LAS VEGAS (AP) — One has an overwhelming lead. Another has a professional poker pedigree. And the third considered saving his $10,000 entry fee after he was laid off from his California tech job.
All three men are within sight of $7.68 million and the World Series of Poker championship title, a distinction awarded every year since 1970 when the contest started at Benny Binion’s Las Vegas casino as an invite-only affair, where the players themselves picked the winner.
Now nationally televised on ESPN with players sporting poker-related sponsorships, the event attracted 6,420 entries.
Joe McKeehen, the 24-year-old poker pro from Pennsylvania with a math degree, has held an unwavering chip lead and holds 67 percent of all the chips on the table going into Tuesday’s showdown, or some 128 million worth. He was responsible for dashing the dreams of four of the “November Nine” members on Monday and Tuesday.
61-year-old Neil Blumenfield of San Francisco is in second, holding 21 percent of the remaining chips after nearly taking a pass on playing in the Main Event after he was laid off from his executive position at Intuit days before.
As for his decision to ultimately spend the $10,000 to enter, “it’s one of the top ten for sure,” he said before the Main Event restarted on Monday.
If he wins, he would be the oldest player to do so since 1974 in a sport that has been a young man’s game.
Joshua Beckley, the 25-year old poker pro from New Jersey, is in third with 12 percent of the table’s chips having clawed up from seventh place at the start with a few hands on day two that shook up the table’s dynamic.
World Series of Poker tournament events began in May and continued for 51 days with 68 events, culminating with the annual Main Event. It’s a grueling multi-day poker marathon that whittled down the competition from 6,420 entries at $10,000 each to nine players, all already guaranteed at least $1 million each.
Third place will add another $2.4 million to that amount, second place gets an extra $3.47 million and first gets $6.68 million more, for a total of $7.68 million.
The man with all the chips at the end of Tuesday, wins it all.
No limit Texas Hold ’em involves each player getting two cards unseen by the rest of the table and five community cards, the first three on the “flop,” the fourth on the “turn,” the fifth on the “river,” with betting between each.
Players like Tom Cannuli of New Jersey who was out with the second hand on Monday knows the cards themselves can be fickle.
With a pair of aces, the strongest hand you can start with before the community cards are laid out, he went all-in. But Max Steinberg clinched it when his pair of queens turned into three-of-a-kind on the flop.
“That’s just the game,” he said. “You have to respect the game and that element that you could get unlucky and not be a whiny baby about it. It’s over and done with. You can’t take it back, and so I’ll move forward. It’s back to the grind for me.”
Others eliminated Monday and Tuesday included international players Pierre Neuville of Belgium, Federico Butteroni of Italy and Ofer Svi Stern of Israel. All said their appearances meant something larger for their home countries.
Israel, for one, doesn’t allow live competitive poker playing so players like Stern travel abroad.
“It’s an amazing experience, for an Israeli coming from a country where we don’t get much poker because it’s not a game that we can compete in,” Stern said. The software developer called the experience of making it to the final table “electrifying” and said he hoped it might help one day bringing the competitive sport to his country.
Federico Butteroni of Italy wore a suit and tie in Italian blue on Monday before he was eliminated.
“I think it was very important for Italy because right now there poker is not under the best light,” the 25-year-old poker pro said. “I tried to represent my country the best I can.”
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