The WSOP Main Event: A Special Tournament with Special Stories

Poker News

4 min read

There are former WSOP Main Event champions. There are Hall of Famers. There are multiple-bracelet winners.

And then there are the thousands of others who make up the WSOP Main Event field. Here are some of their stories.

Check Out Other Stories from the 2024 WSOP!

Main Event Win Would “Change Everything”

James Balthazar

In the corridor outside of the Horseshoe Ballroom, James Baltazar was making the most of his break with his wife of 11 years Veronica.

“It’s awesome,” he told PokerNews. “There were two minutes left on the clock, and I turned around she was standing right there with food. It was awesome.”

“I’m not getting ahead of myself, just playing the hands that are dealt to me”

Baltazar explained how his wife is leaving tomorrow, and will return on Tuesday to potentially pick her husband up. However, he’s planning on sticking around a little longer.

“I’m not getting ahead of myself, just playing the hands that are dealt to me. Playing moment by moment and doing what I can do.”

This is not Baltazar’s first Main Event — he’s played twice before and says that a deep run or win would “change everything.”

“I lost my daughter in May 2019, and played my first Main Event in July that year. Then I played my second one in 2021. Winning…it would just change everything in my life. My wife’s life. It would just mean I would take care of my entire family.”

Hughes Goes From Online to the WSOP

Eric Hughes

Poker groups often attend the WSOP dressed in a uniform or matching shirts, and bright pink ones emblazoned with “RSDP” caught our eye.

“We’re a poker group that started during COVID,” explained Stefan Mrozewski, a member of the group. “RSDP stands for ‘Remote, Socially Distant Poker’. It was online, obviously, but it’s just grown and grown.

“So after a while, we decided ‘Hey, we’re good enough after all this practice to compete in the Main Event’. So every year we split our year up into two seasons, and every half season we compete for a Main Event seat.”

This year’s winner? Eric Hughes, who also played two years ago and is seated in the field today.

“Two years ago he didn’t succeed as well as we’d hoped,” said Mrozewksi. “But this year we’re here to support him.”

Marathon, Not a Sprint for Armbrust

Every poker player wants to run good, especially in the Main Event. But Eric Mizrachi’s tablemate John Armbrust had a headstart on the running today, with 14 miles before taking his seat on Day 1d.

Armbrust is no stranger to going deep in the Main Event, finishing 18th in 2007 for $381,302 and 66th in 2010 for $114,205. This year he’s wearing an Alzheimer’s Society shirt having won the 2023 London Marathon.

“My mom just passed away from Alzheimer’s on Monday this week, so I’m playing this tournament in her honor,” said Armbrust. “I love to run. I feel like getting in good endurance shape is really helpful for the main event, but I just love running in general.”

John Armbrust

The similarities between running and poker are apparent, and Armbrust says that it takes a lot of “pain and suffering” to make a deep run, just as it is to run far.

“You know, when you’re out there and your knees hurt and you just have to focus on on being disciplined. I feel like good poker players are disciplined and stay patient and wait for their hands. With a marathon, you’ve just got to get through it, and it teaches you a lot about life.

“I’ve taken a couple of bad beats, and ran a bad bluff — which is my fault. But, you know, it’s a marathon. I mean, this is an understatement. In fact, I’d say the main event is more like an ultra marathon.”

Jake Jacober

Jake Jacober

If you were going to play a poker tournament for the first time, why not make it the WSOP Main Event? That’s the case with Jake Jacober who is enjoying his very first taste of tournament poker and checking the Main Event off his bucket list.

“Very good, having a great time,” he said, when asked how it’s going. “I’m here with a couple of other people and they’re here in some of the smaller tournaments.”

Jacober said he plays a small game with work colleagues for a couple of hours every Wednesday, but the Main Event is a different beast. However, he says he’s having fun playing with everyone that the Main Event brings to the table.

“I’m 82 years old, but I enjoy mixing it up a little with the guys and having a good time.”

For more Main Event coverage, check out the live reporting updates from Day 1d.

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Managing Editor

Based in the United Kingdom, Will started working for PokerNews as a freelance live reporter in 2015 and joined the full-time staff in 2019.

He graduated from the University of Kent in 2017 with a B.A. in German. He also holds an NCTJ Diploma in Sports Journalism.

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