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‘I was all in’

Medford resident is considered one of the world's best poker players

Courtesy of BetMGM Poker
Darren Elias began playing online poker when he was in college. He now has career earnings of more than $12 million.

A game of cards was a favorite pastime as Darren Elias was growing up and attending family get togethers.

The bets were minimal – $5 to $10 – at most. But over the years, that favorite pastime has evolved tenfold.

Elias is considered one of the best poker players in the world. He holds the record for most World Poker Tour titles with four and his career earnings surpass $12.6 million.

In an interview, Elias shared how it essentially all started. It was in college, he was introduced to online poker and it opened his eyes to a possible career in the game. He found himself winning thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It was overwhelming,” Elias recalled of winning that kind of money at 18 and 19 years old. “With all the success … I was all in.”

The focus on poker led him to tournaments in Las Vegas and Europe. When he turned 21, he had a decision to make: Play in his first World Series poker tournament or take an internship at a NASA facility in Hawaii.

When he entered college, Elias was a mathematics and physics major with the goal of one day working for the space agency. When poker went from a favorite pastime to the forefront, he changed his major to creative writing.

“It was a 180,” Elias recalled of his college major changes.  

Despite his successes in the game, Elias said his family was staunchly against it. At the time, he compromised by saying he would finish college so he would have something to fall back on, which he did. Today, his parents are among his biggest supporters.

Elias practiced his craft day in and day out, evaluating different hands and going over mistakes during tournaments. Nowadays, that practice involves playing with AI (Artificial Intelligence) poker software. And although the software will generate hands believed to be the best outcome, it does not beat a live high-roller poker game playing against some of the best around the world.

“You can do all the right things to execute and still lose,” Elias explained, admitting those losses can be challenging.

After playing poker tournaments on six continents, Elias said he is pretty comfortable in those high-roller games. Today, he is a BetMGM Poker Ambassador who helps market the game. His home casino for 15 years has been the Borgata in Atlantic City.

And settling down in Medford with his wife and two young children, Elias mostly plays domestically. But in March, he will travel to South Korea for the Triton Poker Series, a super-high-roller series that includes 17 events in 17 days at Landing Casino, Shinhwa World, southwest of Jeju City, according to a report.

“Buy-ins are $5,000 to $150,000 to play the top players in the world at a beautiful venue,” Elias noted, adding that players also include business owners and those who play for recreation.

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