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HOME > NEWS > Featured Articles > Phil Galfond, Matt Affleck chip up at WSOP Main Event

Phil Galfond, Matt Affleck chip up at WSOP Main Event

7 July 2014

By Vin Narayanan

LAS VEGAS -- Now that's more like it. More than 2,100 players entered the World Series of Poker Main Event on Day 1B of the tournament, injecting energy into poker's signature event and putting the Main Event ahead of last year's tournament registration pace.

After just 771 players entered Day 1A on Saturday, 2,144 entered Sunday. And with a record-setting Day 1C expected, this year's Main Event field should easily top 6,000 entrants and has a good chance of surpassing last year's field of 6,352 players. The winner of this year's Main Event is guaranteed to win at least $10 million.

In 2013, Day 1A of the Main Event drew 943 players while Day 1B drew 1,942 players. Day 1C had 3,467 players, giving the 2013 Main Event 6,352 players.

This year's Day 1B brought a jolt of fun and excitement to the tournament.

Actor and comedian Ray Romano kicked off the day with a little levity. "My son Matt just turned 21," Romano said before telling dealers to shuffle up and deal. "And like any good father, I brought him to Vegas and bought him into the Main Event."

Former Main Event champions Huck Seed and Dan Harrington found themselves playing against each other Sunday.

Former Main Event champions Huck Seed and Dan Harrington found themselves playing against each other Sunday. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

"If we both bust out early, we'll go the Chicken Ranch," Romano told the players assembled in the Amazon Room. Romano, who has a last-longer bet with his son, also offered to buy a drink for whoever knocked out Matt.

Romano was much more serious on the felt, hoping to snap a string of seven consecutive Main Events without a cash. With his chin resting on the upturned palm of his hand for much of the day, Romano was engaged and focused on poker. Unfortunately, he was also leaking chips and finished the day with 15,100.

Romano wasn't the only Hollywood star in the field Sunday. Kevin Pollak, who secured a last-second sponsorship from IT services provider TxMQ, played at the table next to Romano's. And like Romano, he was focused on the poker, not on entertaining the table.

Pollak, wearing a classic Paddy cap, had chipped up to 47,000 before the dinner break. He finished the night with 36,550.

While Romano and Pollak were playing in the featured areas, former Main Event champs Dan Harrington and Huck Seed were playing on the featured table (it was the second straight day the featured table had two Main Event champions playing together). Harrington, who forgot his usual Boston Celtics hat, sported an Anchor Homes cap and looked quite comfortable at the table with Seed. The two chatted amiably throughout the day, and kidded around with other players at the table, creating both a relaxed atmosphere and an experience their fellow players will always remember.

Seed finished the day with 27,750 in chips while Harrington finished with 35,200.

Brian Borovay sits down to play in his first WSOP Main Event and finds Phil Galfond at his table.

Brian Borovay sits down to play in his first WSOP Main Event and finds Phil Galfond at his table. (photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Day 1B wasn't just about star power. The beauty of the Main Event is that amateurs get to play right next to the pros. And they all have a chance at winning $10 million.

Brian Borovay, vice president of the risk management firm Marsh & McLennan Agency, sat down at his first Main Event today.

“I don’t play many tournaments,” Borovay said. “I can’t get out often. I’ve got an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old and 3-year-old and I’ve got a fulltime job. This is my passion though. But I can never leave what I do for a living.”

Borovay isn’t a stranger to WSOP events. He’s cashed in two WSOP Circuit Events and played in a small buy-in bracelet event.

“I go up there (Choctaw) once a year,” Borovay said. “And I play one event a year. I cashed in both. And I do well online. So I figured it’s about time I go out to Vegas and give it a shot. And I had a really nice buddy that backed me, so that really helped.”

“This was a bucket list item for me,” Borovay added.

And when Borovay sat down to make his Main Event debut, a huge surprise was waiting for him.

“When I first sat down, I was thinking there would be nine random people. Then I look over at seat one and I say, ‘That’s not random.’ That guy played in the $1 million buy-in tournament. Oh my god it’s Clay Aiken (Phil Galfond’s online poker screen name). I looked (Galfond) up because all of sudden I’m playing him. We all have our smartphones, so I Googled him and put in ‘Phil Galfond poker earnings’ and it told me $8 million online.”

“He’s really good,” Borovay continued. “He’s a real solid player that doesn’t try to make bad moves.”

“There was actually one hand that really started off his day. I think it was the turning point for him. He was at 20-to-30k for most of the day,” Borovay said. “Then we clashed. And it was a pretty big clash.”

“It was a hand that should have busted me,” Borovay said. “Most people at the table said I don’t know how you kept your chips.”

“I had a set of eights on the flop,” Borovay said. “The board was ace-eight-seven and I bet into two other players and Galfond called.”

“The turn is an ace and I have a boat. I check to him because I know he has trip aces. He checks back and the river is a nine. Keep in mind he raised it pre-flop so I think he must have a big ace -- ace-10, ace-jack, ace-queen. I bet into the river -- about 3,000. He raises it close to 10,000. Most people would have gone all in here. But something about it didn’t look right, so I decided to just call. He shows me the ace-nine and says, ‘I got real lucky on you.’”

After the bad beat -- which he called just part of the game -- Borovay refused to give up, and he ended the night with 39,700.

Borovay says his background in economics and risk management helps him at the table.

“It’s all numbers,” Borovay explained. “I was an economics major at UT (Texas) in Austin, so I’m really good at calculating odds. With insurance, it’s all about risk, too. How much risk do you want to take? I’m a benefit adviser for a lot of large companies. And I get a feel when I talk to the CFO and CEO ... some of them are gamblers. They want to take the risk. They’ll take higher deductibles and self-fund it. And there are others who want to take the lowest deductibles and not have any type of risk at all. So that type of experience really helps me when I come out here and play cards.”

In his automatic out-of-office e-mail response, Borovay says he’ll be back in the office Friday. But the Friday date wasn’t based on a lack of optimism.

“I didn’t count the right number days,” Borovay said. “I didn’t realize there would be so many breaks.”

“I’m just taking it one day at a time now,” Borovay added.

Hedge fund manager David Einhorn isn't a poker pro either. But the billionaire has spent some time playing high-stakes poker. In 2012, Einhorn finished third in the $1 million Big One for One Drop and won $4.352 million. He played again in the Big One for One Drop this year, but he was the first player eliminated, when Sam Trickett hit runner-runner to pick up a gutshot straight and crack Einhorn's three jacks.

At the Main Event Sunday, he was celebrating with his fellow players the fact that he had lasted longer at the Main Event than he had at the One Drop.

"I busted out in the first hour," Einhorn told his table with a smile. "It was five hours before someone else busted!"

His table seemed to know the outcome of the hand, but not the betting action. And Einhorn, who ended up with 42,900 at the end of the Day 1B, gladly walked them through it. It was a poker therapy session at the Main Event.

Trey Luxemburger 193,450
Sarkis Hakobian 190,125
Ryan Buckholtz, 189,000
Matt Affleck 122,150
Brian Hastings 100,350
Erik Seidel 134,025
Sorel Mizzi 61,000
Maria Ho 31,000
Dan Kelly 45,000
Jeff Lisandro 29,800
Phil Galfond 91,000
Allen Cunningham 16,700

Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier
Russell Thomas
Chris Moorman
Kevin Saul
David Doc Sands
Dan Shak
Yang Bian
Joseph Cheong
Ludovic Lacay
Sofia Lovgren
Perry Friedman
Frank Kassela
Justin Smith
Dan O'Brien
Vivek Rajkumar
Scott Clements

Vin Narayanan
Vin  Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

More about Vin Narayanan
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