Ever since Chris Moneymaker’s boom inspired a generation of college kids to ditch class for the card room, youth has been served at the World Series of Poker.
Most of the time, a random tournament table will be lined with 20-somethings tapping away on Twitter. But over a four-day stretch every summer, the WSOP becomes an early bird special for thousands of eager seniors.
Event #31: $1,000 NLHE Seniors Championship is one of the most anticipated events for members of the “greatest generation.”
The field is limited to players aged 50 and over, which tends to limit the number of pros prowling for unsuspecting prey. The atmosphere is convivial and camaraderie is in the air, as the assembled seniors swap stories about their grandchildren – and, of course, bad beats.
For Frank Maggio, a 56-year-old sprinkler fitter from Chicago, the event has brought him from the Windy City to Sin City each year he’s been eligible. He cashed in 181st place back in 2015, one of his 23 in-the-money results (for $43,899) entering this year’s Seniors Championship.
This time around, however, Maggio managed to outlast every man and woman in the massive 5,389-player field – claiming his first gold bracelet and $617,303 in cash.
Maggio defeated William Murray in just eight heads-up hands to take the title, but the final table forced him to battle a pair of poker veterans in Dan Heimiller (ninth place - $53,817) and Paul Spitzberg (eighth place - $69,552). Heimiller was the Seniors Champion back in 2014, one of his two bracelet wins, while Spitzberg has accumulated 70 cashes for more than $830,000 over his career.
Those two clearly had the skill edge, but the cards cooperated for Maggio on Monday – proving once more why the WSOP is the place where poker dreams come true.
Two players who long ago saw those dreams come to fruition are Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth – Sportsbooks of 20 bracelets between them.
That number could grow too, as both Kid Poker and the Poker Brat have built stacks in Event #38: $10,000 Limit Hold’em World Championship.
Monday’s first day of play carved the field from 120 to just 41, and Negreanu sits third in chips with 260,500. Hellmuth is lurking in sixth (225,500), while defending champion Ian Johns is second (272,000), and yesterday’s bracelet Sportsbook Ben Yu leads (360,000).
Day 2 kicks off at 2 p.m. local time, with live updates provided by PokerNews.