Mark Davis Defeats Four-Time WPT Champ To Win Hard Rock Title

Written By Hill Kerby on May 31, 2022 - Last Updated on August 15, 2022
Mark Davis defeated four-time WPT champ to take Hard Rock title

The World Poker Tour came through South Florida in April with its annual WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown. Mark Davis defeated a four-time WPT champ to take the Hard Rock title.

A massive 2,010 entries turned up, the second-largest in WPT history, creating a prize pool of more than $6.4 million, with the eventual winner set to earn $1,000,300.

As poker becomes more popular in The Sunshine State, pressure on lawmakers is rising to make real-money online poker legal.

Four full days of poker ensued to bring the field down to six. After a scheduled six-week break, the event was wrapped up earlier this week. The tournament concluded under the bright lights of the TV cameras at the HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas.

After two-plus hours of play, just two players remained. One was four-time World Poker Tour (WPT) Champion Darren Elias. The other was recent World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit Cherokee (NC) Champion Mark Davis. The two battled for nearly four hours. Davis ultimately came out on top to claim the seven-figure top prize, denying Elias of a record fifth WPT title.

1Mark Davis$1,000,300
2Darren Elias$660,000
3Marcos Exterkotter$490,000
4Viet Vo$370,000
5Andrew Barfield$280,000
6Michael Laufer$215,000

Davis nearly goes wire to wire

After making it through 10 levels of play and “finding a bag” on Day 1B, the second of two starting flights for the event, Davis entered Day 2 with a stack of $275,000 (up from $50k to start).

Midway through Day 2, he had roughly tripled that total and found himself at a table with WSOP bracelet-winner Stephen Song and South Florida native and up-and-coming star Landon Tice. Eventually, Davis eliminated both players and finished the day as the chip leader with $3.7 million in chips. Just 99 players remained.

Davis found more heat on Day 3, reaching $10 million after eliminating Tampa’s Justin Zaki inside the final four tables, and eventually finishing play with $14.4 million when the final two tables were reached with 16 players left.

That stack was good to make him the chip leader for the second day in a row, too, narrowly edging out an emerging Elias, who finished the day with $13.8 million. After Day 4 culled the field to the final six, the two flipped, with Elias holding the chip lead and Davis in second.

Davis defeats four-time WPT champ

Davis and Elias were joined by Viet Vo, Marcos Exterkotter, Andrew Barfield and Mike Laufer. Vo made history by final-tabling this event for the second consecutive year, taking third place in 2021’s event for $593,000 last May. That event was the largest WPT Main Event in history, which means Vo can claim he has made the final table at the two largest events ever on tour.

Just six hands into play, Davis eliminated Mike Laufer with ace-nine to pocket threes, nearing him closer to Elias’s chip lead. However, Elias retained the chip lead as Barfield, Vo and Exterkotter were eliminated and began heads-up play with $64 million to Davis’s $37 million.

Though the first four eliminations of the final table took 53 hands, heads-up play lasted for nearly four hours and almost 100 more hands to finish. On Hand No. 68, Elias won a pot worth $33.3 million to take his stack up to $72 million. Davis fought back to even over the next 20 hands and eventually surpassed Elias on Hand No. 112.

Five hands later, Davis made a straight and pulled further ahead with a stack of $63.5 million. He ultimately pulled away on Hand No. 136, when he made a river bet that Elias did not call in a large pot. Davis delivered the final blows on Hands Nos. 145 and 150. On the latter he made two pair and held versus a straight draw to win every chip in play.

Mark Davis defeated a four-time WPT champ to take the Hard Rock title.

Tournament poker is thriving in South Florida

Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood also plays host to two other WPT Main Events each year. One is held in January, the other in November. Its three events are responsible for the seven largest fields in tour history. Five of those have attracted fields of more than 1,500 entries.

YearVenue Tournament Series Buy-In Field Size WinnerFirst-Place Prize Money
2021Seminole Hard Rock HollywoodSeminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown $3,500 2,482Breck Schutten $1.26 Million
2022 Seminole Hard Rock HollywoodSeminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown $3,500 2,010Mark Davis$1,000,300
2022Seminole Hard Rock HollywoodLucky Hearts Poker Open $3,500 1,982 Alex Yen $975,240
2013Seminole Hard Rock HollywoodSeminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown $5,000 1,795Kevin Eyster$660,395
2021 Seminole Hard Rock HollywoodLucky Hearts Poker Open $3,500 1,573Ilyas Muradi $620,000

Tournament poker in South Florida is thriving even beyond Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood. In June 2021, the WPT held its first event at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, which drew 1,165 entries and awarded $613,225 to the eventual champion, Brian Altman.

Seminole Coconut Creek has also hosted two RunGood Poker Tour events within the past year. The Isle Casino Pompano Park ran a WSOP Circuit series in February, which Altman also won for $204,935.

The WPT will return to South Florida twice more this year, visiting Tampa from Sept. 2-7 and Hollywood from Nov. 25-30.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Hill Kerby

Hill Kerby is a proponent of safe, legal betting, and is grateful to be able to contribute to growing the industry. He has a background in poker, sports, and psychology, all of which he incorporates into his writing.

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