Kevin Schaffel has been playing poker since he was 11. He was the owner of a printing company for 30 years before recently closing down his business. Considering himself now semi-retired, Schaffel has been able to invest more of his time playing poker, a commitment that finds him among this year’s November Nine. At 51 years of age, Schaffel is the oldest member of the group. In 2005, Schaffel made a strong run toward winning the Main Event with a 42nd place finish. He also made the money in last year’s World Series of Poker main event. In addition to poker, Schaffel is an avid gin rummy player.
WSOP.com: What if any has been the biggest change in your life since making that final table back in July?
Schaffel: The biggest change beside the obvious financial security it has brought me and my family is the closeness that as come between not only my immediate family, but all of our friends as well. I will have about 100 people coming out in November to root for me.
WSOP.com: Take us through a typical day for you during the break between Main Event play.
Schaffel: I have had several poker trips, one to play in the legends of poker where I came in second, and one to play in cash games. If I am not playing poker, I am playing golf or going to the gym or playing gin rummy with some friends at my club.
WSOP.com: It was recently revealed that Jeff Shulman has enlisted Phil Hellmuth to help him prepare for the final table. Have you procured the services of a poker coach or training academy?
Schaffel: I have decided not to hire a coach. I didn’t want to feel like someone else was playing and if I make a decision it will be mine alone and I can sleep well knowing I did the best I could.
WSOP.com: Do you still play in local games? How do your opponents react to you?
Schaffel: I only play locally when my son is in town and we had a lot of fun the first few weeks after I came back. But now that he’s in college, I haven’t been back for a while. I am having a lot of fun at my golf club with all the recognition.
WSOP.com: How have your friends and family treated you since coming home with more than $1.2 million with the potential to earn much more? Any funny stories to share?
Schaffel: Yes. I have been divorced for about 4 years and I got a call from my ex mother-in-law when she found out about my success and she proposed, jokingly of course and I said yes, but on one condition. I said we have to have a prenup-lol.
WSOP.com: Was there one particular hand during the tournament in July that was instrumental in your becoming a November Niner? Could you describe how it played out?
Schaffel: Yes. Day one, second level I’m in the BB, the button raises, SB folds, I have pocket 10’s, I call. Flop is 8-10-J. I lead, he raises, I go all-in and he insta-calls with 97, the second nuts, lol. A 4 came on the turn and the board paired a jack on the river and I never looked back, ending everyday (since) in the top 5%.
WSOP.com: Heading toward November 7th, which is it that makes your heart palpitate more, the potential to win over $8.5 million, or that you will be playing at the highest profile poker table in history, in front of millions worldwide?
Schaffel: Neither one. The thing that makes my heart rate go up is the thought of being eliminated on the first hand or two and reimbursing 100 people for coming out to see me. lol
WSOP.com: Did you play with a chip protector?
Schaffel: Yes, My chip protector is well-known as I have been playing with it for at least 15-20 years. It is a ceramic yellow lab puppy which reminds me of my 2 labs I had as my kids were growing up. A lost of people knew me as the guy with the dog protector but never knew my name. I guess that’s about to change.
WSOP.com: How confident are you that you can take down the crown?
Schaffel: I’m confident in my game, now I just need to get some cards that weekend. I don’t think anyone, including the current chip leader can win without the right cards those two nights.
WSOP.com: Is there a player at this final table you fear the most?
Schaffel: I don’t fear anyone except those who have more chips than me and can knock me out on any given hand.
WSOP.com: Who is the one player at the table you feel you are most familiar with? And least familiar with?
Schaffel: Steve (Begleiter) is the most familiar having become friends early on at the WSOP and then at The Legends of Poker a few weeks later. The least familiar would be Joe, having played the least amount of time with him.
WSOP.com: Have you been watching the Tuesday night telecasts on ESPN? What do you think thus far? Anything surprise you?
Schaffel: Yes, have seen them all. No real surprises but that’s because they haven’t shown anyone but Ivey so far from the final table. Lol.
WSOP.com: How many people are planning to attend your final table play at the Rio November 7-10? Does that make you feel more comfortable or more nervous?
Schaffel: About 100. Just very happy we could all get together for a joyous occasion.
WSOP.com: Regardless of where you finish, the ability to beat out 6,485 players and receive more than a million-dollar payday is an incredible achievement. Have you been able to recognize that or is it simply about finishing the job now?
Schaffel: Absolutely. I have realized what I’ve done and am blessed to be in this position.
WSOP.com: What is one thing you want the public to know about you that they may not from watching ESPN or reading stories about you?
Schaffel: That I’m a good father and a really nice guy, I think, lol.
WSOP.com: With winning the Main Event of the World Series of Poker comes the title of “Reigning World Champion of Poker.” Would you embrace the role of poker ambassador or is that something you would have a hard time with?
Schaffel: I think I would make a great ambassador. I love the game, I want to be more Philanthropic and I like people.
WSOP.com: Can you share the weirdest/funniest story that has happened to you since making the November Nine?
Schaffel: Nothing in particular other than a lot of people know who I am and I have NO IDEA who they are and it’s a little embarrassing sometimes. But that is only going to get worse so I’m not going to worry too much about it.