November Nine: The Kid

When Tom “durrr” Dwan turned 21 last July, poker observers assumed that he’d make his presence felt at the 2008 World Series of Poker in a huge way. But after making two final tables, posting eighth-place finishes both times, Dwan fizzled out of the Main Event in the first level of play. At that point it appeared that Dwan’s impact on the 2008 WSOP was over.

But not so fast. When the final nine players went on hiatus for 117 days on July 15th, one of those players owed his presence there to Dwan.The November Nine all have interesting stories about how they were turned on to the game of poker and what drove them to work so hard.

For Craig Marquis, who will return to the Rio with the second smallest chip stack (10,210,000), it was a New Year’s Eve party in 2006 hosted by — you guessed it — Tom Dwan and his good friend and roommate David “Raptor” Benefield. Marquis, a student at the time, was invited to the party by a mutual friend and introduced to the dynamic duo of online poker.

“I saw this nice house and nice things and nice cars and these guys were younger than me,” says the 23-year-old Marquis of the then 19-and 20-year-old online poker phenoms. “I was like ‘How the hell does this happen?’ and I found out it was from playing poker. I thought ‘Wow, these guys aren’t any smarter than me, I could do that too.’”

That’s when Marquis set out to emulate the success of Dwan and Benefield, first by opening an account on Full Tilt Poker (his first online poker account) and depositing $100. He started grinding the $5.50 sit-n-goes and quickly began working his way up in stakes.

“I didn’t practice very good bankroll management at the very beginning and basically just played the stakes based on how much money I had at the time,” laughs Marquis. “But I never ended up having to redeposit after that $100 initial investment. I played all the way up to $200/$400 fairly quickly.”

After their initial introduction, a friendship quickly developed between Marquis, Dwan, and Benefield. Marquis found himself getting tutored by the best young players in the game. With barely more than eighteen months of playing experience,Marquis isn’t intimidated by the  opportunity to be a part of history and isn’t at all anxious about the media onslaught that’s sure to follow once ESPN introduces him to the world.

“It should be fun. I enjoy all this interview stuff,” says Marquis. “I don’t get nervous around cameras; I mean, I don’t really get nervous. It’s not something I mind.”

Marquis doesn’t mind the obligations that come with being a part of poker history and that might have something to do with the $900,670 he left the Rio with on July 15th. All nine players were paid ninth-place money that day and the former finance student has found interesting ways to diversify his portfolio since returning home to Texas.

“My big purchase was my car. I ordered a brand new 2009 Audi S5. That was my big splurge or whatever you want to call it,” says Marquis. “I don’t even know if I’m going to have it before November.

I had to have it built and it could take three to four months.”

In the meantime, Marquis has signed on with and is now one of their featured pro players with his name in red — something that makes the whole experience seem even stranger.

“It’s really surreal. I’ve played almost exclusively on Full Tilt since I started; I haven’t really played on any other sites,” admits Marquis. “Being able to go from micro-stakes grinder to mid-stakes grinder to high stakes player and then become one of their red pros within a year and a half, it’s friggin’ awesome. It’s pretty hard to imagine it all. It feels pretty crazy.”

While he’s taken some time since leaving Las Vegas to relax and reset, he knows that the coming weeks will give him plenty of opportunity to get prepared to return to the Rio in pursuit of the most prestigious title in poker — World Champion.

“I’ll talk to Tom and Dave a bit, but I don’t feel a real need to revolutionize my game. I have a style that I’m very comfortable playing,” says Marquis. “I’m not going to worry about that kind of stuff until we get closer to playing the tournament.”

And what happens to the still-undriven Audi S5 if Marquis wins the Main Event and suddenly has an additional $8.1 million to spend?

“I’ll probably give it to my mom,” laughs Marquis. “I’m going to buy an Aston Martin DBS.”