Experience should count for something, especially in the World Series of Poker Main Event. That said, each and every year, a new crop of names and faces pop up in the November Nine. Since the height of the poker boom in 2006, no player has made it to the Main Event final table more than once. In 2014, it appears this trend may continue, although one player hopes to make history.
As Day Five continues, Mark Newhouse remains the only former finalist within the last decade with a chance of making this year’s final nine. After finishing ninth in the 2013 Main Event, which concluded nine months ago, Newhouse is even more determined to climb back to poker’s Mount Everest once again, though there’s still a long way to go. He's presently on the cusp of the top ten players in chips.
Meanwhile, three poker players who know a thing or two about going super deep in the Main Event are still alive in 2014. One of them is also among the chip leaders. Another is in the middle of the pack. The third is below average in chips and probably needs to make a major move soon.
Leif Force won his gold bracelet in 2012. Yet, he’s probably just as well known for his impressive breakout performance back in the 2006 Main Event, which remains the largest live poker tournament ever held. Force ended up finishing in 11th place out of 8,773 entrants, which paid a whopping $1,154,527.
“That was just the second event I had ever played,” Force recalled. “It was really crazy. I couldn’t imagine what happened that year.”
Even though Force obviously played exceptionally well in the 2006 championship, he’s convinced that he’s a much better player now, especially in terms of late tournament strategy.
“In 2006, I folded a lot. I didn’t play that many hands. I was never ahead of average in chips, I just made my way through the field,” Force said. “The WSOP is the best structure in the world for that. You have time. In that tournament , I saw people with hundreds of big blinds just disappear. It was insane. I see some of that here too [in 2014]. They get scared when they get down to 30 big blinds when they really do have lots of time. Day after day, you have to accumulate a little and keep moving on.”
Force likes his chances this year. He’s ranked in the top ten in chip counts the middle of Day Five. Still, he remembers what happened eight years earlier.
“If I knew back then in 2006 what I know now, I would have played it a lot different,” Force said. “When we got down to the last few tables, I didn’t know that much about stack sizes. I got blinded down when I really could have had a chance if I would have played differently. Now, I am a lot more comfortable.”
Rep Porter is a two-time gold bracelet winner. He’s in the middle of the pack with about 200 players remaining. Porter came in 12th in last year’s Main Event, worth $573,204 and already sees some similarities between his two experiences.
“Last year I was very fortunate I came in 12th. I lost a big pot on the first day where I ran two kings into two aces and I was down to about 10,000,” Porter said. “Funny thing, exact same thing happened this year on Level 3. Except for the fact I had more chips this time…I was at 45,000, but after the hand I was down to 25,000.”
Porter managed not only to survive after taking a beat early during each of the last two years, but also to scratch and claw his way back into contention twice. Last year was particularly sweet, as Porter became one of the best stories of the first several days of the tournament.
“I am sure that a lot of people saw that on television where they showed all those pots where I got lucky at the end,” Porter said. “Anyone who makes the top 30, 20, or 15, or whatever got lucky along the way. Winning all the 80-20’s when you’re ahead or the 70-30’s when your ahead or you have to win a couple when you are on the 40 percent end. But still it takes a lot to get there.”
When Porter was asked what advice he has for players who reach this stage of the tournament, his philosophy is quite simple. “Enjoy it while you can, because it doesn’t happen often. Just be patient,” he said.
Bryan “Devo” Devonshire is another player who’s determined to go deep and possibly improve on his 12th-place showing in the 2011 Main Event, which paid $607,882.
“When I went deep a few years ago, my strategy was simple. I was determined to cooler them,” Devonshire said. “Seriously, I started slow but then got on top of the leaderboard and basically stayed up there every day until the last day here. Everything I did seemed to work. My good hands help up. I never had to suck out on anybody because I didn’t put myself in that spot. It was pretty standard poker, really.”
Like most of his competitors, Devonshire approaches the game methodically, one hand at a time. He thinks it still way too early to be thinking about making the final table.
"I’m not feeling anything yet,” Devonshire said. “I’m definitely not running as good now as I did that year. But it’s still the same to be in it. It’s such a marathon that to still be sitting here means anything can still happen.”
Two years ago, Devonshire was one of most watched players towards the end of the tournament due to his popularity among fellow players and his big stack. Things are a bit more low key for him in 2014. He’s ranked around 140th place with less than 200 players remaining.
“It was a fun run,” Devonshire said. “Hopefully I can do it again...I’d take 12th place again right now if you offered it to me.”