Sometimes a little education and a deep respect for the legends of the game go a long way.
Just ask Scott Eskenazi.
After four days of battling, Eskenazi outlasted a field of 590 entrants to win the WPT Rolling Thunder Main event at Thunder Valley Resort Casino and his first WPT title. His victory earned him $361,600 and an entry into the WPT World Championship later this year at The Wynn.
It’s been nearly 15 years since Eskenazi won the first tournament in which he ever cashed. In 2008, Eskenazi won a DeepStack at the Venetian for nearly $50,000.
Moments after claiming his title at Thunder Valley, Eskenazi reminisced about that day.
“I didn’t know what I was doing, and I just ran like God. Now, 15 years later it took a little education and work to get there again,” he said.
WPT Rolling Thunder Main Event results
From short stacks to a heads-up battle
Eskenazi came into the final table next-to-last in chips with 22 big blinds. Just below him was Jeremy Joseph with 21 big blinds. With that setup, not many would have predicted it would be those two battling for the title at the end.
“I felt that all of us were in it,” Eskenazi said. “They were all good players. It really helped that I had a double early on versus Tony.”
In addition to the title and the World Championship entry, Eskenazi now has his name engraved on the coveted Mike Sexton Cup. That honor was special to him as a player who once shared a meal with the man for whom the WPT named its trophy.
Eskenazi explained, “I had dinner at a restaurant with Tony [Dunst] and Matt Savage. It was a group dinner with Mike Sexton. I sat next to Mike, I had not met him before. He told all these poker stories that were really heartfelt. You could tell he knew everybody and was a great poker ambassador. It means so much to be on a trophy with his name on it.”
Eskenazi and Joseph battled heads up for hours, neither wanting to end up all-in and at risk. Eskenazi wore Joseph down to a sub-20 big blind stack multiple times, but each time Joseph fought back to nearly equal stacks.
After the players took a 15-minute break, Matt Savage and Tyler Patterson returned to their seats in the broadcast booth with a Nostradamus-like prediction.
“After the break, they should be refreshed, sometimes ready to gamble,” they predicted.
They were right.
On the first hand after the break, Eskenazi woke up with ace-king against the suited ace-deuce of Joseph, and both players got it in with Joseph at risk.
Eskenazi held to lock up the title.
“I get to go to the Champions Dinner!” were the first words out of his mouth as he looked at his rail.
Love for the game
Discussing his plans for the future, Eskenazi suggested he has more poker ahead.
“I just play as a hobby. I love it, ” he said. “I try to get as much poker in as I can.”
Eskenazi exudes a profound respect and passion for poker. Today, poker rewarded him for that passion.
Ultimately, and perhaps more importantly, WPT fans will always be able to remember that passion, if not by his future poker success, at least by finding his nameplate on the Mike Sexton Cup.