For many poker pros playing the World Series of Poker Main Event is a normal part of their schedule, something that’s never given a second thought. But for the thousands of amateur players migrate to poker’s Mecca to play a tournament they consider a bucket list event, some of them cash and a lucky few make it to a feature table under the bright lights and unblinking eyes of the cameras.
It’s an intimidating experience for the uninitiated – TV crew members rush around them, they’re mic’d up, taught how to play with RFID cards (sensors in the table read a microchip embedded in the cards) and one of poker’s biggest stars is almost always at the table. Day 4 of the 2015 WSOP Main Event was no different with Daniel Negreanu, Brian Hastings, Antonio Esfandiari and Joe Hachem as the main attractions.
Gary Cook of Ventura, CA came into Day 4 with 123,500 chips and found himself at a feature table with arguably poker’s brightest star. “This is crazy, this is like a dream come true to have Daniel here,” he said. “He’s just great. I’m absolutely excited to be here. I’m telling all my friends I need more luck than skill today.”
“This isn’t only the first time I’ve cashed in the Main – it’s the first time I’ve ever played it,” Cook said. “I’ve played the Seniors event before, but I always wanted to play the Main. I guess you could call it a bucket list thing for me. It’s something you have to do at some time, so this is the year I decided to do it.”
Don Blum of Orange County, CA was also excited to find his table roped off and surrounded by a production crew. “This is all very exciting, this is my first year I’ve cashed and only the second year that I’ve played. I just found out I’m at the feature table and I’m texting all my friends now.”
“I’ve got Hastings on my left and I’ll have to see my cards before I start betting into him,” he said with a smile. “If I’ve got cards I’m gonna play them.”
Blum is part of a home game league where they all put up $1,000, play for a year and whomever has the most points gets to play the Main Event. “There’s going to be few of them here today, some are driving up right now and a couple guys were out here last week and now they’re turning around and coming back,” he said.
David Cherry of West Chester, PA drew Hastings table as well. “I didn’t know I was going to be at a feature table but when I looked up my seat and saw Hastings, I figured that could be the case. I’m going to stay out of his way.”
“It’s kind of intimidating, but I’m grateful to be here,” he added. “This is the first time I’ve cashed and third time I’ve played. I’d like to play well and make it to Day 5.”
But not everybody is excited to look up their table and find a poker superstar. Mario Sequeira of Hanford, CA said, “I thought I might end up here when I saw I drew Hachem’s table. It was more of an ‘oh shit’ moment than anything. It’s my second time playing, first time cashing.”
Karle “Skip” Wilson of Cincinnati has been traveling to Las Vegas to play the Main Event for 15 years and found himself sitting with Esfandiari. “In ’08 I finished 87th for like $67,000 but back in 2001 I finished in 55th but didn’t make the money – they only paid 45 players.”
“I’m looking forward to this, it’s the first feature table I’ve ever been at,” Wilson said. “I’m getting ready to text all my friends now. I’ll have them come down later, I don’t have a lot of chips, about half the average, and got to start catching some cards. I’ve been grinding it out and I come back with a little more each day.”
Ed Brogdon, a former rancher from Thorndale, AZ made his first cash at the WSOP in 2006 and cashed in the Main Event for the first time this year. “It’s hard (to cash), there’s so many things that can happen between Day 1 and Day 4.”
“Having Brian Hastings at my table is something I wish that was different,” Brogdon said. “He’s a pretty good player, has a lot of chips and he’s aggressive. I’ll have to play a little different than I wanted.”
Lily Newhouse of Middletown, PA saw that she was playing with Hachem, the 2005 Main Event, but didn’t expect to have cameras on her all afternoon. But when she saw where she would be playing she had one thought, “I told my friends I hope I don’t make an ass out of myself.”
“It’s the first time I’ve cashed in the Main and you have to get so lucky to get this far it’s unbelievable,” she added. “Obviously, you have to play well – all these players have done a lot to get here. You’ve got to get super lucky.”
Cook perhaps said it best, “Skill and a little luck got me here today but a lot of luck and a little skill is going to get me the rest of they way.”
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