A 27-year old recreational poker player from Portland, Oregon recently joined the ranks of the poker elite, winning one of the most prestigious tournaments in the game, along with a massive $1.9 million prize.
When Romero took his seat in the World Poker Tour (WPT) Five Diamond World Poker Classic, which kicked off on December 5 at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip, he continued a grand tradition of the game: taking a shot.
Poker enthusiasts, semi-pros, and aspiring stars have always tried to sustain their bankroll, while also allowing for occasional steps up in terms of stakes. Knowing that a single tournament buy-in can produce life-changing prize money when the cards align, players like Romero have long entertained visions of glory.
So despite having earned just $4,699 in live tournament play, results based on two minor cashes, Romero’s choice to register for the $10,400 buy-in WPT showcase event in Sin City was not all that surprising. After all, the Five Diamond Main Event at the Bellagio has been considered a prestige stop on the global poker circuit for the last 15 years, regularly awarding million-dollar prizes to the top finishers.
Romero himself was among a record-setting Five Diamond main event field – with 791 entries and reentries all told – and every table in the cramped Bellagio poker room was ringed by world-class professionals plying their trade.
Despite the clear disadvantage in experience, as Romero has played limited tournament action during his six years in the game, he was able hang tough against the world’s most talented players.
By the time Day 3 concluded only 75 players remained in contention, and Romero had worked his chip stack to 771,000 – good for third-place overall at the time. From there, Romero never relented, taking a massive chip lead of 9,860,000 – or nearly 42% of the total chips in play – into the televised six-handed final table.
Under the bright lights of the WPT final table stage, with cameras filming every flop and fold, Romero faced off against a stacked lineup of successful pros, including Justin Bonomo, Jack Schindler, and Igor Yaroshevskyy.
Despite surrendering an early double up, Romero wielded his big stack with intent, eliminating Yaroshevskyy in sixth place with Q-Q over A-10, and Alex Condon in fourth place with 5-5 over Q-9 suited. He proceeded to finish off his final two opponents without further incident.
Full final table results are shown below:
1st James Romero $1,938,118
2nd Ryan Tosoc $1,124,051
3rd Jake Schindler $736,579
4th Alex Condon $494,889
5th Justin Bonomo $345,272
6th Igor Yaroshevskyy $268,545
Adam Pliska, who serves as CEO of the WPT, also commended the Bellagio for hosting one of the tour’s showcase events:
“We could not imagine a better way to celebrate 15 years of the World Poker Tour Five Diamond World Poker Classic at Bellagio than this year’s memorable, record-breaking event.
The world-class Bellagio in Las Vegas was home to the very first WPT event in the tour’s rich history, and we are proud to welcome James Romero alongside legendary WPT Five Diamond champions such as Gus Hansen, Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, and Antonio Esfandiari.”
By virtue of his big win, Romero earned a free entry to the season-ending WPT World Championship, a $15,000 buy-in tournament beginning on April 7 at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Florida.