When the World Series of Poker Main Event entered Day 7 of what’s become the game’s supreme marathon, only 27 out of the 6,683 who started this tournament remained. Astonishingly, six of the final 27 players were making their first-ever WSOP cash. Now guaranteed to collect at least $286,900 in prize money, no matter what happens going forward, this promises to be a memorable summer for half a dozen first-timers who are now competing under poker’s brightest spotlight.Thomas Sarra, Jr., from Girard, OH is one such newbie. He’s a 39-year-old former poker dealer who now serves as a caregiver full-time in support of his grandmother. Not only does he lack any previous WSOP results, he’s not even listed in any of the major poker databases yet, leading one to conclude he’s a virtual unknown playing on poker’s biggest stage of his life. Being a stealth player could have some advantages, however. At least Sarra hopes so. “They don’t know much about me, that’s for sure,” Sarra said during a mid-day break in the action. “I know that gives me some advantages, but players also pick up on what you’re doing the more you play with them in the tournament.”As for the experience of playing in the WSOP and going deep for the first time, Sarra admits he’s on cloud nine. As of 3:30 pm PST he ranked in fourth place with just 19 players remaining.“This is everything I expected it to be, and more,” Sarra said. “It’s been amazing. Sure, it’s a pain sometimes. The hours are long, but it’s also a joy to be here. It’s everything plus what I could have even imagined. I just hope it continues.”Christopher Greaves, a 39-year-old software developer from Zionsville, IN is in a similar spot. The Purdue University graduate is competing with one lone tournament cash on his record, which took place on a poker cruise back in 2005. Greaves has a little work to do, currently ranking in the bottom half of the field, but the day is still early and anything can happen.Scott Mahin, a 47-year-old construction supervisor from Elk Point, SD isn’t only playing for himself. He’s got the dreams of more than a village on his shoulders. According to several residents, the entire Midwestern town of 1,800 people are going wild at the prospect of the 2014 World Champion being from their hometown. Three South Dakotans even flew into Las Vegas this morning to cheer Mahin in the Main Event. One of those cheering the loudest is his fiancé, Vicki Morgan.
“We plan to get married,” Morgan said as she watched her favorite poker player from the rail, just a few feet away from the table where he’s lingered around the low stack for quite some time. “We all flew in this morning and wouldn’t miss this for anything.”
Mahin came to Las Vegas for the first time this year with the help of family and friends who collected money for the chance to send the town hero to poker's promised land. It was even reported that Mahin has been carrying around a poker chip in his pocket emblazoned with the image of daughter for luck for added inspiration. Morgan revealed that what’s happened to the group so far has surpassed everyone’s expectations.
“He’s a really solid player. His dream has always been to come to the World Series,” Morgan said. “His friend Ken here [also on the rail cheering] always believed in Scott and even told him that if he can just get here and enter, then there’s a chance he can end up on TV. Well, here look -- there he is!”Felix Stephensen, from Norway, comes into the final 27 with just two cashes on his poker tournament resume, both in Europe. Despite no previous WSOP results, Stephensen currently ranks seventh in chips among the remaining 20 players.Meanwhile, William Pappaconstantinou, from Salem, NH certainly has a championship pedigree. The 29-year-old professional gamesman is a multi-World Champion foosball player. He’s won championship titles both individually and in doubles competition. Pappaconstantinou, known in foosball circles as Billy Pappas, appears to have the best chance at the moment of making the 2014 edition of the November Nine. He was ranked in the top five chip counts during mid-afternoon of the final day prior to the recess. While there’s still lots of poker to be played, Pappaconstantinou, with his six-syllable name, currently looks to be a great spot to become the most challenging test ever for announcers once the cards are dealt out in the fall here at the Rio in Las Vegas. Pappaconstantinou’s poker experience is limited to only a few cashes at the Foxwoods Casino, which amounts to $16,000 in career winnings. In fact, prior to this tournament, the highest buy-in he ever played was $500. He’s already guaranteed to collect 18 times that amount in this event.Traditionally, first-time cashers have done very well once they’ve reached the Main Event final table. Just ask Robert Varkonyi (2002), Chris Moneymaker (2203), Jamie Gold (2006), Jerry Yang (2007), and Peter Eastgate (2008). All were first time cashers when they won the World Championship.