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September 16, 2014

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An eclectic set: Foosball legend, poker titan among 2014 WSOP November Nine

Mark Newhouse completes an achievement for the ages

Image

Steve Marcus

Members of the “November Nine” pose after making it to the final table during the 2014 World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in No-limit Texas Hold ‘em Main Event early Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at the Rio. From left: Billy Pappaconstantinou of Lowell, Mass., Felix Stephensen of Norway, Jorryt van Hoof of the Netherlands, Mark Newhouse of Los Angeles, Andoni Larrabe of Spain, William Tonking of Flemington, N.J., Daniel Sindelar, originally from Columbus, Neb. now living in Las Vegas, Martin Jacobson of Sweden and Bruno Politano of Brazil.

WSOP Plays To Final Table

Members of the Launch slideshow »

Main Event final table chip counts

  • Jorryt van Hoof: 38,375,000
  • Felix Stephensen: 32,775,000
  • Mark Newhouse: 26,000,000
  • Andoni Larrabe: 22,550,000
  • Dan Sindelar: 21,200,000
  • William Pappaconstantinou: 17,500,000
  • William Tonking: 15,050,000
  • Martin Jacobson: 14,900,000
  • Bruno Politano: 12,125,000
  • Blinds at 200,000-400,000 with 50,000 ante

2014 WSOP Main Event final table payouts

  • 1st: $10,000,000
  • 2nd: $5,145,968
  • 3rd: $3,806,402
  • 4th: $2,848,833
  • 5th: $2,143,174
  • 6th: $1,622,080
  • 7th: $1,235,862
  • 8th: $947,077
  • 9th: $730,725

Last 10 Main Event champions

  • 2013: Ryan Riess ($8,361,570)
  • 2012: Greg Merson ($8,531,853)
  • 2011: Pius Heinz ($8,715,638)
  • 2010: Jonathan Duhamel ($8,944,310)
  • 2009: Joe Cada ($8,547,042)
  • 2008: Peter Eastgate ($9,152,416)
  • 2007: Jerry Yang ($8,250,000)
  • 2006: Jamie Gold ($12,000,000)
  • 2005: Joe Hachem ($7,500,000)
  • 2004: Greg Raymer ($5,000,000)

ESPN cameras clung to Mark Newhouse as if attracted by a magnetic force.

Friends chanted his name and fans marveled in awe at Newhouse navigating through a field of 6,683 players over the last week to reach the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event final table. Everyone in attendance early Tuesday morning at the Rio understood the gravitational pull towards the 29-year-old professional poker player from Los Angeles with one notable exception.

Fellow final table competitor William Poppaconstantinou looked on bewildered, unaware of what Newhouse had accomplished. Someone had to inform the 29-year-old amateur from Lowell, Mass., that Newhouse became the first player to ever make two separate “November Nine” trips, and in consecutive years nonetheless.

“That’s how unknown I am,” Poppaconstantinou emphasized. “I have no idea who any of these guys are.”

He’s going to learn. Newhouse, Poppaconstantinou and seven others will play for a $10 million first-place prize and poker’s world championship on November 10 at the Penn & Teller Theater.

The group is one of the most diverse since the WSOP implemented the delayed format, which benefits television coverage, in 2008. Local Dan Sindelar and New Jersey’s William Tonking fill out the American contingent, which is outnumbered by foreigners for just the second time.

The Netherlands’ Jorryt van Hoof, Norway’s Felix Stephensen, Spain’s Andoni Larrabe, Sweden’s Martin Jacobson and Brazil’s Bruno Politano combine to hold more than 60 percent of the chips in play.

Then there’s contrast in someone like Newhouse, a notorious grinder who has entered tournaments for nearly a decade, to Poppaconstantinou, a professional foosball player who made his WSOP debut in the Main Event.

“That’s the best feat in World Series of Poker history, right?” Poppaconstantinou asked of Newhouse going back-to-back. “I don’t think anything is even close.”

The closest comparisons to Newhouse’s run are Dan Harrington making the final table in 2003 and 2004 and Johnny Chan winning in both 1987 and 1988 before finishing second in 1989.

As impressive as Chan’s streak is, he had to outlast less than 500 players in the three years combined. Harrington beat out more than 3,400 entrants.

But with the expansion in field sizes, Newhouse has now finished above more than 13,017 other players over the last two years.

“It’s a great accomplishment but I can’t comment on greatest ever,” Newhouse insisted. “I know it’s amazing but I’m not going to say anything like greatest with my name.”

Newhouse’s only hope is for a better ending this time around. He speaks with devastation about coming in ninth last year, a pain the payout of $733,224 couldn’t soothe.

When he began his Main Event journey last week, Newhouse tweeted, “not finishing (expletive) 9th again.”

“Emotionally, I think it’s the worst place to finish in the tournament,” Newhouse said. “With all the hype leading up to it, to come back and you’re out. It was anything but ninth. I would rather have 10th.”

Sitting third in chips as opposed to eighth last year, it’s unlikely Newhouse will find himself in early danger come November. Van Hoof, the leader, has less than a 13 million chip advantage on Newhouse.

Van Hoof built a stack to match his imposing physical height on the tournament’s final day of the summer, in which he arrived around average in chips.

“What did not go right is maybe the question,” Van Hoof said of his Day 7 success. “Everything went right. I can’t find anything that didn’t go right.”

Poppaconstantinou can relate. The player currently sixth in chips reported his luck started before the tournament.

Poppaconstantinou was scheduled to take off from his full-time job as a poker dealer to travel to a foosball tournament in Austria. First-place would have paid at best upwards of $6,000, or approximately 1,500 times less than the Main Event.

Billy Pappas 2006 foosball match

But a friend offered to back him and pay the WSOP’s $10,000 entry fee at the last minute. Poppaconstantinou decided to take him up on the offer three days before the tournament started.

“I don’t know what else to say besides I’m fortunate to know someone,” Poppaconstantinou said. “I’m not a poker player, to be honest.”

He might have been a recreational card player before this week, but he was a superstar in the foosball world. Poppaconstantinou, better known as Billy Pappas in foosball circles, is a 12-time world champion with titles on a variety of different tables.

His self-proclaimed career highlight came three miles away from the Rio in 2006. Poppaconstantinou won both a singles and doubles foosball championship at the same event at the Riviera.

The “double dip” came right before he started dabbling in poker.

“I was better back then,” Poppaconstantinou chuckled. “Poker killed my foosball career, but obviously, this is the way to go.”

Poppaconstantinou intends to visit Germany for a championship foosball event in two weeks. He hopes it will insulate him from poker.

Unlike the other players to reach the final table, Poppaconstantinou won’t consider hiring a coach or studying his opponents leading up to November. He’d prefer to stay oblivious.

“That makes me a little less intimidated,” Poppaconstantinou said. “Even when someone was trying to tell me about someone, I was like ‘I don’t want to know because then I’m going to freak out knowing how much better than me they are at this game.’”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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