When October 29 hits Russell Thomas will likely have the largest rail of any of the Main Event final tablists. Thomas, a 24-year-old who hails from Hartford, CT, expects in excess of 100 people to be there supporting him. His rail will include highly touted poker pro and his personal coach, Jason Somerville, as well novices of the game whose love for Thomas will bring them more than 2,600 miles across the country.
"I have co-workers coming -- some that know nothing at all about poker," Thomas told the WSOP. "One of the ladies who works there, I didn't expect her to want to come to the final table, but now she's reading a book about poker and she's going to come (to Las Vegas). It was a little unexpected."
As a member of the October Nine, Thomas has learned to expect the unexpected. After the events of this summer he was picked up by 888 Poker, an online poker site based in France, and has been traveling the globe promoting their brand in the months since. His travels have taken him to Barcelona, Spain for the EPT as well as Cannes, France for the WSOP Europe. When asked if he has rewarded himself with any vacations or if the traveling has strictly been for work, Thomas was succinct.
"No fun trips. Fun is after the Main Event," he said.
During the late stages of Main Event play Thomas found himself sharing a table with the man he would eventually ask to coach him and the tournament's 69th place finisher, Jason Somerville. The pair has been working together watching each other play and analyzing hands. Additionally, Thomas has played mock final tables, recreating exact chip stacks and emulating his opponents' play. Thomas is taking measures to not only get his mind right, but his body as well, making a point to go out less and focus more. Thomas' training is also being documented in a web series on YouTube.
"I'm just trying to stay focused," Thomas said. "I went out quite a bit right after I made the Main Event final table, but I'm just trying to stay focused. I don't want any regrets about my preparation."
At only 24 years old, Thomas is wise beyond his years. After college he considered turning professional, but had a job opportunity lined up with Aetna Insurance where he was able to put his degree in actuarial science to work. After he made the October Nine Thomas decided to put his career on hold, taking a leave of absence until after the final table. Whether he returns to work or not depends on his finish in the Main Event -- or so he says.
"They know I'm probably not coming back, I just don't want to say for sure. I want to leave my options open," Thomas admitted.
Thomas' road to the October Nine hasn't been typical. He played just three events this summer and admits that, as primarily a cash game player, he hasn't spent much time practicing tournament play.
"It's going to be the most exciting day of my life," Thomas said of the Main Event final table. "It would just seem so crazy to possibly win the Main Event. I haven't spent the last few years playing tournaments and practicing tournaments, and somehow I just ended up making the final table."
Admittedly, Thomas has only been playing poker for "four or five" years and he has a hard time grasping the thought of being a World Champion and seeing his winner's banner in the Amazon room every summer.
"I think all three," Thomas said when asked whether the win, the money or the bracelet motivated him most. "The difference between second place and third place, how long is it going to take me to make that money? 20 years? I don't know. The money is obviously huge. Then I'd want to get first to win the bracelet because then you'd be a legend."
In the days since his Main Event run Thomas has experienced some success on the felt becoming the first October Niner to cash in a non-WSOP event when he finished 23rd in the $3,300 WPT Parx Open Poker Classic on August 10. That $10,403 prize is just a drop in the bucket compared to the riches he could win in October. Thomas has already been awarded Main Event ninth place prize money of $754,798, and his eyes are squarely fixed on the $8,527,982 Main Event first prize.
Confident but unassuming, Thomas has already picked out the car he would buy if he finishes high enough in the Main Event.
"If you've seen that Audi R8 out front (of the Majestic Barriere), with the matte blue. I love that car," Thomas told the WSOP. "That car is just amazing, so maybe that exact one. I was thinking instead of the blue, it could be black."
Thomas obviously knows what he wants, and rest assured, he wants the Main Event bracelet on October 30.
Photo by Joe Giron for PokerNews/WSOP