Leo Taffe Wins $560K in Record-Setting BetMGM Poker Championship

The WSOP might be the top tournament series in Las Vegas right now, but that didn’t stop the BetMGM Poker Championship from setting a new record by paying out $3.2 million in prize money.


Leo Taffe outlasted more than 1,000 entrants to win the second annual BetMGM Poker Championship at the Aria, Las Vegas. (Image: BetMGM)

BetMGM, an online gambling operator, has been making moves in the live poker world of late and, on June 9, its second $3,500 championship event got underway at the Aria. Expectations were high at the start of play, but even BetMGM’s Director of Poker, Luke Staudenmaier, couldn’t believe the response.

“Tripling the entries in one year is an extraordinary leap. We raised the stakes by doubling the guarantee and then shattered it by over a million dollars. I am immensely grateful for the players,” Staudenmaier said.

By the time registration ended, the No Limit Hold’em event had attracted 1,026 entries. That number meant the $2 million guarantee was but a distant memory. Not only that, the field was almost 3X bigger than last year’s (343 entries).

Players out in force for second BetMGM Poker Championship

With $3.2 million to play for, the tension was palpable inside the Aria. Defending champ Joey Wiseman was looking to repeat last year’s performance but he was up against some stiff competition. Indeed, also crammed into the tournament area was a plethora of famous faces, including GPI Player of the Year Stephen Song, BetMGM ambassador Darren Elias, and former MLB star Jason Kipnis.

However, for all the talent on display, the tournament belonged to Leo Taffe. The online poker player has been cashing in live events since 2022. His best result before the BetMGM Poker Championship was a third-place finish in the 2023 WSOP Circuit North Carolina main event.

2023 BetMGM Poker Championship result

  1. Leo Taffe – $560,442
  2. Mike Vanier – $392,704
  3. Mo Zhou – $254,645
  4. Stephen Song – $188,193
  5. Sundiata DeVore – $142,655
  6. Johann Ibanez – $114,157
  7. Kevin Berthelsen – $94,523
  8. Bradley Hinson – $75,054
  9. Ivan Galinec – $56,044

Taffe’s WSOP Circuit performance earned him $182,603, which is a respectable return from a $1,700 tournament. However, that prize pales in comparison to the $560,442 he won on Tuesday.

Michigan man Leo Taffe dominates finale

The man from Michigan played the tournament of his life and, after making it through the masses, he started the June 13 final table with an unassailable chip lead.

In fact, with more than 50% of the chips in play, it was Taffe’s final table to lose. As those around him struggled to find any momentum, Taffe pressed the action at every opportunity. His aggressive strategy was helped, in no small part, by the hands he was making. Speaking to members of the media after his victory, Taffe said he was almost “embarrassed” by how many good cards he was getting.

Running hot aside, Taffe still had to make the right moves and extract maximum value from his hands. He did those things like a pro and, despite pressure from experienced players such as Stephen Song, Taffe came out on top.

The win marks his first major title and biggest payday to-date. Taffe also has the benefit of knowing he beat the biggest ever BetMGM Poker Championship field. Although it’s only the tournament’s second year, the significant increase in interest means it will likely be a summer staple for the foreseeable future.

Written by
Daniel Smyth
Dan Smyth is a poker media journeyman who politely reminds CardsChat readers that poker is played all around the world, not just America.

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