World Champion McKeehen Dominates
  • Other Top Challengers
  • Who Else Could Win the Title?

4 Minute Read

Joe McKeehen leads the way in the Borgata's The Return Main Event, but can he win? We'll find out on Sunday night.

The penultimate day of the Borgata’s The Return Main Event saw 53 players battle down to just eight survivors as the final table was reached in dramatic fashion on Day 3 of the stunning New Year tournament. All told, it took an incredible 15 hours of live poker to the reach the final table, with former World Series of Poker Main Event winner Joe McKeehen ending the day with a massive lead.

Former World Champion McKeehen Dominates

A total of 1,142 entries took part in The Return Main Event, with the top prize now over $1.2 million after a guaranteed prizepool of $3 million was smashed to pieces. A grand total of $5.5 million is up for grabs, and McKeehen is in a prime position to make his chips count as he bids to win the biggest prize of his career since he bagged over $7.6 million by becoming world champion in 2015.

The course of this event has been a good one for McKeehen and started way back on Day 1b when he and the four-time World Poker Tour Main Event champion Darren Elias both bagged above average stacks as they survived in fine chip health to Day 2. They weren’t the only ones, with Day 1a just as packed with poker’s finest as the opening day of the event set the tone for the drama to come.

McKeehen will kick off the final table in the best shape by far. The man who divides opinion in poker more than most piled up 12,385,000 chips. That’s good for 124 big blinds, more than enough for the lugubrious McKeehen to make the final table his own. Over seven years ago, McKeehen entered the WSOP Main Event final table with a big lead and didn’t fail then.

Other Top Challengers

Who else is in line to stop McKeehen? In the top four, there are some absolute superstars just desperate for McKeehen to stumble. In second place, albeit some way behind the leader, is Jonathan Borenstein, who sits on 6.9 million chips, the equivalent of 69 big blinds. Borenstein already has over $1.6 million to his name in tournament earnings according to The Hendon Mob, and will jump from the top 1,400 on the all-time money list into the top 700 should he prove victorious.

Behind Borenstein, Justin Saliba is looking to add to his many titles, with the chance to close in on $3m in live earnings on the line. Ironically, both of Saliba’s ranking victories have come in WSOP Online events, so while they earned him over $400,000 between them, he has never actually held aloft a ranking live event trophy. Tonight would prove a brilliant opportunity to do so. Saliba will start with 5.7 million chips (57 big blinds).

Completing the top four is Chris Ng, who will begin with 46 big blinds, a pile of 4,640,000 chips. Ng is just a couple of big blinds ahead of Bin Weng (4.4 million), whose growing reputation on the high roller circuit will stand him in good stead given the quality of opponent he faces in order to battle his was to the win.

Who Else Could Win the Title?

Eight players made the final table and all of them will believe they can win. The three shorter stacks will have a bit more work to do at first but will be hoping the old adage that two hands of no limit hold’em can change everything rings true. Sam Laskowitz (2,170,000) won the Mystery Bounty event at the top of the week but would dearly love to take the top prize this time, especially as the short stack Ryan dodd managed it last time.

Elsewhere, Sundiata DeVore (1,985,000 – 20 big blinds) and Lanny Vaysman (1,755,000) will both be hoping to come back from 20 big blinds or less in their bid to win a first major title. Between them, they only have under $800,000 in winnings, with Vaysman less than $100,000. Life-changing money could be just a miracle comeback away.

With huge money on the line, the first seven-figure top prize of 2023 will be won tonight. Who does so will decide the headlines as always in the poker world.

Borgata 2023 The Return Main Event Final Table Chipcounts:

Position Player Chips Big Blinds
1st Joe McKeehen 12,385,000 124
2nd Jonathan Borenstein 6,900,000 69
3rd Justin Saliba 5,730,000 57
4th Christopher Ng 4,640,000 46
5th Bin Weng 4,400,000 44
6th Sam Laskowitz 2,170,000 22
7th Sundiata DeVore 1,985,000 20
8th Lanny Vaysman 1,755,000 18





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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