Every live poker tournament enthusiast has to get started somewhere. For 28 year old Jonathan “Nolte” Evans, his entry into the $560, $2 million guaranteed that marked the kick-off of the 2014 Borgata Poker Open was his inauguration to live tournament play. He didn’t just have a positive experience in the unquestionably high-pressure environment, he managed to route the entire field, taking down the title and the top prize of $337,801.
When it was all over, Evans was asked how he came to enter the Borgata Poker Open. He said that his friends were headed to Atlantic City and asked him to come along. Evans hadn’t been on vacation in six years and thought the trip “sounded like a good time”. Having only dabbled in online poker and home poker games, Jonathan decided to enter the opening event of the Borgata Poker Open. Call it untapped talent or beginner’s luck; whatever it is, it was worth a third of a million dollars to the young poker player.
Evans started the day among a huge pack of 4,158 competitors, all seeking, at the least, a spot in the top 400, where the prize bubble eagerly awaited bursting. The multitude of entries swelled the guaranteed prize 5-figures above its intended mark, pooling at $2,079,500. It would take five grueling days of tournament action to reach the final table of 10. Several well known poker pros landed inside the bubble, but well before the final table, including Vineet Pahuja of Canada (249th, $1,341), Matthew Salsberg of California (154th, $1,855), Greg Himmelbrand of New York (136th, $2,218), and fellow New Yorker Scott Baumstein (67th, $3,832).
As the final table got underway, American poker pro Aaron Massey of Chicago, IL held a dominant lead of 21.67mm chips. Jonathan Evans carried the second largest stack into the final table, but was still far behind the leader with just 12.515mm in tow. As play progressed, the low-stacked Andrew Klein was quickly eliminated in 10th ($15,629). He was followed out the door by Joseph Felice in 9th ($24,200), Kane Kalas in 8th ($37,792) and Kevin Grabel in 7th ($52,432). The next to hit the cashier’s cage was Alex Smith in 6th ($73,607), trailed by Pablo Alvarez in 5th ($95,790).
It should be noted that Evans did not partake in any of the previous final table eliminations. His presence at the table became more perceptible from that moment on, though, scooping pots left and right and taking the chip lead before calling a pre-flop all-in shove by the last woman standing, Patti Haggerty. Short stacked (despite having held the lead two eliminations prior), Haggerty tabled 10-2, coming up short against Evans’ 10-9. The board offered no help, sending Haggerty out in 4th with the first 6-figure cash of the event, $118,981.
Evans continued to dominate the final three by following that up with the elimination of Guarav Raina in 3rd for $144,794. That left one opponent between Jonathan and the 1st place title; the much more experienced poker pro Aaron Massey, who already had an HPT and WSOPC victory under his belt. The two were near enough to even in chips when the duel began, but that changed when Evans pocket 6’s held up to Massey’s pocket 2’s.
With only 12 big blinds remaining, Massey shipped his stack on pocket 10’s. Looking down at K-Q, Evans made the call and the board played out 5-Q-8-5-A. Aaron Massey would have to be content with a 2nd place finish worth $219,208 as Jonathan Evans took down the 1st place prize of $337,801 in his very first attempt at a live poker tournament.