Very few people with a 9-5 job have the wherewithal to just take $10,000 and the play the World Series of Poker Main Event. Tommy Yates, a British ex-pat who runs a bar on Rhodes Island in Greece, certainly couldn’t afford to do it. So when he saw that online poker site 888.com was running a WSOP Main Event satellite for just a penny, he decided to give it a shot.
“I put $20 in my account. We had a slow start to the (tourist) season. I saw the World Series of Poker for a cent, so I entered it. It was seven steps,” said Yates, who normally only plays poker in the winter when his bar isn’t as packed with tourists. “I take the money out of my account (each summer) at 888. In the summer I’m too busy to play poker because if I play a tournament it takes three or four hours.”
Yates had no problem moving up through the first few steps, but couldn’t seem to get past the hump into the higher buy-in events. Every time he busted he’d find another one cent step and start all over.
“I’d go step one, step two, step three, lose. Step one, step two, step three, step four, boom, you have to go back to the beginning,” said Yates, whose been playing poker for about eight years.
Finally after a few weeks of trying, Yates made it all the way to the seventh step, a $1,080 buy-in satellite which awarded one WSOP package for every 13 players. There were 45 players meaning three seats would be awarded and fourth place would have to settle for $6,000 cash.
“I was chip leader when we got to the final table. And when there was four left, I was still chip leader,” said Yates. “From a cent I was so tempted to take the $6,000 you know? My wife was in the bar at the time and she said ‘oh go for it’ and I said ‘no, I’m going to take the six grand’.”
It was nearly 4 am when at this point and his son, who was having trouble sleeping, walked into the bar.
“My son comes in and says ‘what are you doing?’ and I said ‘I’m just about to dump my chips so I can take the six thousand’ and he said ‘no’ and that was it. Well I actually won (the package),” said Yates. “It cost me $2.16 although it was a one cent game. That’s how many times I got up there.”
Entering Day 3 of the Main Event Yates had 107,200. Players were busting left and right and as the bubble approached Yates’ stack had taken a turn in the wrong direction. With just 51 players between Yates and a min-cash, he had just one thing on his mind.
“Mmy first objective, well $6,000 is a lot of money to me, so my first objective is just to make sure I get to the $15,000,” admitted Yates. “My main objective is to get past the bubble. Then I’m hoping I can start playing my own game and I think if I can start playing my own game I can do a dance after that.”
With the bubble looming Yates started playing ultra-conservatively, looking to avoid the untimely bustout.
“The guy on the last hand there before the break, went all in, I had him covered. I could have took him out with ace-king. If I had enough chips I would’ve snap-called him. but it would have left me short stacked and I want to get past the bubble, so I folded,” said Yates, who said his opponent then showed ace-king. “I didn’t come all this way, halfway across the world, to play bingo. I came to play poker. If there had been a flop out there … ”
At the start of Level 14 Hayes had 96,000 and just needed to outlast 62 players to turn his tiny investment into a WSOP cash worth a minimum of $15,000. ESPN cameras were bouncing around the room, recording each bustout. Finally, with 1,002 players remaining and play in hand-for-hand mode, two players were all-in for their tournament lives on different tables.
Both busted and Yates, who’d travelled nearly 7,000 miles to come to the World Series of Poker, was guaranteed a minimum profit of $14,997.84 – an ROI of 694,344%.
Being the owner of a business in Greece while the country is going through financial turmoil surprisingly hasn’t been too much of a distraction for Yates.
“Well all the problems that the Greeks are having, we do see a little bit of the problems that they’re having. But we’re on Rhodes Island and I know it’s Greece but it’s a little holiday island and we seem to be away from it,” said Yates. “I’m not feeling the pinch, but if I do well in this, there’s no way I’m putting the check in a Greek bank. It’s going to England mate.”
At the end of Day 3 Yates bagged up 191,500 chips and will be one of 675 players returning to play on Saturday.
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