Daren Elias' Journey with BetMGM and Future of Online Poker in the US Daren Elias' Journey with BetMGM and Future of Online Poker in the US

Three years ago, BetMGM Poker appointed renowned poker champion Darren Elias its ambassador. The partnership was notable as Elias became BetMGM’s first poker ambassador in many years.

Ahead of the Borgata Spring Poker Open, the duo announced an extension of their partnership, ensuring that Elias will continue to represent BetMGM in both online and live tournament festivals across the US and beyond. In addition to his on-table prowess, Elias will also provide valuable content on social media platforms and contribute to BetMGM’s blog.

The synergy between Elias and BetMGM Poker is palpable. While Elias hails from Massachusetts, he currently resides in New Jersey, the very state where BetMGM launched its online poker operations. Since then, the brand has expanded its footprint to include four regions, including beyond the US, with BetMGM Poker Ontario in Canada.

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Elias’s poker credentials speak for themselves. With four World Poker Tour (WPT) titles under his belt, he stands as the record-holder for the most wins in WPT history. His accolades extend to numerous ITM finishes and final tables, both online and live, with over $17 million in combined earnings.

Fresh off the announcement of his extended ambassadorship with BetMGM Poker, Elias sat down with pokerfuse and shared his insights into his poker journey as well as BetMGM’s initiatives in the US market, and his vision for poker’s evolution in the coming years.

Could you share with us a bit about your experiences with poker and how you got started in the game?

I began playing poker while I was in high school in the early 2000s. This was during Chris Moneymaker’s famous WSOP run, and I remember playing small stakes cash games and sit and gos in my friend’s basement while watching poker on ESPN. Online poker became very popular around the same time and I began to play tournaments online through high school and into college. I found meaningful success online during college and things snowballed from there as I began to play higher stakes and eventually major live events.

You’ve had remarkable success in World Poker Tour events, including holding the record for the most WPT titles. Can you walk us through some of the key moments in your career that led to these achievements?

One of the most memorable moments in my career was winning my first WPT title at Borgata in 2014. I lived in the greater Philadelphia area and the Borgata had been my ‘home casino’ for a number of years. I regularly played cash games there on the weekends, so to have my biggest score and win that tournament at my home casino was special. My family was also able to come and watch the final table which isn’t always possible and was a moment I won’t forget.

You recently signed an extension with BetMGM Poker to continue as their brand ambassador. Can you tell us a bit about your journey with BetMGM so far and what attracted you to this partnership initially?

I’ve enjoyed working with BetMGM over the last 3+ years. I’ve always been interested in growing the game of poker in the United States, and BetMGM was the perfect fit. Since Black Friday in 2011, finding secure regulated online poker games has been a challenge and I am all for providing American players a well-run site to play on and doing whatever I can to help. BetMGM’s parent company MGM Resorts International also owns a number of the premiere land-based poker rooms in the country including the Borgata, Bellagio, and ARIA. I was eager to get involved and immediately saw the potential with BetMGM.

As BetMGM ambassador, what are some of your key responsibilities and objectives in representing the brand?

Being a BetMGM ambassador continues to be a fantastic experience and I love how the role has evolved. I frequently consult with BetMGM staff on schedules, formats, payouts for online and live poker. As a player, I’m at the tables and get feedback directly from players and pass along meaningful input to BetMGM. One of the key objectives I’ve been most passionate about at BetMGM is the integration of our online and live offerings. I’m proud to see we now have satellites online to our major land-based events and have been sending players to events like the BetMGM Championship at ARIA. I’m looking to push the envelope even further on this front and see what we can do. Also, on the recently launched BetMGM Poker blog, there is a “Darren’s Den” section where I contribute a regular article.

What are BetMGM’s initiatives or considerations regarding live poker experiences? Can you offer insights into the company’s approach to integrating hybrid live and online poker opportunities?

We will be sending players to the ARIA in Las Vegas, Borgata in Atlantic City, and MGM National Harbor in Washington DC this year and I believe we are just scratching the surface with what’s possible with this model.

Finally, how do you envision the US online poker market evolving over the next five years, and what role do you see BetMGM playing in shaping this landscape?

I go back to my previous answer because it is something that is so important which is the desire to continue to grow the game of poker. It’s why BetMGM is a great fit for me as an ambassador. They are committed to providing players safe, regulated online poker and I know they will continue to grow the game as the opportunities present themselves in the future.